Come to Your Own Conclusions

With our new 70s house under construction & down to the studs, I am loving getting to make so many decisions about our house!!  We've been able to take control of the floorplan & many of the architectural details, which is so exciting.  Every little detail needs to be determined & even though time is of the essence, I'm trying to think clearly & make the right choices.  (Right now I've been doing most of the designing for my own home at night & on the weekends because I've got my clients' designs to figure out during work hours...  It's made for some foggy late-night decisions that I hope work out the way I'm expecting them too! ;)  I'm sometimes tempted to just let something go...

{Our living room...  Justin often flips his arrm through his short like this...  He says he's a "pirate."}

But in this line of work I've come to learn that the best results come from making your own observations & coming to your own conclusions.  You should always know why you made a choice and you should also know that there is a choice in almost every design decision you make.    (Due to budget & other contraints, you might not always get to make the choice you want to make, but it's good to at least know why you're making the decision the way you are.)

{At my dad's house, he was able to put his stamp on so much of the house- like the coffered ceilings in the entry room.}
There are so many options out there that we think of as "standard" and that we often don't question...  but it's important to question the options & the "norms" and make sure that they are right for you & your home.  What type of woodwork should your home have?  Do you want crown molding?  (Although it's often hailed as the hallmark of quality, it's not right for every home!! )  What type of finish do you want on your floors?  (Polyurethane isn't the only option.)  Countertops?  (Nothing wrong with granite if it's right for you, but is it necessarily right for you?)  Appliances?  (Stainless steel is everywhere but why should it be in your kitchen?  It needs to be because it works for you & your home not because everybody's doing it.) 

{image from here}

Whenever you have a decision to make, it's an opportunity to make your home more "you."  Every little choice reflects your taste & personality so choose carefully.  Take a look at your decision from a variety of angles & do pros & cons if you need to.  Examine photos of rooms with the object you're working on so you can figure out what your preferences are.  Like everything you select and know why you like it.  Think outside the box & come up with new ideas if you aren't loving your options.  There's always a solution.  And forget about the "rules."  People can make things work if they want to badly enough.    I often find myself thinking of the old saying, "Where there's a will, there's a way."  If you want something, figure it out & go & get it.  (And I'm not talking about tearing everything out of your home to get it "perfect,"  I'm talking about the things that you need to change & have planned & budgeted for.)

{In the room we did for the 2011 DC Design House, rather than try to fit furniture in the awkward window niche that housed a radiator, we created a widow seat over the radiator under the windows, knowing that the heat would be turned off during the month-long showhouse and the installation would be removed when it was over.}

This is how I try to think when I'm designing in any capacity...  In many of my clients' design projects however, I'm often only involved in the "decorating" or "finishing" of rooms...  I don't often get to alter the bones, which is one of my favorite parts of the process & really affects the overall atmosphere of a finished space.  Even in new builds, many of the decisions have already been made by the builders and/or architects and so often the "shell" I have to work with is -for the most part- predetermined so it is insanely exciting for me right now to have such a hand in our home. 

I've also come to the realization that I have an opinion on pretty much everything.

{okay, maybe not that bad, yet.  image from here }

We have been really lucky that our builder (CarrMichael Construction) is so open to doing unconventional things.  Mike, the owner, may laugh at the fact that I want an old hose spigot as our powder room faucet, but he gets it and can make it work even though the threading doesn't fit with our piping & all of those fun awful details. 

{our master bath faucet, not an old hose spigot}

Finding the right people to work with is one of the most important decisions you can make.  It's taken us years to find the people we work with but it's the make-or-break of any project.  If you have people willing to go outside of the box for you & to take the time to do that, you can really create something special.  And this applies to any type of work you need done, even sewing.

{Dave & Mike, doing an "8th grade dance" pose...  why did the guys never smile or touch in pics back then???}

{a more normal one}

When our builder, Mike, asks Dave & I for a decision on something, sometimes I'll say "whatever" or "I don't care" and Mike's response is, "Yes you do."  ...which of course makes us laugh, but is soooo true.  I know that answered isn't allowed anymore, which is a good thing.

All of your choices should be "right" individually, but more importantly, they need to be "right" for the space as a whole.  Each decision affects the overall atmosphere of the space you're creating and there really is a yin & yang to everything so realize what your choices are doing to the final design. 

{A client's living room... we considered each & every piece & material going into the space... Everything is a movable part that affects the whole.}

The bottom line is:  if you're buying it, installing it, having it done or bringing it into you home, know why you're doing so.  If you've examined it from every angle, you should be able to come to the right decision for you.  (And if you can't, get help!! ;) ;) = unintentional shameless plug for interior designers but so true!!)

...And wish me luck as I plug away with decisions!!

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.


Erin @ The Impatient Gardener said...

What an excellent post this is, and it's so important to keep in mind when you're suffering from decision fatigue. The only decisions I regret in our house renovation were the ones I made at the end where I let someone else talk me into what they thought was right. We were just spent on decision making and had lost our ability to care anymore. It seemed easier to just say yes than to argue for something else.

I've noticed lately that I've become much more confident in my decision-making abilities. I no longer scour the internet to find out what everyone else is doing or why it's either right or wrong. If I love it (and I know when I do) and it will work in the space I go for it and then I stop looking. I also don't ask for any opinions (especially from family who make me second-guess my decisions more than anyone else). As far as I'm concerned the only two people who have to love something are me and my husband.

katie gavigan said...

this is SO on point with my thinking recently! i couldn't agree more. trends come and go, and many of them are fun, but i want to be inspired by - and make sure others are inspired by - what we're surrounded by in our homes every day. thanks for doing your thing and inspiring us :)

Heather Peterson said...

Love this post--I was just explaining to TWO different clients yesterday that you need to know your goal, understand the different options to meet it, and make the best choice for you and for the big picture. And that this happens with every decision!

Fun to see your house in progress, too. I have never done a renovation, for myself or anyone else, but I am starting to get at the bones here and there for clients--a fireplace remodel, a new hand railing system in an entry, etc. I love thinking about these pieces so much more than I ever thought I would!


Vel Criste said...

great post as always Lauren - totally understand you on this. When you buy an old home, you still try to make it "yours" by changing any little thing that isn't you. When you build one, or in your case gut it out to the bones, you have more decisions to make which makes it all the more fun and all the more stressful. But honestly, if you do make a "wrong" decision (like the stain you chose didn't exactly match the overall look of the space your going for), it isn't the end of the world - its a chance to do another fun project in the future! So take it easy, breath in and everything will fall into place. :-)

Janna McCalley said...

We have been renovating our 1890's house for 5 years now (DIY!)and I've loved getting to make all the decisions. Where I want a wall, where I want outlets, light fixtures,etc. It's a lot of work and lot of brainstorming and problem solving but makes the space so efficient in the end. I love seeing the progress and choices you make!

Lumen Drops said...

Lauren, think you've covered the most important elements for a home: good natural lighting and good wood flooring. Nothing is more important to me, everything else would be secondary. It looks wonderful!

Brooke said...

Fantastic advice!! And I'm swooning over the photos in here too- that room where you did the window seat over the radiator is amazing- love how you carried the wallpaper across the ceiling too! And your dad's place is gorgeous- my dad did ceilings like that in his last house too and I loved them.

eLIZabeth Floyd said...


Great advice! Ultimately if you are going to live with it you must decide what works best for you and your lifestyle. It is so fun seeing all the changes you are incorporating into your new home. Keep up the energy and thanks for sharing!


Anonymous said...

This is such a good post! I completely agree- though you've said it much better than I could've. :) I've learned just by decorating our own home if I don't really love it like you said, I eventually end up replacing it and doing something that works better for us in the long run. It makes so much more sense to do it right the first time!

pve design said...

Pinterest should be a very good friend during the many choices and decisions. My contractor always said to me-"it's not what I want, it's what you want" - you have to live with it! That is the bottom line....think of loving what you will live with. It really is not too difficult when you think of it in those terms.
Trust your eye and your instinct. So what if a few things are not exactly as you want. It takes a lot of work to make a house a home....and life needs to be lived....too!:)
Enjoy every step.

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate your excitement in this post! I think it is so easy to get overwhelmed with having to make so many decisions at one time (even as a designer), but is so important to remember the excitement in it all and blessing that it is to be able to make it your own. My husband and I just bought our new home, and even with the little changes we are making before moving in (making more changes down the road), it can all be so overwhelming. Great encouraging post for where I am right now : ) Rachel

Kim Mandy said...

Hard work really pays off doesn't it? I admire your work you guys, that's really something to be proud of. The house looks great and having the fact that you guys built it yourself is just icing on the cake. I have to try financing home improvement for my own home and make it as good looking as this one.

Jodie Okun Interiors said...

lauren...i always love your insightful posts!after i read this one yesterday, someone posted a photo of this quote on instagram by sister parish
"behind every attractive room there should be a very good reason"
i had to share that with you:) thanks for being so open and honest about design and all that goes into it! jodie

Tawna said...

I love it when you get to tackle the "bones". It's more important (maybe :)) than the finishing details. When you get the shell right, I've often had people say, "It feels done already. Do we need to decorate?" There's something to that....when you have a bad shell, you have to decorate, hide, disguise, and on and on. That's fun too, but it's so cool when you get to do both. So happy for your journey!

Anonymous said...

so true, especially the part about just because it works for others doesnt mean it is your only choice. I opted to mix stainless with white much to the shocked looks of my contractor but it works. I only wish I had your contractors as I just finished my empty nest remodel and would probably not hire my contractor again. BTW...cutest pirate I have ever seen!

traci zeller designs said...

What a great post, Lauren! My favorite line: "Due to budget & other contraints, you might not always get to make the choice you want to make, but it's good to at least know why you're making the decision the way you are." There are plenty of things I would have done differently in my own home with a larger budget, but I know exactly why I made the choices I did!

Susan E. Brown said...

Great post! Love hearing about the process, feelings, emotions, intentions of other interior designers. Thanks for sharing!

Anna said...

I love this post. I love to see your determination to be authentic and true to your own self and your determination to not settle for anything less than what you want. I love, love, love that. It is inspiring to me and what I want for myself too except I could not articulate it quite this way.

I rewrote some quotable quotes from your post. "We have to question the options and norms and make sure it is right for you."

We have to "make our own observations and come to our own conclusions."

"Always know why you made a choice" and that "there is a choice in every decision you make. know why you are making the decision you are."

"Where there is a will, there is a way. If you want something , figure it out, and go and get it."

Love and prayers,


e.horn said...

I absolutely love the last picture of the client's living room. So pretty!

Loretta Fontaine (APPLESandRUBIES) said...

Lauren- Great post! You are so right - so many decisions to make and a seasoned eye will see more possibilities than a client could ever imagine!

(Your clients are so lucky to work with YOUR seasoned eye! Your design decisions are beauty and budget thoughtfully considered!)