For most of us, living spaces are our business. We choose colors, determine the best use of square footage, plan and design so that everything fits and complements everything else. Of course there are frustrations: budgets that just won’t stretch far enough, deliveries that are late or missing, damaged or simply wrong. People who don’t listen, clients who make changes but don’t expect to pay extra for them. Contractors and subcontractors who run late or just stop showing up one day with no explanation.
But the real bottom line for most if not all of us is that there is a pure pleasure to making someone’s home just that much more beautiful, functional, thoughtfully-designed, or in one way or another, perfect for them. And we get to do it every day.
But we only get to do it for ourselves a few times in our lives. And it’s easy to forget how exciting, how demanding, how challenging it is to choose the cabinets, flooring, countertops and all the other elements that will go into the home you will call your own.
When we work for other people, we finish a project, get kudos and cash, and move on. If we’re good at what we do, and I know you all are, the clients are happily living with the choices they made and you helped them with long after you’re gone. But you know, it’s different when you shut the door and you’re still in the house.
Many of us have been in the business long enough to see trends come and go. So, do we choose from the current trends with the knowledge that we are designing a home that may be out-of-date when we’re ready to move on?
The alternative is to put together a home that has resale in mind rather than one that you will happily live and work in in the meantime. Does that do justice to who you are? Are you willing to compromise your living space for the economics of a decision that may not be an issue for the next decade???
All of this has been running through my head lately because I just sold my condo and bought a new/old house. And I will be renovating it completely: from removing the popcorn ceiling to replacing all the flooring, including an entirely new kitchen – an essential decision if you saw the original 1983 kitchen still in the house!
And I have wrestled with flooring, cabinet and countertop choices, the unexpected cost of a new air conditioner and fixing up an Arizona room to stabilize it and connect it
properly to the house. And I have had to let go of my dream of fixing up the bathrooms right away, because I am two years away from needing a new roof, and attic insulation and replacing the windows that face west come first. And my budget that seemed too generous at first is more limited than I realized…
But I am in love with my new house. It is not big, or fancy. With the Arizona room and some other changes it will just reach 1,800 square feet. But it really is plenty of space and well laid out. I can’t afford the gorgeous designer cabinetry and appliances we see at the receptions hosted by Designers Circle. Home Depot has become my new best friend.
I am hoping to add some design splashes as time goes by. I am investing in good flooring by Shaw. That seems like the gift that keeps on giving to me. And my cabinetry is one of the better brands Home Depot offers, and my appliances are nice and classic stainless GE. I will see if I can go wild and spring for the slate… And when I can I will add some kind of gorgeous tile backsplash. But that can wait.
I did make the design choices that make me happy. Fortunately many of them are also smart resale decisions. The flooring is Shaw’s best laminate – smart in this climate and it looks so much like wood that it really fools the eye. And I chose white cabinets in a shaker style. Classic, but also my favorite. And a lot of the design touches such as replacing the sliding closet doors with French doors will happen at a low cost thanks to a dream of a brother-in-law who has an extensive construction manager background and will serve as my project manager and has also offered to do all the things he can do himself.
And if I have to live with a guest bathroom with a vanity top that is plastic with pink and cream swirls and a built-in sink to match for a while…well…sigh…I will. Because the popcorn will be gone and I have seven mature citrus trees in my extra-large cul-de-sac backyard and a nice covered porch in my front yard. And I have already chosen the porch swing that I plan to paint bright red to hang just to the right of my front door.
And you won’t believe the light that comes into the house from every room. My house may not be every designer’s dream, but it fits my dreams very well.
Maria Muto-Porter is one of those odd people who actually enjoys speaking in front of groups. To see her in action and learn more about speaking in public, you can come and sit in on her upcoming free presentation this coming Saturday at the Goodyear Branch Library at 3 p.m., “Public Speaking for Teens, It’s Easier than you Think!” You’re welcome to come even if your teen years are long behind you.
Maria Muto-Porter is a freelance writer and blogger. Her career began in broadcasting as a reporter and producer where she covered local news and features in Toledo, Ohio. Muto-Porter served as editor for two publications including a national design magazine. She has also written and edited books, magazine articles and other business materials. You can contact Maria at email@example.com