Post Renovation Lessons Learned

Today marks one year since we moved into our newly rebuilt home. Although it’s been several months since I’ve updated this blog, I want to reignite this space by starting with a post about the realness of the past year. This won’t be vent session, I promise, but an opportunity to think through some lessons learned.

Setting the scene: When we moved home on January 30, 2021 after 10 months of construction, the house was FAR from finished. Most notably, Justin’s office wouldn’t be ready for him until Memorial Day Weekend. And, we had regular visits from subs until July or August to tackle the punch list and issues that arose. We had a significant water drainage issue to solve. Today, there are still a few lingering items to be fixed. This past week, gaps that appeared between the floorboards were puttied and sealed.

February 5, 2021

It’s all good because there is an end date in sight. More importantly for me, there is closure near. Yes, things will continue to pop up over time. That’s homeownership after all. But will we ever do this kind of project again? The circumstances will have to be very, very different.

Lesson #1: Perfection is the enemy of good

This statement is somewhat misleading, though. If you are spending an enormous sum of money to renovate an entire house, you should receive high-quality results that exceed your expectations. But, understand that with any large project like this, you are going to have hits and misses. One miss we’ve experienced is the floors. We’ve been assured that dips and buckles will settled as the wood acclimates, but if feels like a-wait-and-see-if-that’s-true situation and that doesn’t feel great. We’re obviously not going to demo and start over. So, our choices are to live with (and hope for) good or create disruption in pursuit of perfection. For my husband, living with good means living with disappointment, and that’s a hard pill for him to swallow. I can shift my focus elsewhere and not fixate on imperfections, but that’s always been my personality. Those two different outlooks, however, have led to some angst. And the compromises mean closure moves a little bit further away.

Lesson #2: It’s okay to push things to Phase 2

But why push things off when you can do them now? It’s a very, very compelling argument. You are living through a huge disruption during construction and you just want it to be behind you. You want everything on your wish list to be settled and squared away. There is the argument of efficiency, i.e. it’s easier to do it now while the sub is here rather than paying him to come back and do it later.

But, you are still paying him now. And that “now” looks like a change order. And those change orders turn into death by a thousand cuts. There are only a few things we paid extra for that truly could have been saved for a Phase 2 effort (and therefore had savings for). But I wish we had been more judicious in making decisions on what we needed for the house to function versus what we wanted for “wanting” sake.

C’est la vie, the decisions are made are we aren’t wanting for anything in the form and function of the house. It’s nice not to have regrets of “I wish we could have done that.” But it’s not nice to have unplanned debt. Bottom line, Phase 2 is not the enemy either. Sometimes it’s an important mindset to lean on to save you money (ahem, credit card interest) in the long run.

Lesson #3: Loving a house takes time

The number one question friends have excitedly asked regarding the house: “Do you love it?!?”

Yes, I love the house’s design, aesthetic, and it’s details. But I still don’t LOVE the house yet. It’s still not finished! And in this context, I mean the house doesn’t have its soul yet. It doesn’t have our point of view yet.

That sounds very esoteric. Plainly, it doesn’t have the right furniture and decor yet.

I want rugs! I want lamps! I want new living room sofas! I want curtains in the kid’s rooms! I want a lot of things, but before I start sounding too materialistic, there is a benefit to not having everything at once.

First off, I don’t want an interior design that comes together in a one-time package, and boom! the house is complete. I want it to grow and evolve with us. I want to add to and change along the way.

Secondly, living in this space for a year means I know exactly where I want to start. There won’t be a lot of trial and error because I’ve thought and envisioned what I want each room to be. Every room has what it needs to function, but now I can strategically upgrade to add beautiful form to that function.

Speaking strategically, let’s remember that my kids are seven and nearly four. Once upon a time I wanted to fancy up the living room first, and get new counter stools for the kitchen island. Then I witnessed the continual sofa pillow fort construction using the current (and currently filthy) barstools as anchors. I no longer feel a strong sense of urgency to buy anything new and expensive.

I’m going to start on the front porch and work my way through the house. Both the porch and the dining room could use a pretty anchor rug. And I will be purchasing Ruggable for both 🙂

So as I get back into sharing progress on this house that hopefully will never be finished, I’ll start with my plans for each room and slowly check down each list. Let’s see if I can keep the momentum going this time!

Leave a Reply