Paint Colors, Design Choices: The Fun Part of a Home Renovation

ROCKY RIVER, Ohio — We’re finally getting to the good stuff.

My house has been a construction site since before spring break, with a dumpster in the driveway and paper on the mudroom floor. We had framers and electricians and three teams of HVAC installers. Now, after weeks of wiping fine white drywall dust from my hardwood floors, we finally have walls in the attic that we are converting into a bedroom and bathroom suite.

This means that as Halloween decorations appear in the neighborhood and we begin our inexorable march into winter, I can focus on design.

The design is what you crave when watching “Extreme Home Makeover” or flipping through Better Homes and Gardens.

(I’ve also read This Old House, but a primer on how to install solar panels doesn’t make me swoon like a spread from a remodeled kitchen in a dated Cape Cod.)

The design is imaginary. It’s about creating a functional space that expresses personality – with color and texture, paint, tile and accessories.

I’ve always liked to play in style.

When I was in fifth grade, my best friend and I designed our dream house, which of course we would share. We spent indoor playtime cutting out pictures from JC Penney and Spiegel catalogs and pasting them into a notebook, with pages labeled for each room in our mansion. My room was all pastel flowers. (It was 1990 and I longed for Laura Ashley prints.)

When I graduated from college and found my first apartment, I treated myself to a shopping spree at Ikea. I outfitted my loft in Woodstock, Illinois with a futon, fold-out bookcase, and one of those pull-out closets, and decorated with faux flowers from Target and pottery that I painted during my stints. a sorority gathering.

When I bought my first house, I also bought my first real furniture. I chose my first paint colors, my first window treatments. (I would say we, but my husband doesn’t care.)

And when we bought our century-old farmhouse, I finally had a place to try and incorporate design ideas that had leaked out for years. I had a folder full of magazine clippings and a Pinterest page that I named “We’ve got the house!” stacked with photos of bright and airy interiors in blue and white.

I’ve always had a very good eye and I’ve always been decisive. I’m not kidding once I’ve made my decision. It’s useful in a renovation project because I can tell our contractors exactly what I want.

Two years ago, for our bathroom project, I dictated everything, from the layout to the cabinet hardware. (You can’t make round mirrors, they said! I love my round mirrors.) I just needed the experts to figure out how to translate my imagination into reality. I wanted aqua tiles! And a sliding barn door! And the wallpaper!

Now I have a whole floor to stock with vintage furniture and design ideas. The goal is to create an escape, a retreat that floats above our laptops, our kids’ messy rooms, our laundry, and the rest of the chores of daily life. While I love color, here I want clean white lines, wood and hints of nature.

I may be a little late for Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia pattern, but we’re wrapping the fireplace in burlap and whitewashing the exposed beams under the vaulted ceiling. The shower floor will be tiled with river rocks and one end wall will be lined with blue waves. I salvaged blue and white striped curtains, woven baskets, and cut magnolia leaves from our Spring Break stay.

The laundry room on the second floor will – hopefully – make laundry fun. I have an aqua patio door, an intricate blue and gray cement tile for the floor, and this cast iron sink I picked up at a flea market, which we’re going to paint aqua.

Even with all my determination, there are a thousand other decisions that smack you like popcorn.

What color of white do you want for your paint? Eggshell or flat or satin? How high should the trim be? Where exactly do you want your sockets and switches?

I had never thought about switch locations, how I move around rooms, and what makes sense on which wall. But the electrician walked me through each place.

I knew I wanted oil rubbed bronze fixtures, but I had no idea how many options that would mean, for towel bars or a toilet paper holder. Our designer emails several options, which I click, select, and sign. Fingers crossed, hope I like them in real life.

Now that the walls are in place, the carpentry is next on the schedule. And I can already imagine what to put on my shelves.

Content director Laura Johnston writes occasionally about modern life, usually with children. She chronicles the renovation of her house every two weeks. Check columns passed here.

We have walls! And a fireplace! And the exposed brick!

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