Renovation Regrets

Elsie Larson ©AlyssaRosenheckA renovation is a HUGE undertaking. It can shake even the strongest relationships and test even the most organized people. It's rough stuff. But I'm happy to report that ours is starting to feel like ancient history!

It's been over a year since we moved into our new home and more than six months since our frequent contractor visits have dwindled down to nothing. If you've lived through a renovation, you can relate with everything I am saying, but if not—just trust me… it's not all rainbows and gold hardware. 

But I'm not here to write a novel about our renovation woes. I'm here to share the fun stuff—OUR REGRETS. And also those things that we don't regret. As always, it's a mixed bag! I spelled out my big picture mistakes here, but today I want to go into specifics on our different choices. 

And I'll share some confessions about decisions I made based on Internet peer pressure—the absolute worst!! 

That Turquoise Floor. 

Let's start with the stuff people warned me I might regret! The decision to stain our living room floor a COLOR was a bold move. And, if you remember the whole story, the reason I chose it in the first place was because there was a stain in the middle(ish) of the room, and so the ultra light whitewash we did on all our other hardwoods wouldn't cover the stain. 

And it's funny because I remember standing in the room thinking it would be great if we could just cover this with a rug or a sofa, but the placement was all wrong. Well, fast forward a year and half…. our sofa is TOTALLY covering that stain. So in hindsight, I could have totally just done the light stain. 

However, I'm honestly glad we ended up with what we did. And even if we have to change it when we move (and we might now), it's just ONE room. It's not that hard to do and a completely fair trade in comparison to choosing dark floors for our whole home, which I just did not want. 

Elsie's living room ©AlyssaRosenheckThe verdict? No regrets on the turquoise floor. 

Contrast Grout. 

There are things that you just don't know about yourself until you've lived with something. When we moved in, I was gravitating heavily toward a light, airy, very clean aesthetic. But still I was nervous to do white grout with white tile because I was afraid it would look dirty or age badly. My instincts said low-contrast, but the logical side of my brain said "dark grout no matter what." 

Well, I ended up redoing (or recoloring) the grout in three spaces in our home. I just couldn't live with it. With the kitchen backsplash, there were just some sloppy lines that stood out in the gray grout (now they're basically invisible, and we did the whole thing with a white grout pen by the way!). 

I also originally asked for gray grout on our marble floors in the kitchen, and after I saw it halfway in, I FREAKED OUT and had to change it. It just looked dirty to me. (I'll talk more about our new white grout in that high traffic kitchen below.) White was so much better

This is definitely a personal choice, and I LOVE high contrast in other people's homes. But I will say that with tile, the craftsmanship has to be a lot more pristine. Especially with small tile (that comes on the mesh sheets), if the lines aren't perfect, the high contrast makes it stand out even more. It's one of those things where once you see it, you can't unsee it, and now everywhere I go I am checking out coffee shops and hotels' tile jobs. Haha! 

Elsie Larson's Kitchen ©AlyssaRosenheckThe verdict? No more contrast grout for me. And in general, I've realized my eyes love a low contrast design… at least in my own home where I see it all day, every day. 

Marble VS. Quartz Countertops. 

This is a BIG one. The biggest. 

I knew I wanted to do quartz countertops all throughout our home because they are easy to maintain and age well (if not perfectly). But marble was/is SO TRENDY. 

Right before I ordered all our countertops, I read a blog post where an interiors blogger was dissing quartz because it "can't look real" and "isn't as pretty" as marble. 

I couldn't get her voice out of my head. And when you're spending thousands of dollars on these big choices, it can feel like a very scary commitment. So I split the difference, and I got the more practical choice (quartz that kind of looks like marble) for our kitchen and the prettier choice (real marble) for our bathrooms. 

The marble is prettier. 100%. 

But those real marble countertops are probably my single biggest regret. For one, there were small marks and texture differences before we even moved in (thanks, contractors!). And over the past year, we've gotten a few more mystery stains. 

Now I will say, they are small and probably not noticeable to 99% of people. I don't feel like we're going to have to replace them. I just feel like for me, personally, I'd rather not be constantly stressing about it. 

Yes, they are sealed (like 3 times), but it's just a part of having real marble that small imperfections and wear will happen over time. Even from things as simple as water and soap! And I use a lot of face oils in my beauty routine. So I do feel like I'm constantly thinking about it, wiping the counters up, and checking under things for marks—haha. 

I know so many people who have real marble and it's not perfect, but they LOVE it and it's worth it to them. It's NOT for me. In the future I will stay in my lane and just do the quartz. Even if it's not quite as pretty. 

Elsie Larson's master bath ©AlyssaRosenheckThe verdict? If you value your ability to be lazy or messy—don't get marble countertops. Big regret for me. It's pretty though. 

White Marble Floors. 

OK, so we also got REAL marble floors throughout our kitchen, breakfast room and sunroom (a lot of square footage of high traffic living space). And we LOVE it. 

I know you're thinking, "Lady! I just had to hear your long a$$ rant about marble counters, how can you love your marble floors?" 

I still don't completely understand! Haha! 

I think it's because they are lower to the ground. They do get small spots and texture differences over time. We use coffee, oils, lemon and red wine in our kitchen on a weekly basis (I think those are the really bad ones), and it's not a problem. We sealed them ourselves three times while they were still perfect, and now we use a cleaner with a built-in sealer. And the floors still look AMAZING. 

But the white grout…. that's a different story

The grout didn't age well in the kitchen. But we came up with a couple solutions, and now it's going great. The first solution is to do a yearly (or hopefully longer than a year next time) grout refresh with the Miracle Grout Pen. Those little pens really are a miracle for touching up grout! 

The second solution we now use is that we tightened up our "no shoes in the house" habits. Now, just Jeremy and I keep to that. We don't ask guests to do it, but I do feel like it generally helps keep the house cleaner longer (which has been great for us since we don't have a house cleaner anymore!). 

Elsie's breakfast nook ©AlyssaRosenheckThe verdict? I would do marble floors again. I consider them a lot easier to care for than countertops. Although now that my friend has been putting quartz tile floors into his flip houses, I am curious to try that as well! 

Ask me again after I've had a kid for a year or two…. haha! 

Painting Brick, Stone and Dark Wood White. 

I'll sum this up quickly. 

Zero regrets. 

I firmly believe in decorating your house how YOU want to. When we looked at this home for the first time, I was madly in love with it, but I told Jeremy that I wanted to paint the dark stone fireplace and the exterior white. And that it was a deal breaker for me. He agreed, and since painting both those things, the house felt 100x more my style. 

You do you! So many people don't do what they really want because they're afraid of resale opinions. But what if you knew that you didn't paint that brick you REALLY wanted to paint, but then the next person after you did??

Jeremy + Elsie LarsonBefore:After Back of the house!It's just paint. No regrets. Let's move on. 

Open Shelving in the Kitchen. 

Every time I post a photo of my kitchen, someone asks me something about how hard it is to keep clean. I have learned quickly that open shelves really scare people! 

I have to say—I don't get it. 

I love our open shelves. Yes, it helps to have kitchenwares that match (ours are almost all white with a little natural wood). Yes, once a year I have to take everything down and scrub and wash everything including the shelves (which I LOVE doing). Yes, things can get dusty or a little greasy up top (we don't cook with that much oil and never deep fry, so it's not that bad—plus using our hood when cooking helps a lot).

THAT SAID, it's not a daily inconvenience. The stuff on the lower two shelves gets used so often that it doesn't have time to get dusty or anything. The stuff at the very top is what we use more for parties, so when I get it down, I give it a quick wash or a wipe if it's been up there a long time. Not a big issue. 

Every single day our kitchen makes me smile. Every day. The other day I posted a pic of it right before we cleaned. And it's crazy because even when it's at its messiest, it is still pretty photogenic. 

I love our kitchen, and I would totally do this design again in a future house… if it fit the house. 

Elsie Larson from A Beautiful Mess ©AlyssaRosenheckThe verdict? Zero regrets

Well, that's all I can think of for today! Let me know if you have any questions about our renovation or how our choices are turning out over time. I love being open and honest with you, sharing the good and the bad. I learned a lot on this renovation! xx -Elsie 

Credits//Author: Elsie Larson. Photography: Alyssa Rosenheck for domino magazine (aka—the shoot I will NEVER stop using in my blog posts because I love it so much!)  

  • When we moved in we planned to stay in this house for seven years. That’s still the plan. It’s only been (almost) two. So we’re pretty well planted here for now. And now that I know more about the house markets here in Nashville, I can’t really imagine starting over. 🙂 xx- Elsie

  • Loved your voice in this post, it’s incredibly authentic. Your home is beautiful.

  • If anything, having open shelves does actually force one to be tidy. With a closed one, I can just shove things in and forget about them. And then I end up with millions of the same bags of flours in hundreds of cupboards…

  • I love how you honestly broke down everything you talked about in this post! My husband and I just bought a house and are going through tile and countertop options ourselves, so I’m glad you broke down your issues.

    We were debating painting the wood crown moulding, but I think we’ve decided to do it, since the ceilings will feel so much taller. When reading through opinions of what to do, I came across the quote: “Your house is not a museum.” (Which is right in line with what you just expressed.) That resonated with me so much because while we do love the character of older homes, we really have to make it ours! 🙂

    -Molly
    http://www.modcircus.com

  • I JUST installed a marble mosaic floor in my bathroom. Like 3 days ago – I need to know what kind of cleaner is marble friendly!!

  • I am glad you have zero regrets on the Turquoise floor, really. The first time I saw it was like: whaaaaaat?? But then I thought: that room is so funny and cheerful and hey, I what to dance over there! Risky but definitely a success!

  • Very interesting.
    I prefer white grout with white tile. I like it all to look superclean.
    I have marble counters in my kitchen, but they aren’t white; they’re the local red marble. They are stunning, and since we have a weird layout, they are also in the middle of the living room. We do pay a lot of attention to taking care of them, but it isn’t onerous.
    Marble floors look beautiful. I would just be worried about slipping.

  • NorWex Cloths to clean…. and their products are wonderful. No chemicals.

    (No, I’m not a NorWex Rep ~ I just happen to love and believe in their products)

  • Thanks for the interesting read 🙂 I agree with you on contrasting grouting, it just looks dirty, but decorating with contrasting accents works really well and is more versatile.
    We also don’t wear outdoor shoes at home and ask our guests to take their shoes off too, they really don’t mind. If I was you, I would definitely do that too! It cuts out on dirt getting in the house so less work cleaning…and is more hygienic too!

  • Your renovation looks amazing! And thank you for sharing your regrets, very helpful as I’ll be taking on a kitchen renovation myself in the not too distant future. It’s also good to know especially to go with your gut!

  • I appreciate hearing your honest opinion about your choices, including some you wouldn’t do over. It’s really refreshing to see this online because so often we only get the best of the best, highlight reel content online and that’s not reality.

    As a Canadian I think it’s so funny that taking shoes off in the house is kind of a big deal. Wearing shoes in the house is kind of a big (dirty) deal for us! It’s funny that it’s so different. I can’t imagine how often we would have to clean our floors, or lower our standards, if we were to wear shoes indoors! But I know it’s all just a matter of what’s normal where you are. 🙂

    • So funny Erica – my exact same thought when I read this post (also Canadian). I lived in California fora short time and remember going to a house party and of course I removed my shoes as soon as I set foot in the door. Every single conversation for the rest of the entire evening started with someone asking if I’d forgotten my shoes! Lol

  • Beautiful renovation! Great tips and thoughts as I’m going to take on a kitchen renovation of my own in the not too distant future. Also good to know to trust your gut!

  • Thank you for writing this post! I’m gearing up for a big renovation in September and was debating marble vs quartz countertops. Also great to know about the contrasting grout lines, I never thought of the problem of wonky lines before.

  • Elsie, I’ve been following this blog for years and this has honestly got to be one of my favorite posts! Your voice shines through the trials and tribulations that went into making your home so lovely. Thanks for sharing!

  • We have open shelving in our kitchen and I love it! Dust is no big deal and with all white dishware it always looks pulled together. But there is one annoyance that no one ever mentions. Whenever we have a party or big dinner, I pull almost every dish and serving platter off the shelves to use. So during my party, I’m staring at awkward empty shelves. I’ve even gone so far as to buy extra dishes so my shelves don’t look so naked when I’m hosting!

  • I love these posts. I’m a big fan of the look of open shelving….it just looks so airy and clean. I hope to do that one day. I must say, it fascinates me how some people don’t take off their shoes in their house. Growing up I was always made to take off my shoes when I got inside the house. I’m a bare feet inside the house kind of person but I remember my mom walking around in running shoes inside but these where shoes she only wore inside. My boyfriend is like me, no shoes inside. You take them off at the entrance, guests are no exception. I don’t see why you don’t ask your guest to take off their footwear when they come to your house (more importantly, they see you don’t walk with your shoes inside so why do they not take theirs off…..it’s a question of respect for me). You could maybe set up a little storage option filled with slippers? I don’t know maybe it’s an American thing (I’m Canadian)?

  • I’m Canadian too, and I was JUST thinking the same thing. It irritates me if someone dares to walk on my floors with his/her shoes!!! 🙂

  • So fun to read through your home regrets and see what you liked and what you didn’t! We’re in the process of remodeling our kitchen and dinning room right now, and this was a good reminder to “do you”, and not worry about what everyone else will think!

    Paige
    http://thehappyflammily.com

  • I love, love, love open shelving. I live in a mountainous desert. The stuff is going to get dusty whether there are doors or not. I might as well have the space be aesthetically pleasing.

  • Something I have always loved about your renovations posts is how important your home being livable, comfortable, and practical is to you, while still not sacrificing your taste. It’s something I have kept in the back of mind for whenever I have to decorate a new space.

    Rebeccaetc.blogspot.com

  • Thanks for sharing this 🙂 we are closing on our total gut-job fixer this week! And I’m so excited 🙂 but we are fortunate that we are going to be able to stay in this home super long term (maybe forever!) so I’m not basing any of my decisions on re-sale. It’s so refreshing, especially after doing two remodels that were for re-sale and having to really curb myself on the things I wanted. I’ve just been eating up anything remodel related lately, so this was well timed 🙂

  • Every time I see your teapot in one of your kitchen shots, it makes me grin. I got the same one at my bridal shower, and I love it so much!

  • My husband and I just closed on our house! I’m a first time homeowner and we have ALL the plans to renovate the place (we bought our rental off our landlords). We signed papers on Saturday and immediately started a mini remodel on the kitchen and dining room. It doesn’t hurt that my husband is a general contractor, but it’s still an overwhelming process to renovate. So many details to figure out and agree on.

    Your stories here really help me out and you have reignited my love for white and airy vibes 🙂

  • What a relief to hear that you don’t regret painting your brick! We initially gave into pro-advice when contractors said we’d be hurting our resale value by painting… Now two years later, most of our big projects are done and we’re excited to brighten up our little ranch the way we’d wanted to from day one. 🙂

  • Thanks for sharing Elsie, I appreciate your honesty! I LOVE your turquoise floor! It’s so unique and fun. Also love the advice to do what you want in your home without thinking of resale value. I fight with my in-laws all the time about that! I refuse to decorate for anyone but myself! 😉 I can’t wait to see more home posts from you, you keep me inspired!

  • I SO agree with this! This has been my favorite and i’ve been following for about 8 years!

  • Want to know my takeaway from this? “People wear shoes in the house?!!! How is that a thing??” ?

  • Hi !
    First of all, I love your blog. I remember the first article I read, it was the one where you tried a iPad app with your own writing. I’ve been reading ABM ever since. Congrats for everything!

    I was so scared you’d regret the turquoise floor because I want to do this in my own living room and I am so scared I’ll get tired of it.

    And about grout & tiles… When I rented apartments, I would use white paint (a good quality paint for bathrooms) and just put some between the tiles, then wipe up the excess. A hardware store owner told me it was the best & easiest way to make sure the tiles in my bathroom (or backsplash or wherever) would look better.

  • I’m in love with the turquoise floor- it makes such a gorgeous impact. I hope it stays for the long run!

  • I love the kitchen and the dining nook. Can you link to where the wood chairs are from? Thanks!

  • What are face oils? How do you use them? (More on topic – your house is a dream!)

  • Gah, your home posts are just my favorite, and I don’t even own a home! Although my mom just did a major renovation on her house, and says the same thing about marble vs quartz countertops. She did marble, and now kind of regrets it! Hindsight is 20/20, I guess. Regardless, your home is beautiful, and I’m forever obsessed with your kitchen. 😉

    xoxo,
    cortney
    A Whimsy Wonderland

  • That’s so interesting about the shoes in the house! is that an American thing? I feel like in Canada people just take their shoes off when they go into someone’s house, maybe it has something to do with our snow XD thanks for the great post! so glad to hear a positive voice for open shelving since it is a look I would love to try someday, and also your turquoise floors are so unique and special and fab

  • Preach about it! We are still in the time frame of the last straggling on days of a worker showing up every week or so to complete a job or task. This week it is the new front door (hello glass ceiling to floor! yes!) and next week it is a set of new stairs and then the last of the painting and then I can finally hang my gold marble wallpaper behind the geometric light and then….. the list goes on.

    Thank you for sharing your process with us this whole way and being so authentic. Renovating and building has been and probably always will be one of the craziest things I’ve ever done. No one tells you how hard it is going to be on your marriage, how difficult the concept of a quote verse actual price truly is, or that even the perfect finish on the wood might just be the thing that you end up hating. I especially appreciated the commentary on the spot on the wood floors. I feel this so hard. I did that about so many things. Stand here, imagine this, design from that point of view, move in… realize its totally not a thing.

    Thanks, and I still love that turquoise floor too. (I’m still working on my wife to stain these concrete floors!)

  • I wanna live tiny like Kelly Sutton but I love so many aspects of your home especially the kitchen

  • i know as bloggers, you all know this more than anyone – but i absolutely hate when people try & tell you what you like & what you should do in your own home or with your style. a couple of years ago i went through this strange period where i really grew into someone who really stopped doing pretty much anything for other people. i know that sounds extremely selfish on the surface (& yes, it is a little bit) but when it comes down to it, if you’re not living your life for YOU, then why live it at all? it doesn’t mean that you’re not there for people or that you’re not helping people, it means that when you do, you’re doing it for the right reasons — because YOU actually want to! not because you felt guilty or felt some societal pressure. there are definitely people (mostly family) who pretty much hate the new me (ha!) but man, it has 100% made me a happier, healthier & better human so no regrets. i recently emptied out 50-70% of my house because i love empty rooms. people think i’m crazy but it feels so good to me & that’s what matters.

    anyway.. that was a pointless rant. i just wanted you to know that i totally love seeing you, do you. 🙂

  • Haha! The shoe comments! Growing up down south, we never removed our shoes. We visited friends in Canada and thought it was so unique that everyone removed shoes in the house. (“How charming are these Canadians? They have slippers for guests!”) Now living in the PNW, we all remove shoes. I’m horrified anytime I forget and walk across the house in shoes.

  • Super informative post! It is often nerve racking to make big decisions for your home when you know it can be for long term AND expensive. When we plan to do a big DIY, we are always looking for articles like this one to avoid some of the common mistakes. Thank you so much for sharing! You’re house is absolutely amazing!

  • This was interesting to read! We went with quartz with a marble look for kitchen counters, and while in theory I love them and would use the same material and look again, the big lesson I learned that resulted in regret is to see the actual slab before green-lighting it, and to make sure you understand where any and all seams will be. We have a very obvious seam a few inches to the right of our sink and it makes me sad. The installer claimed it would be virtually undetectable. *glare*

    Next up is our backsplash and the plan is white subway tile so I was very interested to read what you said about grout color. Our whole kitchen besides appliances is white and we don’t have any open shelving, so I was thinking a gray grout would provide some visual interest. But now of course you’ve got me second guessing myself! Haha. Do you have any pictures of your tile before you changed the grout to white?

  • Oh my god I just had to add… I just turned to Pinterest to look at white subway tile shots for the five zillionth time and quickly realized that I completely agree with you about keeping it low contrast! Even when everything else is white, I still found white grout more appealing. I think the issue here was that I do think darker grout can look lovely and fun, but I wasn’t really thinking about it in a personal way, what would really work best for us. You may have just saved me from my own big regret! 🙂

  • It’s incredible that just painting the bricks and stones had such an impact on the outside appearance! Never would have even considered it an option, but it looks so much better that way!

  • As a Canadian, I find your comment hilarious ☺ I didn’t know until recently that a lot of Americans don’t take off their shoes inside and it is honestly deeply perplexing. How can one be comfy/clean inside without removing their shoes? Do Americans also not change into comfy pants as soon as they get home??

  • Hi Elsie!!
    Thank you for another very honest piece! I really love your home 🙂

    I DO HAVE A LITTLE QUESTION FOR YOU THOUGH. I SEE YOU ADDED TURQUOISE ON YOUR OVER AND IT’S LOOK SO GOOD! IS IT CONTACT PAPER? IF NOT’ WHAT IS IT AND HOW DID YOU DO IT?
    Oupppsss! I just saw the caps… sorry!!

    Ashley 🙂

  • Where do you keep your mugs with the open shelving? I think all of our dishes, etc. would fit in an open concept but we have all these mismatched mugs that I love but wouldn’t really like having out in the open. I don’t see yours on the shelves so just wondering if you have them tucked away somewhere!

  • I guess it’s because you’ve been blogging forever, but I just LOVE your writing style. Here and on your larsonhouse blog! Obviously your blog and ideas and pictures are everything, but the cherry on top of the sundae is your voice that comes through. Thanks for the constant inspo!

  • i loved this post, thank you for sharing you experience. We are building a house this year and i have been so concerned about our choices and in reading this i realised that as long as we are happy with it, it doesn’t matter if other people don’t like it, or it’s not in trend.

  • Thanks for this post… My husband and I are buying an appartement for the first time, and we are all about the kitchen. People keep warning us about open shelving, and your post makes me very clear about what I really want.

  • I couldn’t agree more about contrasting grout. I LOVE the turquoise floor though! I have never seen that before but it’s just gorgeous. Forget an accent wall…that floor!!!!

  • Your home is amazing. This is a dream on so many levels. I really love that everything is cohesive throughout the house, yet every room still have a unique flair to it. I think that painting the brick was a great choice, changes the entire vibe of the house. Personally, I feel as though it would look weird if the outside of your house was more rustic and you walked into a stunning modern home. Thanks for sharing.

  • Thanks for sharing! I agree marble is SO difficult to upkeep! My biggest renovation regret (first timer) was trying o save money and not really going for the real look I wanted (used bigger tiles to save on labour costs for flooring etc) as well as not considering the direction of the light when choosing a matt/gloss cabinet door 🙁

  • on the open shelves – is your house very dusty? we have a dusty house and no matter what we do it doesn’t calm down. I’m wanting open shelves and I’m thinking it may be a nightmare in the kitchen.

  • Hi Tasha,
    I haven’t noticed this house to be very dusty. We don’t dust super regularly or anything. All the dishes on the bottom 3 shelves get used frequently and never have time to become dusty. On the very top it’s pretty much things we use for parties and I rinse them off or wash them anytime I get them down.

    We use our hood/vent anytime we cook with oil. I think that’s a big help.

    It really isn’t a problem for us.

    xx- elsie

  • Hey Elsie! thanks so much for this post. Were two months into our reno and this was insightful! I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind sharing the quartz brand/model you went with? thanks so much 🙂

  • Any chance you could share the name of the marble cleaner/sealer combination product? Thank you!