MY DIY HOUSE-BUILDING ADVENTURE: Design Mistakes, I've Made A Few

I’ve been playing home designer since I painted my walls Weezer-blue, ripped up my carpet and installed astro-turf in my room when I was 13. That is to say, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes.

May 30, 2014 at 5:00pm | Leave a comment

Instead of renting an excavator and getting that septic party started, we took out our frustration by choosing a random mountain and climbing up it. While it was nice to get out of Dodge, we just talked and complained about how we weren’t, in fact, working on the house.
 
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Mainly I just worked on my TMJ.

Because we’re still waiting for our loan to process, still doing paperwork, then doing more paperwork. Banks move at a snail's pace, and we don’t want to use the money we’ve saved to start work, because we’ll have to use that to buy tools instead, because the construction loan stipulates that we can’t use the loan for certain items, including tools. Which, I’m going to have to say, I’m more than a little excited about. 
 
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The same clothes every day.

I hate shopping for clothes, but tools are another thing. You can buy a thing that helps you MAKE other things! Is there anything better? I’m currently drooling over the Dewalt 12in. Double-Bevel Miter Chop Saw -- she’s beautiful.
 
Pricing out tools makes me wonder why I’m still hanging photos with poorly selected rocks from the driveway. We’ve moved around a lot in the last two years, so most tools were re-homed pretty quickly, but compared to a lot of other purchases (ahem, clothing, food, I’m looking at you) tools seem downright cheap. A fancy hammer for $12.99? A cordless drill for under $100? Just take my money! 
 
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1990s flashback.

A big step we’ve taken these last few weeks has been finalizing floor plans. When we began, we started with the usual: we want a big kitchen, open living room, and lots of windows. Fitting all of those pieces together in the space is a different story. The kitchen and living room remain the most complicated piece of the equation, probably because we spend the most amount of time there. I’ve designed kitchens before, but it was always with someone else. Now that I have free range, it’s almost too much freedom. What kind of cabinets? Flooring? Counter tops? 
 
Throughout planning, I’ve tried to remember all of the mistakes I’ve made in the past. I’ve been playing home designer since I painted my walls Weezer-blue, ripped up my carpet and installed astro-turf in my room when I was 13. That is to say, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes--sometimes measuring twice and cutting once is worth it.
 
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Partially finished/already lived in kitchen of old--loved those cabinets!

The last kitchen I built, I collaborated with my ex; we agreed on nearly every detail, except counter height. He was 6’6”, and insisted on counters that were essentially boob-height on me. We used an epoxy resin over fabric and neat coins we collected while traveling for the entire kitchen counter. Did it cross my mind that having soft plastic as a kitchen counter might be problematic? Nope. 
 
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Look I maaaade it!

That photo is one of the only close-ups I have of this atrocity. Even warm baking pans resulted in welts and a weird hot plastic smell that hung around for hours. Note the already-scuffed drywall. There’s a reason why people put backsplashes in kitchens, turns out. 
 
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My old cabin, just how I liked it.

When I remodeled an apartment when I was a teenager, I wanted the bathroom to have the calming vibe of the ocean, a soft, beachy turquoise colour. Despite the fact that the cats crapped in the bathtub regularly ( the previous tenant used it as a litterbox, I’d find out later) that seemed attainable with simply a coat of paint. I agonized over handfuls of paint chips, and settled on a shade called “Turquoise Breeze”.
 
Coupled with the harsh fluorescent light and general grime of the bathroom, it looked more like a massage parlour, less like a spa where a massage therapist worked. 
 
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This dramatic re-enactment is missing a stack of Maxim magazines and stolen industrial cleaning products.

I learned that a colour chip isn’t the end all. You need to paint a swatch. Paint chips are sometimes really misleading, because they’re always displayed in gradients, and it’s easy to choose a colour that would be jarring to Divine.
 
Also, I will never carpet stairs. Because I’m not a sadist. 
 
In our current rental cabin, there isn’t storage, but there ARE shelves everywhere. Shelves that are piled with books, crystals, nail polishes and other assorted small things that Have No Place. Sure it looks cluttered, but that isn’t the worst part. It’s not goddamn LEVEL -- all the shelves lean outward. One wrong move, and the contents of the shelf slides onto your face like you just won a coin pusher full of small things that are hard to grab. It’s particularly awesome when looking for my glasses. Buying a new laser level TOMORROW.
 
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But with dental floss, books you’ll never read, and forgotten craft projects.

Instead of sleeping, I’ve started researching flooring. I’m getting real intimate with the Janka Scale. After spending time chipping up cracked cheap-o flooring and re-installing it, I’m willing to shell out more money up front on better flooring. Cheap materials look shitty the older they get, while quality materials look better with a bit of wear and tear. I’ll take scuffed and scraped hardwood floor over replacing a cheap laminate in five years. Quality is worth it, especially something that gets beat up so much. 
 
Another big ol’ thorn in my side at the moment is forms. I’ve mentioned before that getting a loan (with very good credit, and secured by assets!) is a pain in the ass. One thing I’ve really learned is that once you find someone at the bank who has even the foggiest idea about what’s going on, you cling to them like Rose clinging to a door in the Atlantic. Make sure they know they are the only person in the world to you. They are your only hope.