Cautionary Tales: Our Editors’ Renovation Regrets

We write about renovations for a living. Still, when it comes to our own remodels, we’re far from immune to the hiccups, road bumps, and outright regrets that so often come along with house projects.

Here, we humbly submit our own snafus; instances of remodeler’s remorse that still, if we’re honest, nag at us; and things we’d do differently if we could.

Reader, learn from our mistakes—and share yours, if you like, in the comments.

On trends:

“I regret using a dark grout in my kitchen reno. I was going for a classic subway tile look, and it is…for a cool NYC bar.” -Fan

dark grout: great here (see the designer is in: an optimist at home in notting  14
Above: Dark grout: great here (see The Designer Is In: An Optimist at Home in Notting Hill; photograph by Chris Tubbs), not so much in Fan’s space.

On taking your time (and light switches):

“When you’re remodeling, you never want to reschedule. Who knows when they’ll be available again? So in the middle of our kitchen renovation, when the electrician became unexpectedly available one morning, I didn’t say, ‘Come back another time; I haven’t really thought about outlets and recessed ceiling lights and light switches yet.’ Instead, I figured he and the project manager would know what they were doing—they were experts, after all. I wish I had postponed that appointment. By the time I returned from work that day, I realized that they had installed too many recessed lights (who wants to cook in an operating room?) and didn’t put in a light switch in the spot where we’d most likely need one. These mistakes weren’t egregious, but they could have been avoided had I 1) figured out the lighting stuff beforehand 2) spoken up and asked the electrician for more time.” -Fan

On the littlest details:

“Check, check, and check again. One morning a van showed up at our house in Mill Valley, reminiscent of the Sean Penn van arriving at Ridgemont High. An affable crew headed to the kitchen to complete their work, painting the cabinets and installing the cabinet pulls. It took a year for me to realize the cabinet pulls were askew—each and every one.” –Julie

a glimpse from julie’s mill valley kitchen. photograph by matthew w 15
Above: A glimpse from Julie’s Mill Valley kitchen. Photograph by Matthew Williams.