when things go wrong… and when they go right…

It’s inevitable that you face challenges during any renovation, you are guessing at what’s happening behind walls and above ceilings and once you start demolishing everything and discover what’s really happening, sometimes you get good surprises and sometimes not. I mentioned some of the less fortunate discoveries in an earlier post, annoying things like ducts (I personally hate air conditioning… and who needs heat anyway?!) and an abundance of layers of tile on the floor…

Sometimes other things happen that are a result of having a bunch of messy human beings working on everything…. sometimes you make mistakes (GASP!). I feel like I am always reading blogs where everyone shows the final product that looks amazing and we don’t see very much about the challenges that are a very real part of transforming a space, of bringing a vision to life. There are quite a few – no matter what – so in the spirit of openness and authenticity I thought I would share some of the hurdles and also some of the great surprises that we have encountered during construction.

The faster the pace of the project, the greater the risk of things going wrong… but the goal is always that the final product is as close to perfect as possible.

The one thing that I constantly see is this: the stronger the team – the better the final product and the smoother things go along the way. Especially when something goes ‘wrong’. This might just be one girl’s opinion, but the one magic ingredient that I have noticed makes the biggest difference in whether a team is ‘strong’ or not is communication. The architect or designer has to communicate the vision to the construction team… who are the ones bringing everything to life. If they can’t see what you see, it will be a constant uphill battle. The stronger the communication, the stronger the team.

With Lindsey and Doug our biggest hurdles so far have been that I selected a tub that looked fabulous but didn’t realize that you couldn’t use it with a shower – it was meant to be used in a space that was only a tub (dear Kohler, you might want to spell that out a little more clearly next time, thanks.) No one on our team realized it until the plumbing was in – talk about UGH – I felt horrible. But even my GC didn’t realize until it was too late… and luckily we hadn’t walled everything in yet so it was (relatively) easy to fix. – phew.

But because of the tub debacle the door shifted toward the vanity… now the vanity we picked was going to look too big for the space… it’s like one big annoying Domino effect!

Another bump – I stopped by one night to go over the tile layout in the bathroom with the installer and saw that the mudroom tiles weren’t centered on the doorway. Some people might be able to live with this or might not even care, but to me details like this are the difference between decent and really great.

mudroom tile

He had to rip them all out and start over (when he was 2/3 the way done with laying them out). That was not fun news to deliver. At least I stopped by that night and not the next day when everything was dry and nothing could be saved – win!

Maybe the biggest challenge was that we thought that we could get all new cabinets and then discovered that because of miscommunication the wrong thing had been priced. We had to go back to the original plan of refacing the old cabinets. Disappointing, but doable. Just hoping that this pile of cabinets can be re-installed again, and glad that we hadn’t gotten rid of them yet.

cabinets 2This has definitely caused the biggest delay, which my millworker kindly pointed out when I reached back out to him. Thanks.

And then there were happy surprises… Like realizing that the doorway into the kitchen was actually a full height opening and we decided to make it wider and transform it into an arched opening in the spirit of the ones in the entryway.

arch kitchen

We planned on making the stairs to the basement an arched opening to match the entryway, since the openings were side by side… then had a momentary panic during the demo when it looked like we couldn’t because of the ceiling in the stairway to the basement…basement stair panic

… but then we realized that we could just rip out that part and maintain the slope of the bottom of the stairs to the second floor and voila!

arch stairYou can see in the third photo another opportunity for improved communication… I came over and saw the great archway – success! – but was then immediately distracted by the huge light bulb dangling in my face from the ceiling. I was just thankful it wasn’t turned on, lest I be permanently blinded. It took a few requests, but we got it relocated, as you can see in the last picture, to a much more discreet, and less offensive location in the landing. So many close calls in life.

We also got a great little nook built into the wall in the stairs to the basement… hello personality!


The key to getting through the inevitably stressful process of a renovation or any other construction project is good communication… realizing that we are all just human and having compassion for each other b/c no one is perfect… and a lot of amusement when things get a little bumpy…

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