TipsTop 5 Rookie Renovation Mistakes (We Made and How to Avoid Them)

October 8, 2020by cheree

I just wanted to say Thank You for all the offline comments on how to pep up my hallway last month. Your ideas have been percolating and I plan to do another update post once I find money in the budget to add the finishing touches.

While I was considering your generous comments, it made me think how could I add some value to anyone who might be going through a home renovation or is planning a room overhaul. Our renovation journey started two years ago, and I can tell you honestly there have been some costly mistakes along the way. What’s that quote “forget the mistakes, learn the lesson. The goal of this post is to pass on what we have learned in the hope it might save someone else from our design sins.

Here we are in are our early days before pre-renovation. No wonder we look young and fresh!

1. Cut Once, Measure Twice

Anyone that knows Paul, knows that he is a born educator. If you have a free ear and a broken object, he will show you tirelessly how this thing was constructed and how to piece it back together. I am a much smarter person because he is in my life. Granted, I probably don’t need to know how the circuit board in a play station remote works, but all rolly eyes aside, the one quote that Paul has drilled into during our relationship is Cut Once, Measure Twice.

Then one must wonder how we screwed up royally our kitchen cabinet height? Our expensive custom built kitchen was supposed to go all the way to the ceiling, but darn it, I came home to a freshly installed kitchen with massive gaps between the top of the cabinets and the ceiling. We looked at the plans and realised that the measurements on the plans were out.

Interesting enough, Paul and I remembered questioning our kitchen company, but we didn’t push it and we certainly didn’t check. All the responsibility lies with us on this one! The only way we could resolve this problem was by boxing out the gap with timber and painting it. Due to the shadowing of the light, it doesn’t look quite right. Don’t get me wrong we completely love our kitchen, and it’s something that doesn’t bother me now. However, if we had the chance to correct it, we would!

2. Test, Test, Test

We nearly made another expensive error in the kitchen, but I feel we got away with this one – only just! This one lesson could save you thousands of dollars if you are renovating a kitchen. Always ask your kitchen cabinet maker to provide you with a test sample door of the panel colour. It might cost you $100 but it’s money well spent. We wanted Alabaster, Resene on our cabinets to match our trim and skirting colour. There is no doubt when you look closely in person (the photo is deceiving) that they are not the same colour.

From doing a bit of online research, it appears this problem is common among kitchen renovators. Perhaps these companies are using the same colour coding but using a cheaper version from another paint company? Believe you me, the next time we do another kitchen, I will be asking for a test sample!

3. Make a Master Bathroom – Masterful

Moving into one of my favourite rooms in the house – our master bathroom. Again, I think we have both done a good job of creating a beautiful and serene space, so I don’t want to come across as a nit-picker. However, if I had the chance to take this space from good to great, I would redesign a few areas. For one, I would increase the bathtub space. Since Paul is not a bath person, I had to push hard to get the bath put in, in the first place.

Unfortunately, I did not push hard enough for the size. On reflection, I could have gone bigger for the bathtub and I should have. This bathtub was built for a skinny person in a small apartment. If I want to immerse myself in water, I have to close my arms like a solider and of course, this does not lend towards a very relaxing bath experience.

I also wanted to put in a tile seat box in the shower, like this one…

Due to the amount of work and expense that was going on in this space, we decided to veto it. Now when I am in the shower, trying to find a way to shave my legs without bending like a crane, I often think this was a missed opportunity. My new motto is “GO BIG OR GO HOME” – ha that is a terrible pun! Or even better if you are going to do a Master Bathroom, then make it blooming Masterful!

4. White is Complicated

If anyone has tried to pick a white paint before knows the pain of going down this rabbit hole. There are waaaaay too many choices. The one thing that I have learnt from my studies and painting furniture that all neutrals and white paints have undertones. White paint has four main categories. There is a blue-white, a true white, an off white and creme. Three of these whites have undertones. Undertones are secondary colours you can see through the main colour. If you don’t have your undertones working with your colours and hard fixtures in the room, something will instinctively be off, but most likely you will not know why. This leads me to my fourth point – White is complicated.

After we laid the Marble Carra floor, I discovered that this tile has a blue undertone, and the best neutral or white to go with this tile is a blue-white. I nailed it with the Stonington Grey on the wall because it has a blue undertone, but I only just made the cut with Alabaster White. As I mentioned before this white is an off white. A better white would have been a blue or true white. I got away with it because the stone we choose was an off white ( they call it a true white in the store but it is not) while all the bathroom fixtures, subway tile, toilet, bath is a true white. It looks like I have made considered choices when in fact, I just got lucky!

5. Keep All Hard Fixtures – Timeless

In my last post, I mentioned that we decided to lay a fun tile on the floor, to give this room a little more personality. Unfortunately down the line, this choice was not much fun because now I had to work my design decisions around this room. I think this ended up being the cause of my flat hallway. It’s so true hindsight is a blessing and a curse.

If I had to redo this room, I would have put neutral slate herringbone tiles to create a laundry room like this…

Well, it’s been an interesting experience shining a torchlight on some of our errors. I hope you have found it useful? Please feel free to pass on this information to anyone who might be going through a re-do. Perhaps you might even like to share some of your design tragedies in the comment section below?