Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lessons Learned from the Capers

After finishing up the birch tree forest in the bathroom, I realized that I now have painted every single room in this house. And it's got me thinking about each room and the mistakes I've made and the happy surprises I've encountered as well.

So I decided to make a little list of what I've learned from decorating and designing our first house. Hopefully I'll be able to look back at this when working on our next house (or the same rooms over again in this house) and avoid some of the turmoil along the way. And hopefully my experiences can help anyone else out there reading this as well.

#1. If you don't have an eye for detail (and a lot of patience), don't do your own drywall.
I know lots of people tackle their own drywall projects, and I give them a lot of credit. It's a very tedious process and you really have to pay close attention to every bit of spackle you put on the wall. And I have learned from our bathroom renovation that we will never try to hang drywall again. We just don't have an eye for it.

Drywalling like an amateur.
#2. Don't be too quick to jump on the decorating bandwagon.
When it came time to pick the material for our new shower, I was sure white subway tile was the way to go. It was in all the great decorating blogs, it was cheap, and everyone said it was timeless. And it always looked gorgeous in all those glossy magazines and decorating books.

So when my husband told me he thought subway tile reminded him of hospitals, I was pretty bummed. I thought that I needed to have white subway tile to have a nice bathroom because that's what's in all the nice bathrooms.

Obviously that's not true. And I'm so glad I didn't let that feeling sway me. I went along with the hubby's suggestion of natural stone, we found a great deal on it at a bargain tile shop, and it looks so incredible. Best of all, it's unique to us. The design and mosaic we chose aren't something I see all the time (or ever). It's warm and calm and just a little European looking, which is exactly the style I've been going for in this house. Had we gone with white tile, we wouldn't have had something so us.

The mosaic reminds us of a compass rose, which in turn reminds us of all our travels together

Living Room

#3. Caulk before you paint.
Not a day goes by that I don't look at the gaps around our crown molding in the living room and cringe. Ok, maybe that's a little exaggeration. I do cringe, but not on a daily basis. Bi-weekly, perhaps.

The point is, I am totally regretting that I didn't caulk up all those little cracks and gaps before painting the whole room. It would have made everything look so much more polished and much less old. And caulking as you paint each room is such a good way to tackle an old creeky house like this one. But I've learned my lesson and I will never paint another room without prepping it first. That includes spackling nail holes and dents, caulking cracks, and any other little tasks, like removing hardware and wall fixtures. So worth it in the end.

Removing the nasty wallpaper border was a good step, but how could I forget about those gaps between the ceiling and the crown molding???

#4. Hold your paint chips up to furniture too.
I picked a color I really love in our living room. And I still love the color itself, but I don't think it was the best choice for the living room. As soon as we finished painting, I realized that it was only a few shades off from the couch, so it's pretty bland looking. Next time, I'm going to hold my paint chips up to the furniture in the room to avoid this mistake. And painting swatches on the wall next to the furniture would probably be a good idea too.

Where's the contrast? That's a lot of beige.

Guest Bedroom

#5. You're more likely to love/regret colorful wall paint.
This one can go either way, but judging by our purple guest room and the yellow spare room, you're way more likely to feel strongly about a colorful room. If it works out and you love it for a long time, awesome! But remember that you may get sick of it and like it a lot less in a relatively short amount of time (shorter than if you had painted the guest room a light taupey color, perhaps?) I think it's a risk worth taking, but I'm definitely going to put more thought into the next colorful wall color we use.

#6. Wallpaper is evil.
I am aware that new designs have made wallpaper a really trendy style again. And I know that it can be beautiful if done right. But after spending all that time in our guest room and staircase hallway pulling down wallpaper inch by inch, I will never risk putting myself or anyone else through the process of removing wallpaper I installed. Whenever I'm tempted to use it, I just go into the guest room and look at the seams that you can still see even after we did our best to remove the wallpaper and the slightly fuzzy look of the walls even after they were sealed and painted. Never will I put anyone through that hell.


#7. If you're switching out one light fixture in a room, take a sec to look at the other lights in the room.
My dad helped me replace one of the two ceiling fans that were in our kitchen with this pretty pendant lamp. Totally loved it, but a few months later, I was like "Why didn't we get rid of both ceiling fans so we'd have matching pendant lights in the room?" And by the time I got around to looking for a second light to match the first, the design was discontinued. :-( So now, if I want matching lights, we'll have to replace the fan and the first light we already replaced once. Bummer. Could have avoided that with one easy turn of the head.

The light on one side of the room.
The light/fan just a few feet away from the pendant light. Hrmm.


#8. Do your research.
I spent most of last summer working down in our basement. Our cement floor was cracking and this white foam was seeping out of the cracks when we ran the dehumidifier. So I bought some garage floor epoxy paint to seal the floor. I even applied floor leveler/patch stuff to the bad spots before painting. But less than six months later, the paint is chipping and the floor isn't looking that much improved down there. Had I researched our situation some more, I'm 99% positive I would have come up with a better long-term solution.

Half Bathroom

#9. Don't hire a contractor without a personal reference.
I guess we learned this lesson more from Dr. Eddy himself than from the horrible job he did on our windows in the half bath, the hallway, and the full bathroom, but either way, we learned our lesson. When it came time to replace the soffits around the house, we got a recommendation from our friends Matt and Kristen and the contractor was wonderful! We'll definitely be using him again.

#10. Just go for it.
I'm in love with the birch forest in our half bathroom. I wish I had painted it years ago so I could have had more time to enjoy it, rather than look at our ugly yellow with blue spots bathroom. My main hang up was those weird 2x4s nailed to the wall, and it ended up taking me less than an hour to remove them. Next time I'm nervous and debating, I think I'll just go for it. (Unless I'm thinking about a bold color. Then I'll still have to take the time to find a color I really love, as mentioned in tip #5).
The fruits of my labor.

Dining Room

I actually think I'm still in the process of learning a lesson from my dining room. I'm sure it either has to do with designing a room to suit your needs (we hardly ever dine in there) or something about the stairs. I've been staring at the stairs for years, unable to decide if I like them or if they need a makeover. I'm definitely timid when it comes to painting wood that's in good condition since it's so hard to go back to it. So maybe I'll end up doing something awesome or horrible and be able to report back with a lesson learned at that point.

Front Porch

#11. A simple, inexpensive curtain rod and ring clips are essential.
I made the curtains on the front porch from roman shades I bought for unbelivably cheap at Christmas Tree Shop. Had I just cut the ties off, they would have been ready to hang with ring clips from Target. But I didn't take the time to remove to original weird rod with a pull cord that was up there originally, so the clips wouldn't have fit. Instead, I bought ribbon and made these elaborate ties for each curtain. It's cute, but a little too frilly for my taste. I could have skipped all that sewing and just hung up a new rod in much less time. I'm still thinking about going back and fixing this at some point.

Too many bows reminds me of how this house used to look before we moved in.

Master Bedroom

#12. The upstairs bedrooms in old Cape Cods are probably not well insulated.
Our bedroom goes from freezing cold in the winter to hot enough to melt a candle in the summer (that really happened). While this isn't so much a design lesson, it's definitely something I would consider in the future when planning out my house. Maybe having our bedroom downstairs would have been the way to go. Unless I need a free trip to the sauna. In that case our bedroom in July is heaven. haha

So that's my list of what I've learned so far. Well, the big stuff, I guess. I'm sure there are hundreds of other little things (measure twice before you cut, you actually can have too much brown, drywall anchors are your friend, take a breather if you're having drill issues, etc. etc.) but these were the big ones. I'm looking forward to not repeating my mistakes in the future ... and making all sorts of new ones as I tackle new projects and new rooms in new houses. It's all part of the process, right?