On Our Merri Way: The Decisions

I posted the before and after, but I wanted to give more detail about what we picked and why. We thought we knew what we wanted, but there are so many decisions to make; it can get overwhelming – and exhausting! We still have a few things to finalize like the mirrors in the master bathroom, and of course we are a far cry from a furnished and decorated house. But it’s renovated, and we love it!

Here’s how everything broke down.

As I’ve mentioned before, floors and ceilings were our top priorities. We thought about doing wood in all main living areas, carpet in the bedrooms, and tile in the bathrooms and maybe kitchen, but ultimately decided on wood floors throughout and tile in the bathrooms. At the time of the decision we thought Louise might have allergies or asthma, and knew that wood floors would be better to help control allergies compared to carpet. Also the flow of the house looks better with a clean floor line.

The floors are red oak. We chose the skinnier floorboards and decided against having them hand-scraped. We wanted it to look like the floors were original to the house (aka old school). We had to think about it when it came time to pick the stain. We both liked a darker stain but couldn’t decide on an exact shade – walnut, red mahogany, or ebony. We finally chose red mahogany – it’s very dark which makes the floors neutral, and has the reddish tint which Mike loves. We love the wood floors!

The tile for the bathrooms was a more difficult decision. We knew from the get-go that we wanted super simple, all white, and inexpensive for the girl’s bathroom, and found a floor tile pattern at Home Depot that fit the bill.

For the master bathroom, we were leaning toward marble. We checked out a few patterns at a tile store and although we saw the prices per square foot, we had a little sticker shock once we picked our choice (1″ Carrara marble hex) and determined what it would cost to do our entire bathroom. We thought about changing it, but just really liked the way it looked and couldn’t quite get over it.
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We decided to put carpet in the closets instead of tile (an obvious choice in retrospect) which saved us about 1/3 of the original quote. They look a little purplish in the photo below but they’re an icy gray. Mike went LOCO and got the top of the line cushion beneath them. So if you want a nice spring in your step…hang out in our closets.

One of the looks I found during my Houzz binges was cement tiles. I’ve always wanted a unique guest bathroom since it’s small and most guests see it, and I thought using cement tile would be a good way to do that. It’s definitely not cheap, especially once you factor in the $200+ shipping fee, but since it’s such a small space we were able to work it into the budget.

One of the areas we didn’t think about until later was the laundry room. Although it’s directly across from the guest bathroom, we didn’t want to use the expensive cement tile for such a utilitarian room. We picked super cheap porcelain tile and didn’t look back.

Ceilings were easy – remove popcorn. Done. The only change was when Mike’s mom suggested putting wood planks on the living room’s vaulted ceiling. We looked at some examples on Houzz and liked the look. Our contractor showed us pine and alder samples and we liked the alder better since it had more character (knots and stuff). We were pretty paralyzed with how we wanted to finish it – leave it as-is, stain, or paint. Luckily the decision was made for us when the painter thought we wanted to stain it white and we loved the look. The can lights were too jarring when they were put in with their white border, so our contractor painted them and the vents. The first color we chose was a little too orange but the next one was perfect. They definitely blend much better. The ceiling fan also has a wood grain effect on the blades so the overall look we love.

For the walls, initially we were thinking of painting them different colors by room (I particularly wanted navy for the dining room), but decided to keep it simple for now and change it up later if we want. Mike’s mom is a paint color expert and told us a few colors she liked, and we decided on Benjamin Moore’s Etiquette. It’s a soft white and we love it. I did do Celine’s room in a gray – Sherwin Williams’ First Star – but it’s so faint you can barely tell. It’s basically the gray version of our white walls (if that makes sense).
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Pretty standard. The main things we changed here were painting the brick in the entryway and fireplace, replacing the doors to the den with French doors with windows, making a cutout from the living room to the kitchen, removing two of the six can lights in the living room, and replacing the patio doors. We haven’t picked our real dining room light yet but the temporary one we found at Home Depot actually looks pretty good.

We had to replace the baseboards since we put in new floors, and we weren’t super fond of the teeny crown molding some of the rooms had. We decided on a super thick baseboard and no crown molding. We also updated the casings of all the doors as well. At what was quite literally the eleventh hour, we realized we needed shoe molding on the baseboards and our contractor scrambled to add those.

When we first saw the house, the front porch had a fountain on the left side. We thought it was built in and budgeted for a front porch demo/renovation. When the previous owner left we discovered it was not built in (because she took it), but the porch sloped slightly and was tiled in a brick red color which wasn’t our favorite. Nor was the green color of the door and shutters.

We decided on a slate tile for the porch, and picked a blue-gray color for the doors and shutters to match.

We decided early on to use white subway tile wherever we could since it’s classic and cheap, so we put that in the tub area. The soffit above the tub was removed along with above the sink, so the bathroom just feels a little more open.

When it came time for the vanity, we chose to keep the current cabinets. They are not in the best condition but they were still in working order. We painted them Benjamin Moore Pashmina and stuck Home Depot chrome fixtures on them. We did quartz countertops throughout and I believe this color was Onyx White maybe? As you can tell it’s a white-on-white-on-white bathroom, but we a) wanted it to be easy to clean, b) wanted to keep it super simple, and c) knew we could spice it up with accessories.

I already discussed the tile floor, but that is really the showstopper in this bathroom. I was apprehensive when doing it since I haven’t really seen any examples in person, but we think it came out beautifully and makes the room. We also decided to keep the kitchen cabinet style and finish in here since it’s right off of the kitchen and it looks good with the tile. Just like all other countertops, we went with a quartz in here. I think the color is Pure White. We may upgrade the mirror down the line if we come across something we like.

There were a few places we knew we wanted to spend a little more time and money, and the master bathroom was one of them. The footprint of the bathroom and closets was pretty large, so we briefly considered blowing everything out and creating a new floorplan. However, we ended up liking the original setup and decided to keep it. The his’n’hers vanities and closets are really nice, and having both a bath and shower was vital for us. I did want pocket doors leading to the bath/toilet area since having a private area for those things was important to me.

We used subway tile again in this bathroom along with the marble hex floors. Mike has always liked the look of a freestanding tub, and although he initially wanted a claw foot tub, we were drawn to this more modern one since it’s super long. Between it and the marble floors we think this bathroom is a thousand times better than before. Especially removing the ridiculous amount of soffits in this bathroom – it feels so much more open.

We kept the paint color with the rest of the house (BM Etiquette). The countertop is quartz in a Carrara marble finish, and the cabinet fixtures are from Restoration Hardware. The faucets were here when we bought the house but we liked them – they go with the new clean aesthetic and are chrome just like the rest of the fixtures.

Not a lot of changes here, just painting, floors and ceilings. And the baseboards/door casings.

Oh yes, the biggest change. Mike and I both like semi-open floorplans – not completely closed off but not one big room, either. Since this kitchen had some space we knew we could add a cutout and still be ok with the fewer upper cabinets. We debated making the opening a little wider and putting the range under it with a floating hood, but we decided we liked this look better.

We had to start from scratch here, which we were excited about. We knew off the bat that we wanted stainless appliances, shaker-style cabinets and quartz countertops. For the appliances, we chose a Bosch dishwasher since it’s so quiet (Mike thinks it’s disconcerting a bit since he can’t immediately tell if it’s on), a Samsung French-door refrigerator based on recommendations, and a Wolf range.
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The house had double ovens and a cooktop but we used the oven space for our pantry. We couldn’t figure out what to do with the microwave but ultimately took a little pantry space to make it built-in. We are really happy we made that decision.

We had a really tough time deciding on the cabinet finish. We didn’t want a dark stain since the floors were dark, we didn’t want white, and we didn’t want a color. We were thisclose to doing them in a gray (Farrow & Ball’s Elephant Breath), but then we decided to whitewash them like our living room ceiling. We liked the look, but were still not 100% convinced we made the right choice. However once the white countertops were installed we really liked the look. It’s clean and fresh and timeless.
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We tested out a bunch of different knobs but anything other than wood was too jarring and distracted from the kitchen. Our contractor had a heck of a time getting these knobs installed but we are happy we went this direction.

Mike had opinions about the sink – he wanted a big faucet with the squirty thing, and a single deep sink (versus divided). It’s definitely major – the faucet is probably three feet tall and the sink is super deep. It’s really nice, though – you can do more than one thing since it’s so big, and with the grate on the bottom you can wash things without getting anything else in the sink dirty.

Something like doors didn’t even cross our minds when we started renovating, but these doors were old and plain. We originally entertained the idea of replacing all of them, but decided to just replace the ones in the garage entry (guest bath, 4th bedroom, laundry room). We also had to buy all knew doorknobs. I hadn’t really given doorknobs a thought but after looking at a few options, we settled on a brushed nickel finish. For something we didn’t think about, that sure was a hefty expense! You never really think about how many doors you have in a house until you have to buy new knobs for all of them.

Of course there were many other, smaller decisions, but that about wraps it up. I’m thinking of posting a room-by-room tour once we get things a little more settled. It’s just fun to have a house to decorate!


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