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Advice for HomeownersColour in TilesEvery man should read this oneOne bad decision pays for the designer

Vancouver Colour Expert: How Long does Beautiful Take?

By 09/18/2012January 28th, 201727 Comments

The other day my mom reminded me of an old Finnish proverb that goes like this:

When a job is done right, no one asks how long it took, everyone simply says “It’s beautiful”.

A client recently called me in a panic, her subway tile backsplash was being installed and the advice she had received on the layout was clearly wrong and she already knew she would hate it after it was completed. The installer had just left and would be back the next day to apply the grout.

My advice to her was to take it out immediately and before the mortar dried. This way the tile could be saved and it would be easier to simply re-install correctly the next day.

Franke Fireclay Apron Sink & New Bridge Faucet & source

So if you are in the middle of a renovation and you can still stop something from going sideways! Take my advice and do it!

The difference between “It’s fine” and ‘Wow that’s beautiful” might be less than you think!

What happened in your renovation that you’d change in hindsight?

Related posts:

When Should you Rip out Brand New Tile?

One More Reason You should Skip Accent Tiles Altogether

3 Most Important Words in a Consultation

Download my eBook, How to Choose Paint Colours: It’s All in the Undertones to learn how to get colour to do what you want.

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact me.

To make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large samples!

If you would like to learn to how choose the right colours for your home or for your clients, become a True Colour Expert, 2 spaces left in Toronto, October 3, 4 & 5th.

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  • tara dillard says:

    I had my man redo several tons of a flagstone terrace set in dirt.

    Not an easy choice. But the right choice.

    Once done he told me he had learned something important. No matter how inconvenient something is, he will redo it if needed with zero qualms.

    It’s easy to pinpoint those who haven’t been there yet!

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  • Kat says:

    I opened my custom order shipment of back splash subway tile and my heart sank. The marble lot was clearly a very different color than the sample I had seen in the show room – it had been white marble with gray/purple/pink veining. All I could get from the manager was, “Oh well.” So I went to Home Depot and spent $200 on some very simple white marble subway tile and I am very pleased with the result. The $800 worth of lovely marble with caramel brown veining in it is still in boxes in the basement awaiting my next move. I just could not install brown tile in my brand-new black/white/gray kitchen. I am wondering if I can use the tile now in the bathroom remodel. The tub is kind of bone or biscuit or something. Does anyone think Danby marble will go with that?

  • The No. 1 lesson I learned in our house renovation was that you probably shouldn’t ask the advice of your contractors and tradespeople about whether it is right to change something. There are three big things I regret not changing at the time:

    1. Using the smooth side of the cedar trim for posts and risers on the deck vs. the rough side. The contractors kept saying that “nobody” ever uses the smooth side and that it would look dumb. We trusted them. What looks dumb is the amount of black dog hair that is constantly stuck to the rough texture of the posts and the risers. It is really hard to keep clean.

    2. There was a miscommunication when it came to making the stairs for the steps from the deck. We wanted to keep the rise somewhat low for our dogs and told them how many stairs we wanted. We were counting the deck level as the top, they didn’t. So we have an extra step, which makes the rise shorter than we’d like and the stairs a big awkward to walk up. And the dog hates them. It can’t be changed now as the posts, lights, cable railings and hardwood caps would all have to be scrapped and redone. We should have stuck to our guns and changed it that day even though the contractor clearly didn’t want to.

    3. The siding on the house: because we couldn’t match the existing siding and didn’t want to re-side the whole house, we used shakes for the tops of the peaks. We thought the shingles should go down farther, the contrators didn’t and argued against it. We were dead tired from a 8-month renovation and just gave up, promising ourselves we’d fix it later. Now we have all the shingles and have yet to hire someone to come fix it because its going to be an expensive, pain-in-the-butt job to do. They insisted I wouldn’t notice in a couple weeks. A year and a half later every time I drive into the driveway it bugs me.

    Lesson learned: you know what you want more than anyone else. Don’t let them talk you out of getting it.

    • Erin, you are SO right! I have never had to do a renovation but have helped others with house plans, etc. I think of it this way, “you” are hiring “them” to do the work you’re going to pay for. You are the one who’s gotta be happy in the end…not them.

      As a decorator I’ve done projects that I wouldn’t have done for myself. Rooms I don’t really like when I’m done. But the client was happy and that’s the ultimate “thumbs up” thing 😉 Mind you, I suggest things to them and usually they’re happy about the suggestions and take them. But if they resist, I try very hard to work out something they’ll like and that’ll work with the plan I’ve come up with.

      There is something to that old saying “The customer is always right”.

      • elle says:

        Erin, thank you for sharing to help others. We just finished a new home, and I also have #1 and #3 done here. Trying to not let it bother me, but it does anyway. Great advice, thank you

  • angela n says:

    I feel like I am going though this right now. I am currently having a house built so I am changing things up constantly. Most recent-lighting. My pendant boxes were just installed and I am having them move them farther apart. They look all squished together over my island. I also had them change my can light positions to make them more task positioned rather than just be symmetrical on the ceiling. The contractor was worried I wouldn’t like the way the looked on the ceiling because it wasn’t symmetrical. I just wanted to be sure that space was lit properly.

  • Jill Baum says:

    The bad part about changing something that might not be exactly right is that it can hold up your renovation by weeks or months! I didn’t get the pull out trash can in the kitchen I really wanted but my kitchen went in on time (and yes it bugs me every time I open it but I’d still be waiting for him to redo it!).

  • Elise says:

    We painted our house a lovely purple gray from an atrocious teal color (thank you Maria…after months of fighting with my husband about the color I can bask with confidence every time someone walks by and says “that goes so well with the brick.)
    My white trim did not go so well. Bright bright white–whaaaaaaaa. I am trying to tone it down, and am in the process of trying to improve the trim color. The biggest obstacle, my husband (it’s all white. White is white) But I know it will bug my forever.

  • Marion says:

    I couldn’t agree more.

    I was installing a wood burning fireplace in my house. I’d sat on something “simulating” a couch (the whole downstairs was under reno at the time, so no furniture, etc available) trying to figure out the exact place the opening should be for optimum viewing, and also the right height for the mantle, given my 6 inch slate tiles. Answer: The opening should be at 21 inches.

    My installer interpreted that as 21 inches is where the fireplace would sit, which given the 3 inch surround, meant the opening was now at 24 inches, and the mantle was now 3 inches higher.

    I got “the look” from my carpenter when I said it was 3 inches off. You know the one. The one that says, “are you kidding me?”, followed by, “it was a lot of work to build this, don’t tell me you want it re-built”.

    After a debate with myself – live with it, or pay to have it re-done – I made the decision to have it re-done. BEST DECISION EVER!!!

    I couldn’t believe the difference that 3 inches made. Even though I felt a “bit precious” asking for the change at the time, even I was surprised at the difference it made. The fireplace, instead of leaning into the room, settled back into it. The whole room came back into proportion, and the fireplace, a beloved focal point.

    What I learned was – inches matter when it comes to proportion. It’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten.

  • Martha Hughes says:

    We painted our unattached garage a beige. We tried to match the color of our siding. The color was beige (this was years before I had ever heard of this website or undertones). I hated the color and wanted to repaint it. My husband was opposed to redoing it. In the sunlight I thought the color looked pink… hummm. We continued to go back and forth until the neighbor across the alley came over and asked my husband why we painted the garage pink. New paint and a couple of coats later I was satisfied.

  • Lucy says:

    Our retirement home was recently completed in a community near Nashville, TN Not a custom home – a production home so there are limits to our options and builders are not flexible due to schedules. I could hardly breath when I saw the kitchen for the first time — the installer had made several errors.

    One wall of cabinets were installed too close to the door frame so the cabinet crown molding actually sat on the door frame and the granite did as well.

    The subway tile installation was a complete mess in the butler pantry.

    And the range hood was installed too high — you could see up into it. My husband is 6’5 so he didn’t notice.

    I was upset the field manager had not already fixed these things. But I suppose if he had a customer willing to let it go it saves them $$. My husband said he would lead the discussion with the builder. He says — never tell an installer or builder you don’t like something that you want changed. Like is subjective and often considered an emotional response — they may argue that’s an acceptable standard and you’ll find yourself debating emotion instead of the problem. So he said — we will make our points by indicating “it’s not right”. Then stay calm and not fill in any silent gaps with chit chat.. Stay professional and let them respond to our points. So he mentioned many times as we talked thru each issue – This is not right — It’s not in the model this way or that’s not how it was done in a recently completed home up the street. This does not match the standards used in any Del Webb home that we’ve seen. etc. In the end the builder fixed everything. They had to remove the granite – then cut it down, moved the top and bottom cabinetry over, which then meant fixing the floor. They replaced the doorway trim since it was now all dinged up. Redid the tile in the butler pantry and lowered the range hood which required removing tile. I can’t imagine what I’d feel like today if we had not challenged them to fix these things.

  • Amanda says:

    My philosophy is that most every detail needs to be PERFECT (or as close as you can get to it). This is the only way that one can live in peace and harmony with her new space! My big mistake with the renovations we have almost completed is that I hired a designer, though not an EXPERT, to design my kitchen island. If I had only known then what I know now…

    It was a very costly mistake to make, not hiring a true expert for this project. However, quick action as described in your post was taken, and we were able to correct the mistakes the designer made with her design. And by we, I mean me! We had to eliminate a large portion of the “design” work and lumber we had paid for because this monstrosity of a kitchen island would have left me with a mere 28″ of space between my sink and island. Still, we were able to create a beautiful piece that is both aesthetically pleasing and completely functional.

    My advice after the past three months would be to EDIT yourself and to SPECIFY every last teeny tiny detail. Be involved in every step of the process, and trust your instincts. Speak up because ultimately, YOU are the one who has to live in your space! Never hand over control to someone else…unless it’s Maria Killam with choosing paint colors. She is just about completely responsible for our stunning new palatte. I will be sending those after pics over ASAP, Maria!

  • Mary from Virginia, USA says:

    My kitchen design is my husband and kitchen designer’s design. I do not care for my kitchen AT ALL. I was talked out of many things I wanted because the kitchen is not a big area, so my idea of lowering the cabinets on the wall and running smaller cabinets around the top of the cabinets (that would go to the ceiling) with lighting and windows for displaying was met with two men looking at me like I was nuts. I also wanted my cabinets to come down to the counter top in two areas. Again weird looks. I am 5′ tall or short and it is a PAIN to have to get to everything at the tip top of the kitchen. I also regret the loss of the peninsula dividing our family room and kitchen in order to get an island. I do like the island drawers but that is about it. If I had the money to redo this kitchen again, I WOULD. I dislike it every time I walk in there. Oh, funny (but not funny) the kitchen design center put in their newest showcase area the exact kitchen I had described finishes and all with those beautiful lighted cabinets going around the top of the cabinets. HARD lesson learned-never do a renovation when there is a family member who very ill (I was emotionally worn out to fight for what I knew I wanted) and stick to your guns, research, research, research, before starting any plans for big changes!

  • mairi says:

    My advice: make sure you get All sides/elevations of a sketch when adding a piece on the house. We had an in-law suite built 10 years ago and while we had three lovely sketches of east, south and west views which looked great, we did not have the draftsman draw up the north side which was our mistake. The shed roof design is too long and should have been a hip roof design to minimize the expanse. Luckily it is at the back but it irritates me every time I look at it and is too costly to rebuild. From the front though it is a sweet little cottage.

  • Paula Van Hoogen says:

    Wow! This a very volatile subject! I too could enumerate a list of regrets for things I did not stand up for. What is it about? Could it be that as women we want to please a little too much? I do know also that here in the south, men DO NOT like to be corrected, whoooee! Lucy, you have a very wise husband. His negotiating strategy is savvy!! I am going to memorize his techniques and try and use them the next time I reach this standoff.

  • I LOVE that proverb. It is so smart! I stood up for almost everything when custom building our house. You can ask my husband about ripping open the front of the house to reinforce the foundation, build a retaining wall, and reconfigure the front entry 😉

  • JoyceB in Atlanta says:

    Tacking onto the theme of every inch matters and one never gets used to a mistake, one side of our very lovely kitchen was installed 2 inches to the left. Every time I open my oven, I curse the friends who thought they were doing us a favor by sending one of their carpenters to help with installation. This was my laboriously thought out design and I knew what I was doing. But, not wanting to upset anyone, I didn’t stop the work and have it corrected on the spot. Just a 2 inch mistake that will bug me forever. Like another lady, I also am 5 feet tall. In my opinion, the one who cooks should be the one who designs a kitchen!!

  • This particular situation is tough because it plays on the human tendency to be indecisive. While one second you may be thinking, “Oh no, this is going to come out horrible”, the next you may change your mind but the tile was already ripped out. Or maybe even worse yet, you decide to rip it out but what you chose looks even worse than the original! I personally think it’s best to stick with your first instinct when it comes to things like this.

  • pve says:

    One really has to “own” a project and feel good about each step. We all get a little smarter with each step too.

  • teresa says:

    Sometimes the thought of a wrong decision can keep me from making any decision at all, at least with the hardscape items, because I know if I really don’t like it, I’ll have to change it.
    I had one SW corner BR room painted a peach colour, which admittedly was better than the bright blue it was upon moving in. Can we say, “On fire!” I could barely go into that room especially in the afternoon and it kept me from decorating it well. I finally redid it in MS’s Kmart colour “Raw Silk” with SW paint. It was perfect, BUT the trim I used elsewhere looked so yellow I couldn’t stand it. This time instead of waiting years, I immediately repainted in a more stone colour to offset the orange/yellow light and it was perfect. It still is one of my favourite bedrooms and exudes a beautiful calm.
    If something’s wrong, it will always be wrong, so best to change it right away or do something to make it better as everything else that follows will also feel wrong.
    I also learned, natural lighting is everthing and no amount or type of light bulb can truly offset its effect. CTD

  • I feel the best thing a person can do, is acknowlege their first instinct. In other words, if something doesn’t look or even feel right ‘nip it in the bud’ so to speak like Maria suggests. Fortunately I personally have had the luxury to be on site when a renovation is being done whereas for my daughter for instance hasn’t been. ie: Even to the untrained eye, a wooden fence was installed which was required to be totally torn down and re-done. The ‘stepping’ was all wrong and you didn’t have to be an expert to know it.

    Another time it was wall-to-wall carpeting where the ‘sales associate’s choice’ was installed that never ended up to be corrected. I was with her the day she picked it out, even had a fair size sample to compare it with but to no avail would the dealer replace it. Though it was the same brand and quality, ‘the colour’ was all wrong and it was definitely the colour the sales person kept steering us towards … at which time during our conversation I continuously corrected, “no way the two colours were the same”. I even sent my husband to her home with sample in hand to ensure she got what she had ordered the morning it was installed; however that didn’t work either. MEN! Long story short, don’t know who I was most angry with and every time I walked into that particular room I wanted to scrrrrrrrrrrream as it would have been all the same if it had been an area like a living room, dining room and hallway where she did most of her entertaining and had to live with a putrid mustard gold when she had chosen a griege with a distinct brown undertone. To this day I feel what she got, was carpeting that was sitting in their wharehouse that they couldn’t unload and no one will convince me otherwise. Bottom line; listen to your instincts and don’t dismiss any red flags!!!!!!!
    Footnote: Even though the dealership was a well known name in the Quebec and Ontario region and were suppose to be reputable, they are no longer in business. Hmmm, makes you wonder doesn’t it.

  • Anne-Marie says:

    When we converted our garage into a dining room there were two big mistakes. First, the shingles on the front started to be installed a little off from the existing shingles. I took one look and I guess the contractor could read my body language because he said, “You don’t like it, do you?” When I explained, he immediately started ripping down the new shingles and he redid it till I was happy.
    The other mistake was due to insufficiently detailed specs. I had taken for granted that all the panes in a three-part window would be the same size and shape… but the centre panel had squarer panes than the side panels. We couldn’t afford to have another window built, so I’m still living with it. Visually it bugs me, though I’m at peace since I know it was the right decision overall.

  • Kathy says:

    I really got a laugh from most of these comments. It may be because I am at my wits end trying to make something that was very expensive work when there is no way that it will EVER work. We recently installed granite counter tops and a glass tile backsplash. From the get go I told my husband that I thought that granite and all of those glass backsplash tiles were obnoxious. Well he made me get them. The granite counter is gray and white and the backsplash is 3 or four colors of brown, gold, rust, purple, black, copper and a color added in that has no name that I can pin down. I like the granite but that mirrored backsplash was obnoxious. All day long the colors changed because of the shiny glass mirror effect and the way the light during the day changed. Every time I looked at it, it was a different color and to top it off the grout was MAUVE! I have been trying to save this mess for about a month to the point where I was about to have a nervous breakdown. After going to many stores and looking at fabrics, rugs, paint, ANYTHING that could bring it together. I just started laughing and I said “this is stupid”. My husband who was in the family room watching TV says “come here for a minute” and then says “what color in the backsplash do you like” I said “probably the yellow and maybe one of the browns but I don’t like brown and yellow together” he said “tomorrow the backsplash will be gone” I am so relieved. Yet I still have to pick something. We are thinking maybe Stainless steel subway tile to replace the obnoxious mirrored crazy tile.

    • Maria Killam says:

      White subway tile. Do not do anything else, your granite is now the most important element in the kitchen, stainless is still adding another colour to the mix and is really contemporary. Maria

  • Kathy says:

    Maria, thanks for commenting. I have been reading all over your blog and you are one smart cookie! Hope you don’t mind that term. I think you are right about the stainless steel subway tile introducing another color. One thing I will say is that updating the kitchen counter tops to something so high grade is not just a plug and play. Now that the counter tops are so high end some of the other elements in the kitchen are not looking so wonderful. I noticed in your kitchen you removed the casing around the windows and it looked much cleaner and refreshed. I don’t think I can do that because we have painted wood windows. What I am noticing is that the paint all around the kitchen dining room and the whole downstairs is looking tired so I am now invested in addressing many more things than just the counter top and backsplash. I have been pondering your take on “dirty” and “clean” colors boy that consideration is hitting home!. I never really noticed before but the fixed elements in the two upstairs bathroom tile work is a white base and the old elements in the downstairs counter and backsplash was a cream base. Overall it worked pretty good (in the past) but now I am seeing the benefit of going to white based fixed elements throughout the entire house.
    Maybe not a dead white but something way less creamy in the downstairs. Now one more thing. We are so lucky all of the new elements in the kitchen were a barter that my husband had made so we never wrote a check for any of it. Well, I guess I will be writing some checks now! AND I read somewhere on your blog about how getting a design person in the beginning can pay for one mistake. Now that is some helpful information!

  • Working on many renovation projects with my clients, I have 2 rules. One, never compromise and two, do not take advice from the general contractor when it comes to a design element.

    Never compromise: I’m in a situation in my own Reno where my counter guy messed up and didn’t order the Quartz that I had put a deposit down. As a result, he is putting my Reno 2 weeks behind (and that’s minimum 2 weeks). He tried to say that a good option could be _________ Quartz or ____________. I refused. I will patiently wait however long it takes (while grinding my teeth) for the Quartz that not only goes with the design – but for the Quartz I asked for.

    Don’t take advice from a GC: working with a number of GC’s, I’ve had to set the ‘rule’ every single time. The rule is, “Don’t give my clients advice” It’s done in a nice way however it’s important for them to know that what may look nice in one house does not mean it will look nice in another. I also let them know that I was hired to help make decisions with the client – not them. In addition, changing one thing can have a ripple effect on the entire project.

    None of the above is meant to be disrespectful to GC’s. It’s more to set the tone of the project. If the GC has a question, they are to ask me – not my client.

  • bfish says:

    A question to Maria since she just put this earlier blog post on FB — what about the picture at the top? It is a white kitchen but green, rather than white, subway tiles. I am wondering if you approve, Maria? I share your love for white kitchens and white subway tiles and applaud your unwavering advocacy for them — but — I do find the pictured kitchen quite appealing (except for the white floor). Now I am a fan of bright colors and I love green so that may explain it but I’m interested in the expert’s opinion.

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