The Moving Diaries: Our Worst Home Renovation Decisions

Dec 7, 2016 +

On the bumpy road of home renovation, you can expect to make some mistakes along the way. As we pack up this house, I thought I would share with you some of our worst home renovation decisions that, looking back, have us shaking our heads. Some of these cost us time and effort while others had a financial impact. Nothing earth shattering but these mistakes and the lessons we learned continue to stick with us.

worst home renovation decisions

1. Opting for the cheaper solution

When we renovated the basement, we had to deal with a slight slope in the floor from an old floor drain. One option was to level the floor with cement but this would have increased our budget and pushed out our timeline. We decided on a cheaper quick-fix solution: drill holes in the subfloor and fill with high expansion foam. The thought was the foam would raise the subfloor just enough so there wouldn't be any 'bounce' when we installed the laminate flooring. It was a 'good enough' solution.

Had we gone for the cement levelling, we would have realized that the floor was uneven near the drain, but also sloped from the exterior walls toward the center of the room and slightly sloped from the left wall to right.

Look closely and you'll notice that the toe kick beneath the cabinet on the right is taller than the one under the bench seating. The sloped floor made installation of the cabinetry very difficult. So difficult in fact that instead of installing the cabinets ourselves, we had to hire someone to do it. In the end, saving a few dollars upfront ended up costing us even more money at the back end.

Lesson learned: For structural or difficult to change issues, get them done right from the beginning.
Don't skimp on the things that provide the foundation for all other elements.

2. Designing in isolation

The very first renovation we did in this house was an overhaul of the dining room. We removed the pink carpet, added shutters and wainscot, and installed a bold and graphic wallpaper. I loved the wallpaper at the time, but I didn't realize it would impact so many other design decisions down the road. We decided on the wallpaper without considering what the room around it would look like.

The wallpaper dictated the curtains and carpet and artwork. It impacted the decor in the adjoining living room too; yellow chairs and brown wood accents were brought in to make the two rooms feel cohesive.

Lesson learned: Don't make a design choice in isolation. Consider all your elements, perhaps create a mood board, before you make your first purchase.

3. Impulsive design

It was in the middle of a long winter storm that we decided to turn one of our bedrooms into a home office. We were antsy for a project, we needed a home office, and we knew we could turnover the room quickly. We headed to Ikea and literally walked the aisles, coming up with the design on the fly. We picked out cabinets and countertops and As Is castoffs that we could piece together to create an office for two.

The design was fine (it still stands as one of my most pinned projects ever) but it required an immense amount of effort. This was a true Ikea hack: most everything was repurposed into something different from what it was intended for. Expedit standing bookcases were mounted on the wall. Filler panels were made into cubby holes. Massive, heavy countertops morphed into an L-shaped desk. The room worked well but felt disjoined. To complement the modern design, we decorated in a trendy style that never quite felt like "us". The fern green walls and graphic curtains were a departure from the more subdued, traditional decor of the rest of the house.

Lesson learned: Although the room was functional, the design didn't work. We rushed to have a solution, to finish a project, and in the end we weren't completely happy with the result. To create a room that meets your needs and feels good, you need to marry form and function.

4. Sticking to the schedule

There's three competing factors in any renovation: time, budget, and quality. Rush to meet the schedule and you might have to pay more to get the work done quickly and the quality may suffer as a result. Opt for top quality and your budget and time spent might be pushed to the extreme. It's always a fine balance of knowing which factor trumps all.

During our kitchen renovation, we came up with the idea of putting in-floor heating beneath the kitchen tiles. But it was a Friday and our electrician had just left the job site. The next day, we planned to start the floor tile installation. Adding in-floor heating to the scope would delay our project by at least a week. And so, we decided to press on.

It was a decision we regretted that first winter after the kitchen renovation. Our galley kitchen features a pair of sliding glass doors at one end. We placed a curtain in front of the doors to hold the heat in, but we still feel the chill of our Canadian winters on our feet.

Lesson learned: Opting to stick to the schedule was an abitrary decision. We were doing the tile install ourselves so a delay wouldn't impact anyone's time but our own. We gave too much importance to the schedule and were left with a long-term issue that could have been easily resolved.

5. Wrong materials for the job

There's a few materials we've used in this house that we likely won't be repeating in the new house. The materials themselves weren't the problem - they worked fine and performed as expected - but in certain applications their shortcomings have revealed themselves over time

- I mentioned this in a look back at our kitchen renovation, but the marble backsplash was one of the most disappointing features. Marble is a porous material that is susceptible to staining by foods and spilled liquids. As a backsplash, the marble is most problematic in the area behind the sink. Repeated splashing from washing dishes and cleaning has left that area dulled. As well, the mini tiles we used has many grout lines and requires frequent maintenance to keep clean. If you go with marble, a larger tile might be a wiser choice for the kitchen
- You've heard how important it is to test paint swatches and see how they look in different light conditions. The same can be said for floor tile. We searched for a tile for the laundry room for weeks. We finally settled on a light grey with a muted striated pattern - or so we thought. In the windowless laundry room, beneath the pot lights, against the graphite washing machine and off-white Ikea cabinets, the floor looks very cream. This problem would have been tough to anticipate, but next time, I might be inclined to put together a mood board with paint chips and cabinet samples to see how it works all together

- in the kitchen, we installed a grey-green porcelain tile with Ditra underlayment. The floor is solid and strong. Despite dropped dishes and constant traffic, not one of these tiles has chipped or cracked. But the porcelain tiles are very hard on the feet. I've had kitchens in the past with ceramic tiles or wood flooring and find that porcelain is the most unforgiving. If you're looking for durability, it's a great choice but you'll need shoes/slippers or rugs to make it feel comfortable.

Does it sound like I'm nitpicking over small details? While I call these mistakes, I know that's a subjective decision and what we found to be issues might not be a problem for other homeowners.
Have you had some renovation mistakes of your own? Tell me in the comments! I'm always curious to hear about life after the renovation and the problems that reveal themselves over time.

Coming up soon, I'll also be sharing our Best Home Renovation Decisions. We're moving this weekend (!!!) and I'm already missing this house, mistakes and all.

The Gift of Time

Dec 1, 2016

How can it be the first of December already? I still have so much to do (packing! cleaning! shopping!) but I eagerly look forward to this month and one of our favourite Christmas traditions - the Advent calendar.

I feel a bit guilty that I haven't had time to dedicate to holiday crafts this year like I've had in the past. But I knew I just had to make the Advent calendar happen. Chloe has been eagerly anticipating it; she loves opening each day in the calendar, finding an activity and sometimes a treat.

The cotton bags I've used in years past are packed away. Somewhere. Beneath the dozens of other cardboard boxes currently scattered around the house. And so, this year's Advent calendar is a bit simpler. I've printed a calendar of activities with each date covered by a piece of washi tape. While it's not as grandiose as previous displays, the message and purpose remain the same.

The greatest gift of the Advent calendar is time. There's something so wonderful about setting time aside to come together as a family, away from the distractions of iPads and Netflix and housework. Sugar cookie baking, driving around to see the lights, making snow angels... these are just some of the memories the calendar has given us over the years.

We managed to host a gingerbread decorating party this weekend for Chloe and her friends, as well. I really wanted to give Chloe have one last opportunity to celebrate with her besties. The girls didn't care that I didn't have streamers up or holiday decorations displayed. They didn't mind the moving boxes in the corners of the room, nor the mismatched party plates. What mattered was they got to spend time together. Giggling. Fighting over gummy wreaths. Debating whether or not Santa was real.

This holiday season, I'm going to hold onto that message. In between the hustle and bustle, I'll seek those moments when I can give my time and attention to those I love most. I hope you give and receive those gifts too.

New House Style

Nov 25, 2016

A second shopping post? With the new house just a few weeks away, I admit it, I might have gone a little overboard with my shopping this Black Friday weekend. But the deals are just SO good. I've been creating wish lists for weeks and thought you might like to see, stylewise, what is appealing to me for the new house. Many of these items are on sale this weekend only.

The Love List - Best Home Decor Black Friday Deals

This week's Love List brings you all the home decor deals I'm loving this Black Friday along with a few of my product picks. Are you going to be shopping? I've got my eye on a few things!

Serena and Lily: 
20% off everything. Use code THANKYOU

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Rugs USA:
50% off Safavieh | 15% off Surya
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15% off everything. Use code BF2016

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IKEA Canada: 
- $50 coupon for the first 200 visitors. Free breakfast for the first 500 visitors. See details here.
- 15% off living room seating, 15% off BESTA and TV benches, 20% off rugs. See flyer for details.

- $25 off a purchase of $150 or more. Download coupon here.

Blackthumb Decor:
All items on sale. Additional flash sales for one hour at 12pm EST on Friday Nov 25 and Monday Nov 27. See site for details.

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Simple Christmas Decorations with a Canadian Twist

Nov 22, 2016 + ,

Do you have your decorations up already? I love seeing all the different decorating styles around blogland and how trees and colour schemes change from year to year. My own decorating will be a bit challenging this year because of the move mid-month. I don't want to unpack all the garlands and ornaments only to have to pack them up again two weeks later. So, I'll make do with simple Christmas decorations for now and hopefully still have time to add a bit of sparkle to the new house too.

As I like to do every year, I wanted to add a few new pieces to my collection. Real Canadian Superstore always has a great selection of trendy decorations that can bring a freshness to your regular decor. Their latest Home collection includes items with a fun Canadian twist. How cute is this Life at Home™Photo Real Cushion? The iconic winter scene in pinks and blues feels very modern, don't you think? I never really decorate with these colours so it was a great excuse to break out my pink mug and blue napkins.

I'm a sucker for a good throw and this faux fur one is amazing. I curled up in it for a few good hours after we got home from the Santa Claus Parade this weekend. It comes with a handy carrying strap and would make a lovely gift too.

To balance the soft blues and pinks, I added a few hits of red around the room. Red makes a room come alive and instantly says Christmas. The Maple Leaf ornaments come in a set of 8 and I strung them on a ribbon to create a garland. 

For a super simple arrangement, I filled a bowl with ornaments and paired it with a moose figurine and the Life at Home™ Gold Geometric Star Ornament. This might be my favourite ornament of the season. It's modern and eye-catching and would look just as fantastic styled on a bookcase.

Could there be anything more Canadian than a hockey player? Chloe has a growing collection of nutcrackers and this whimsical guy makes a fun addition. They also have skiier and snowboarder versions - I think I'll have to go back and get them for her stocking!

The wooden houses were a quick and easy project I created for the Style At Home Blogger Christmas story I participated in last year. They're made out of a fence post and their simple Scandi style is a look I'm gravitating more and more towards.

The red wreath and other items are ones I've had for years. Its always fun to bring them out of the boxes and remember holidays past. While I can't go all out with my decor, these stylish accessories are enough to keep me in the holiday spirit - even if the rest of the room is knee-deep in moving boxes ;)

What's your holiday style? Do you change things up each year?

Disclosure: This post was sponsored Real Canadian Superstore. Thank you for supporting the brands that make this blog possible.

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