Renovation Mistakes: What Would We Do Differently Now?

Renovation mistakes are sometimes just part of the learning process! See our full home remodel and learn what we would do differently now.

renovation mistakes

When I bought this 1950’s ranch-style home in 2005, it was in its original state. Chipped mint tile in the bathroom, a galley kitchen that was more like a small cave, and an awkward sunroom off of the back that was just wasted space.

I saw so much potential in it. I dreamed about what I would do to it when we could finally renovate.

Cut to today, and we’ve finally finished the last major overhauls. The only things left to do are minor and optional — things like installing more functional closets, or switching a light fixture here and there.

But! In the renovations we’ve done over the years, there have been some errors. There are definitely places in the house that I would rip out and start over if budget and time were zero concern.

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What Did We Do To Our Home?

To start, let me give you a rundown reminder of what we did throughout our renovation journey.

The process was done in five phases, broken down like this (links will take you to each individual project):

  1. Transform garage into home studio, build out new garage, add studio bathroom
  2. Gut kitchen, turn second living area into a dining room, move fireplace, incorporate sunroom into main house to increase square footage, gut kids’ bathroom
  3. Build new primary bedroom, add primary bathroom
  4. Back yard: add tiled patio, landscaping, storage shed, pergola seating area
  5. Front yard: add tiled patio, landscapting, seating area

We did all of this in stages, starting in 2015 and ending last year, in 2021.

Living Area Renovation Mistakes

Here are some before and afters! There were two living areas, and neither were super functional.

Living Room and Office Before and After
brick fireplace

And here are the afters. In both spaces, we incorporated the sunroom into the main house to add square footage. The fireplace room became a dining room which opens to the kitchen. And the living room became larger, with a new fireplace added.

renovation mistakes
Living room
Buffet with shelving
Dining room

For the most part, I am still loving both of these rooms. But there’s one major thing that I wish we had done differently. Any guesses?

Stone fireplace

You guessed it — the fireplace.

At the time, I was adamantly opposed to putting any flooring in front of the fireplace that wasn’t the hardwood. And as you may know, you can’t have a fireplace near the floor without a heat-resistant material there like stone or tile to protect it.

So we floated the fireplace away from the floor and decided against a hearth.

In those days, we had tiny kids and in my head I was trying to avoid sharp/hard places for them to injure themselves.

Five years into living in the space, I wish we had either opted for a raised hearth or to put some stone or tile on the floor in front of the firplace.

I really like to be able to sit in front of a fireplace and feel the warmth, but as it is there’s nowhere to sit. If you sit on the floor, the fireplace is above you. And as you can guess, this would be a costly one to fix.

We remedied it vaguely by putting a chair in front of it, but this is something that I could see us fixing in the future.

Family living room seating ideas

Kitchen Remodel Mistakes

Here’s a before of our old kitchen:


And here are some after photos:

renovation mistakes
renovation mistakes

The kitchen was tricky. We wanted to widen it and open it up as much as possible, because the 1950’s galley feel was very closed and dark.

We were able to open up the wall above the stove and add a bar, which I love. Also, we were able to widen it by about a foot, which makes a huge difference. We added as much storage as possible and otherwise updated the finishings.

But! The thing with the way this kitchen is configured is that there’s only so much space to work with. To bust out an exterior wall would have had huge ramifications on budget; we also would have lost some windows and a significant amount of natural light.

If I had unlimited budget, I would want to make this space larger and add an actual pantry. We have deep cabinets (like, 3′ deep in some areas!) which are tough to work with, and things are always getting lost toward the back.

I would also love to have the space to have a hidden trash can in the lower cabinets, but there just isn’t the right space for it.

That being said, I love my drawer microwave and wouldn’t trade anything for it!

Primary Bedroom Remodel Mistakes

There isn’t a real before of this room because it didn’t used to exist! But here’s a photo of the primary bedroom that used to be:

Master bedroom

And here’s what we built:

Master bedroom
Master bedroom

There are two things that I would go back and rethink in this space.

First (and again), the fireplace. If I were planning this now, I would probably rethink this design. I love, love, love having a fireplace in the bedroom and I we use it a ton. But the placement is awkward.

Would I do a corner fireplace? Or even a freestanding modern stove? Maybe! I would want to finesse this somehow so that the fireplace didn’t feel shoved in a corner.

And secondly, I’d make the windowseat deeper. I remember the exact moment when Ryan and our framer talked me out of a 24″ window seat and into this 18″ seat. And it’s just barely deep enough.

We were concerned about sacrificing space in the room, but this room is quite large, and I wouldn’t have missed those six inches.

bedroom with floor pouf

Primary Bathroom Renovation Mistakes

Again, we didn’t have a primary bathroom prior to remodeling so I don’t have before photos. But here is the space!

Modern, Bright Master Bathroom
Modern, Bright Master Bathroom
Modern, Bright Master Bathroom

I’ve talked about our renovation mistakes in this room before on Instagram, but I wish more than anything we had put medicine cabinets in this bathroom.

I know medicine cabinets aren’t “cool” in the design world and all that jazz, but I’d way rather have that functionality. I bend over so many times every day to get my toiletries out of the vanity drawers and cabinets, and I’m kind of over it. Ha!

Also, in the last few years there have been so many (what I believe to be) beautiful and functional medicine cabinets designed. The options are much more varied than even a handful of years ago when we were designing our spaces.

Other Renovation mistakes

Other than that? Not too many! Mostly the renovation mistakes we’ve made have been contained to those areas.

We’ve definitely had our fair share of purchasing the wrong furniture and then either having to return or resell it. Sometimes it’s just tough to tell what you’re working with until it’s in your space.

Have you ever gone through a renovation? What would you do differently? xoxo

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  1. Remodeling can be so tricky and nerve-wracking. Neither of those is any fun! But your ideas were wonderful, your house is beautiful!

  2. It’s all in the eye of the beholder. In my point of view, your house looks amazing. I’m sure it’s different when you’re living in it day-to-day. Could you please share what your kitchen flooring is? Is it tile? I’d love to know what you used and were you found it!

  3. Hi Chelsea, A couple of suggestions that might help make your storage dilema in the kitchen easier. We utilized pull out shelves where ever we could. I love them so much. Where they couldn’t be installed my daughter helped set up a basket system on those shelves .We have a free standing pantry and the baskets fit 2 deep. I can pull out one basket to get to the back one. We have can holders in our shallower cabinets. All this has made it easier to see what I have. We also added acrylic holders to the fridge. Next project is finding plastic baskets for the freezer. Pat

  4. Nice Blog! Thanks for sharing useful information.
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