Big Mistakes to Avoid When Building and Renovating

If you are building, renovating, or looking to give an old house an update here are some things to avoid.


I've never liked built-ins and have no idea why everyone does them. Open shelves never look good unless they are styled professionally and cohesively. You might think you can walk around the house and gather books and chatchkies and make your open shelves look like a Pinterest worthy display but trust me, don't waste your time. Go for closed, free standing storage. It is much more unique, not as permanent and more functional. A bunch of little things displayed never makes for a high impact room. You want to have a strong focal point in the room. This would usually be the fireplace. Having a bunch of junk on either side is distracting and competes with the focal point. Get closed, tall standing cabinets. You can use this for practical storage and you dont have to style them or mess with it. I used to joke that my slogan was going to be "I do everything but bookshelves"-they are just a pain and I dont think they ever look that good.




Plantation Shutters 

Say NO to plantation shutters. They are super expensive and unless you want to kill all of the light in your house do not even consider this dated window covering. If you do want to get plantation shutters at least do this first. Get some painters tape and put a border on the edge of your window glass on all four sides. Then make lines across your window 1" apart. You will see just how much light you really lose with plantation shutters. Terrible. And before you even say "you can open them" no one ever does. They look even worse open than they do closed. Plus, you still have to pay for drapes with plantation shutters. In the end you spend tens of thousands of dollars and you lose 40% minimum of your natural light.

Interior mounted blinds are also a huge light killer. Blinds and general are just bad. Woven shades, roman shades, and panels are my go to for window treatments. When your drapes are open and your shades are drawn you want to be able to see ALL of your window. Window treatments should not make you lose any light. Exterior mount shades and panels that don't cover any glass when open is the way to make the room feel the largest and get the most natural light.




I love Joanna Gaines, how can you not?? She has taken the home decor world by storm and been a pioneer of trends and created a movement and style all her own. I actually do like how ship lap looks but I usually say "the bigger the trend the harder it falls." When you start seeing a trend absolutely everywhere it has a significant time stamp and you get tired of it way faster than usual. Who remembers Chevron? Everyone loved it at first (myself included) but now who can stand it? Eventually everything has a time stamp and things get dated no matter what. However, building trends are more expensive and a big pain to undo. I'd stay away from shiplap just because I think in a few years we will all be saying "remember when we all did shiplap??" Just like chevron. 

However, if you love it and really want it-go for it! It's your house and there is no way to ensure that you will love something forever. You won't. I do think there is a way to make sure you love something for as long as you possibly can and that is to choose things that are on trend and updated but not the things that you see absolutely everywhere. Once everyone has it-it's out. 


Matching your Trim and Wall Color

This has been out for a while but I have had some clients recently who didn't get the memo. Paint is so important to get right. Paint your walls Swiss Coffee and your trim Snowfall White. Just trust me. It's the most neutral off white wall color. It never goes weird and I have painted many many interiors this color. I have never had a client not fall in love with the color! Move on from light gray. Don't paint your walls the same color as everything else. Think about it. You dont want your walls to be the same tone or same lightness/darkness as everything else in the room.

What sheen should you paint your walls? I get this question all the time. I like matte or flat paint in most rooms because I don't mind touching up paint. Yes it's not as wipeable but being the creative type, I'd rather paint than clean. The general rule of thumb is eggshell in kitchens and bathrooms and flat in every other room. And remember, you will have to touch up your paint at some point.  Don't stress if your walls get dinged or scuffed. It's going to happen and it will be fine. It's not that serious. I love rolling out my walls! I always have my wall color, swiss coffee on hand. I scuff my walls and mark them up all the time. I have flat paint in all my rooms which means you can touch it up seamlessly. It is so satisfying to get out my roller and paint and roll a whole wall out or just part of a wall out. You wouldn't believe what a fresh coat of paint will do! It's like getting a car wash :).


Windows with panes

Don't let your contractor pick your windows. This may be stereotyping, but in my experience contractors like to do the same thing over and over. The good contractors have been in their line of work for years. They know what works and they stick to their methods. This is great when you have someone building your home. You want them to be using time tested methods. However, this mentality can lend itself to not doing anything differently. Everything has a timestamp on it. Things that you might not realize are important to hand select actually really matter! I do not understand when people build a house wihtout a designer and just use a contractor. It boggles my mind. Don't you want someone who's job is to find the best, latest and greatest things and can put a cohesive look together to select pieces for your home that you will have for decades to come? I believe that designers should pick product and contractors should install product. You shouldn't have just one person heading up such a large project. If contractors wanted to spend hours looking at different types of sinks and slabs of marble while staying up to date on the latest toilet trends they probably would have chosen to be a designer in the first place. 

But all of that to say, windows with panes are out! If you are going to have to live with these choices for years to come don't you want to make sure you make the best decisions you can? Work with a designer. If this is the first time you are thinking about the fact that your outlets, windows, and toilets matter, you are doing it wrong.


Built in Vanities

Don't let your cabinet maker into any of your bathrooms. Built in vanities are out. You'll probably be overwhelmed when you are asked to pick out a paint color and do you really want to go to the stone yard again to select the countertop? Get a free standing vanity. It's easier and looks more upscale and unique. Everyone has built in vanities. If you are custom building a home, make it look custom built and customized just for you. There are not many things that go into a bathroom, you have about 5 things from the tile to the mirror. Make each thing unique and something you LOVE. Free standing vanities look so much better and you know what you are going to get! And if you get one from me you don't have to worry that you will get stuck with it-I accept returns. Vanities are expensive! Get something you love for the same amount of money. Free standing vanities are like selecting furniture. More fun and less work. 

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Shower Hardware

You don't need little shelves or container store shower caddies to contain your shampoos and conditioners in the shower. I rememeber, growing up my brother had ONE bottle of soap in his bathroom. I'm pretty sure he used it to clean his body and probably his bathroom with the same soap. I, on the other hand had about 10 bottles in my shower and too many to count on my countertop. Unless you are my brother, you probably need some shower storage and places to put your soaps and shampoos. Have your tile guy build shelves and recesses in your shower. They will be functional and look way better than a shower caddy you bought at Target.


Virginia Harper

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