1. Claw-foot tubs are beautiful and classic, but aren’t ideal in smaller bathrooms.
I love the look of a claw-foot tub, but are they practical for people who take showers 95% of the time? And am I giving up valuable real estate in a tiny bathroom?
Julie Carlson: Much as I love claw-foot tubs, I’d advise against one if you have a small bathroom and if you take mostly showers. A better use of space? Storage, always. I have a small bathroom, and I love my storage extras: a recessed medicine cabinet (with an outlet for my Sonicare toothbrush), slim wall cabinets for TP, cosmetics, and toiletry storage, a row of hooks for robes and nightware, and double towel bars.
2. When it comes to kitchen and bathroom fixtures, don’t overlook the details.
What are the fixtures worth splurging on?
JC: It’s worth splurging on things you use every day: beautiful coat hooks, a handsome toilet paper holder, high-quality cabinet pulls in the kitchen, architectural heating vent covers. I’m often surprised that people skimp on these details (I’ve been in lavishly decorated homes and noticed plastic light switch covers and cheesy cheap heating vent covers). Especially if you live in a small apartment and don’t need to buy multiples of these items; spend a bit more and you’ll be pleasantly surprised how often you appreciate something as seemingly unimportant as a toilet paper holder.
3. Factor upkeep into big decisions like tile and flooring.
I’m lazy. What are some decisions you’ve seen people make that have been a disaster in terms of upkeep?
JC: A friend of mine stained his wood floors a dark espresso shade and immediately regretted it; every speck of dust shows (not to mention cat hair, lint, just about anything). I used white grout on my white tiled bathroom floors and I definitely regret it; in fact, I’m about to call a grout specialist to come and freshen it up. Open shelves in the kitchen are a great choice if you’re very organized and have nicely coordinated dishes; otherwise I’d go for deep drawers for dish storage. If you want your countertops to look new and unblemished, don’t get marble; it stains and requires upkeep. If fingerprints on a white or pale wall bother you, don’t use a matte or a flat sheen paint; go for an eggshell or a low-luster sheen that is easier to clean.
4. Go ahead and mix metals.
I love the idea of using gold/brass hardware on my kitchen cabinets, but I worry that it might clash with any stainless steel items. Do I need to pick a metal and stick with it?
JC: I think it’s fine to mix brass cabinet hardware and stainless appliances; my advice, though, is to go with unlacquered brass that will develop a patina. You don’t want shiny lacquered bright brass fixtures; they can look cheap and will clash with brushed stainless finishes.
5. Create a cozy and lovely lighting plan for the dimmer areas in your home.
When buying a house, chances are, whether it’s a basement bedroom or an office, there’s a room with no or very little natural light. What’s the best kind of lighting for those situations?
JC: It’s a huge challenge to light a room with no windows. I’d recommend layering as many light sources as possible: an overhead fixture with a dimmer installed so you can regulate the brightness; task desk lighting or bedside reading lights (depending on whether you plan to use the space as a bedroom or an office); a couple of wall-mounted sconces for uplighting and for washing the ceiling with light; and I’m also partial to Noguchi’s Akari floor lamps in a corner, which are made from rice paper and give you a soft column of glowy light. (Ed.: Ikea has some cheaper versions if $850 is not in your budget.)
6. Black and midnight blue paint may be on trend, but in many situations, it’s hardly practical.
I love the dark navy/black paint look, even in tiny spaces like bathrooms. Do you think there are any prerequisites to making it look right?
JC: If you only have one bathroom and it’s where you get ready for work in the morning and to go out at night, I would advise against painting it in a dark shade (it’s incredibly hard to get enough light going to apply makeup in the mirror). One of our editors, Meredith Swinehart, painted her bathroom a dark charcoal shade and she just repainted it a pale gray because she couldn’t see well enough to pull herself together in the morning! If it’s a guest powder room and not your primary bathroom, go for it.
7. There are great alternatives to expensive appliances.
Do you have any appliance-buying secrets? The reviews are just so confusing and there are very few resources for honest opinions.
JC: One of our founding editors, Janet Hall, is a genius when it comes to researching appliances. I would send you straight to her posts; she digs into the data and sifts through all the information that’s out there and comes up with the ten best in each category (like Viking alternatives or this list of tried-and-true front-loading washing machines).
8. New to power tools? Here’s an insanely easy DIY that will make your furniture and cabinets so much less boring.
What are some easy home-improvement DIY projects that you would recommend for those who are very, very new to wielding power tools?
9. Pick the right white paint.
If I’m going for that minimalist white Scandinavian look, what’s the best white paint to use? And is it even possible to pull off the minimalist Scandinavian look with non-loft ceilings and not a ton of sunlight?
JC: It’s definitely possible to pull off the minimalist white Scandinavian look in a lower-ceilinged, less-well-lit space (don’t forget that in Scandinavia it’s dark half the year!). One thing Scandinavians do to combat winter gloom is to light candles all day long, even at breakfast. And I’d consult one of our all-time most trafficked posts, 10 Easy Pieces: Architects’ White Paint Picks (it’s how Julianne Moore found her white paint shade). I do think people agonize too much about what shade of white to use; you can’t go wrong with any of these ten choices.
10. If you’re not crazy about the kitchen flooring options out there, there’s hope.
I’m not crazy about the affordable tile options that are out there. Porcelain wood tile could clash with the rest of my hardwood flooring, and I’m scared of getting water damage on hardwood. What are some other options?
JC: Have you considered Marmoleum? It’s a fantastic product that is easily confused with vinyl flooring, but it’s green (it’s made from natural renewable materials including linseed oil, resin, cork) and much more characterful as a material. It’s a great choice for a kitchen and comes in a wide range of colors.
11. Internet shopping has made our lives easier, but it’s important to experience your big ticket items in person.
I’m thinking of buying almost EVERYTHING I need for my remodel off the internet instead of visiting showrooms or going to specialist tile/flooring places (because I’m lazy and the cheapo in me thinks I’ll save money this way!). Is this a big mistake?
JC: You should make at least a couple of trips to a showroom to look at surfaces and to check out countertops, flooring options, etc. The more homework and research you do, the happier you’ll be with the end result. I wouldn’t choose any big budget item (kitchen countertops, wood flooring, appliances) without seeing it in person. Nothing substitutes for old-fashioned legwork. Home renovation mistakes are expensive; it’s all about research, research, research to avoid making them.
If you don’t already follow Remodelista on Pinterest, you should! Whether your budget is tiny or huge, it’s a great resource for home inspiration and tasteful remodeling projects.
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