(Or, how to make almost every wrong decision and it still turns out okay.)
A long long long longlonglong time ago, back in the 80s, when we were young and stupid, we built houses for other people who would, presumably, pay us when the houses were finished. There is nothing more fun than to build houses for people who will scream at each other over things like the choice of a tile backsplash, or mediate couples who will end up getting divorced over bronze vs. nickel finishes. I’m not talking about a couple who were obviously in peril before the build started–those, I understood and it broke my heart for them, because you could see the impending doom a mile away that they were blind to. Much much worse were the ones who looked perfectly happy, who seemed to get along in all other areas of life (from what little window we had on them), but who melted down over knobs and countertops. In one four month period, we had three couples divorce, (in the middle of the project), one go bankrupt (and of course, they had chosen the high-end-everything and wore diamonds when they were going swimming), and one guy (wealthy) left the country so he didn’t have to pay (even though he thanked us, because it was the most beautiful house he’d ever had done). Oh, sure, there were probably other things bubbling underneath the surface–at least, I hope we weren’t marriage killers–but for a lot of the couples, their dream homes were just the last straw. It happened so many times, we got out of the house building business and we started pouring concrete. Boring, but nobody stands there screaming about the shade of gray it’s going to be when it dries. (Industrial concrete. You could not pay me enough money to do decorative concrete for a homeowner.)
I’m usually a very decisive person. I don’t dither. I know what I like, pretty much immediately, and I’m good with picking that thing and moving on. My husband is the same way. Luckily, we have very similar tastes, so that decisiveness works.
We had once remodeled our very first home, when we were first married, but lacked the funds and, really, the know-how, to do much more than the basics. And since starting our company and dealing with the fallout of the Construction Wars, we had neatly avoided major remodeling on a home we owned until about four years ago, when wear and tear and a rotting bathroom cabinet forced us to go into the breach and brave those choices. In fact, for years, just the idea of remodeling something in our house made us flinch; a sort of Contractor PTSD. All I can say is thank goodness we didn’t have us as clients all those years ago, because I’d probably be in jail for killing the client.
I dithered, people. There was dithering. It was not pretty.
Mostly, we made some dumb (classic) mistakes that we should have known not to do, which forced us to figure out solutions.
The bathroom project didn’t start out to be a full remodel. After a lot of years of barely scraping by, we were kinda scared to commit to anything more. It started out to be very very simple: I hated the bathroom wallpaper. It was a color that, on its good day, resembled Pepto Bismal-gone-bad, and it hadn’t had good days in thirty years. I meant to get a “before” photo, but once my husband said, “Well, sure, I don’t care if you paint,” the room looked like this about five seconds later:
That middle doorway there opens onto this:
And as seen from standing in that corner, facing the doorway:
I may have gotten a wee bit carried away.
There were other things I loathed in that bathroom, like the faucets and the poured-marble countertop. Now, some poured marble is really pretty, and it’s a low cost alternative to Corian or real marble, and can look really great. This stuff was yellowed and stained and looked like pee. Not an attractive thing to have on your sink. And the faucets were so ugly, I used to mentally swear at the previous owners that they must’ve gone to the Ugly Store and bought the biggest selling item. These faucets had dragons inlaid into the brass… with all the scales and wings… and while I love dragons as much as the next nerd, cleaning those damned scales and wings of toothpaste from the kids or just water stains and dust was a pain in the butt. I also kept eyeballing that overhead fluorescent light, (and is there anything that makes you look worse?), and I wanted it gone. I wanted the box that contained the light gone, because the box only had a grate up there instead of a lens, which meant… flies or mosquitoes would get up in there and it was a pain to keep clean. But to take that box out would mean completely re-doing the molding because no one sold that exact molding anymore. They sold something really close–close enough that you could not just look at it and easily see the difference, but trying to match it during installation would be a nightmare.
I had reconciled myself to none of that changing.
Then our youngest son came home, and on passing through the house, noted the wallpaper was down and said, “What are you doing?”
“Just the walls?”
“Probably the cabinets, too.” My husband was going to repair the rotted part, and I would have to paint, since it wasn’t likely that we’d easily match the new to the old.
“Really? You know there’s enough room in here for two sinks, if you rearranged things.”
I measured and damned if he wasn’t right.
“While you’re at it,” he said, “you might as well do it; you’d add a lot more value to the house to have two sinks in here instead of one.”
That’s when we started thinking and dithering and trying to decide what to do. It took a while to make up our minds that the project was worth the aggravation, and right off the bat, I realized that in removing the wallpaper, some of the sheetrock’s surface layer had come off, and instead of just being able to prime and paint, the entire room would need to be re-floated and sanded smooth again, because it was pretty hideous. No way to hide the rough (fuzzy) surface with paint.
We had to decide on what sort of look we were going for (something classic that would fit in with this Acadian-styled house, a little old-world), and a color palette (mostly black-and-white with a pop of color on the walls), and then specifics, like the type of tile for the floor, the shower, and yes, the dreaded backsplash. We made several mistakes, even as “pros”… and in two of the cases, the mistakes ended up forcing us to come up with a design solution that we ended up loving so much, we’re incorporating them into the new place we’re building.
Since this blog is already so long, I’ll put the “After” photos up next Thursday. (Normally, I’ll be here once a month.) But here’s a sneak peak:
See ya next Thursday, where I show you the mistakes (“You know… a plan would’ve been nice.” “Would you have agreed if we had had a plan and a budget in the beginning?” “Probably not.” “I rest my case.”), the good things that happened as a result, and talk practical solutions and what to look out for…
Meanwhile, what project (house or personal) in your life that you really really want to have accomplished, but you’ve been holding back on starting it because you’re afraid, or you’ve been burned enough in the past, that starting it just makes you wonder if you’re a glutton for punishment? What’s one baby step you can take toward getting started?