My Extensive Renovation. Here’s Why I Did It.

Hi Everyone,

FC from NYC asked me the other day:

 

Dear Laurel,
Love your blog. Never miss a post. Can you please tell us about how/why you decided to do such an extensive renovation on your home? It is full of so many absolutely beautiful things that I would love to have in my home. However, it also takes a lot of time, money, and energy. How did you decide to spend as much time and money as you have?
By the way, I find it very interesting that you, an expert, also have trouble with contractors. I guess they misbehave for everyone, not just novices.
Best wishes,
F

 

***

Thank you, F! First, please understand that I am not perceived as an expert by the contractors. No, if anything, it’s more like a somewhat eccentric pain in the ass. haha

 

Still, why I decided to do an extensive renovation is an excellent one.

 

There are many compelling reasons. These aren’t in any particular order of importance.

 

1. Blog material.

 

It’s not that there’s any shortage of material if I don’t blog about my place; it’s that there is a shortage of images I’m allowed to use.

 

2. Images

 

For the first three years of blogging, the prevailing thinking was that as long as we linked back to the designer who did the work in the image and made it clear this wasn’t our work, it was fine. It was called “link love,” or “linking with love.”

Well,  to put it succinctly; it’s not okay. It’s really NOT okay. And I don’t want to get into a big thing in this post about why that’s absurd or the benefits to the owner of the photos. But please know that I HAVE been raked over the coals, threatened with lawsuits, and one image, an extortionary lawyer was coming after me for $175,000, including statutory “damages.” This photographer has a rep for making a living from litigation, not photography. Extortion is a felony. “Nuff said.

Bottom line. I must use my own images.

 

So, for those of you hoping to see more of the type of blog posts I wrote a few years ago, many posts will require heavy modification. There are some photos that I’m allowed to use, like vendors I’m promoting, if I have permission. Otherwise, no. I can link to where they are. And, on occasion, I will use a tightly cropped shot of only what is needed to convey my point.

I have already removed hundreds of images from my posts and data base. I need to remove more. It’s a bloody drag.

So, when I post about art walls, for example, I will either use only virtual art walls, as I’ve already done or create and photograph my own art wall.

It’s also one of the reasons I wanted to do a bunch of hidden doors. Same thing.

 

When I purchased this place in 2020, was I planning on such an extensive renovation?

 

No, and when you look around, aside from the kitchen/entry, staircase, and about 2/5ths of the lower level, it doesn’t seem like much. That’s because it isn’t as extensive a renovation as it appears to be.

The contractor didn’t make the cabinets. Those were beautifully made by Crown Point Cabinetry. Altogether, including installing hardware, appliances, mouldings, etc. The kitchen and entry only took about 20 days, at the most. But, 20 days is nearly three months for these guys!*

 

It’s taking so long because very little happened before October 2023, which was four months into the renovation.

 

*Another reason is that on average, there are only eight days every month of building going on.

I could keep going, but you get the picture.

Because of the building codes, I had to move the wall that now houses the electrical panel, which meant I had to redo the bathroom.

 

Knowing what I know now, I would’ve taken charge of this renovation more aggressively, early on.

 

A year ago, I thought I didn’t want to overstep my boundaries. However, my bad; they were never clearly established in the first place, and they should have been. I would’ve gladly taken on more responsibility, particularly with the doors.

On the other hand, it’s only just over a year. It will be finished this summer. In many ways, the pace of the renovation was helpful because it gave me a chance to devote the time to make it special.

Incidentally, these problems can occur with big companies, as well. Far worse problems. Many of you have shared your horror stories. Renovating is not for the faint of heart.

 

3. The final reason I wanted to do this, I guess, goes under the category of vanity.

 

However, that’s also tied to having excellent blog material. In addition, I’ve never had a really nice kitchen. Plus, I wanted to create my very own “unkitchen.” Or, at least one type of “unkitchen.”

 

***

 

Some of you have asked about the new painter.

 

I found Christopher Audley through another kind Boston-area reader, Sara M. Actually, she had given me his name and number in 2020, and with a glowing review! (I save every rec you local guys give me!)

Immediately, we hit it off and chatted like old design school chums for I don’t know how long about paint, finishes, etc.

Later, he texted me, and this time, I gingerly asked him if he did any decorative painting. It’s no problem if not, but I need a stenciled checkerboard floor (technically a harlequin pattern).

 

So, he texts me his website that shows his portfolio, Painting By Design; it’s called.

 

First, I saw some lovely interiors, but then it wasn’t long before image after image showed beautifully rendered faux marble, faux bois, strie, stenciled damask, and yes, a couple of checkerboard floors, and much more.

 

It was exactly like when Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz first sees the magical Emerald City…

 

 

No, he doesn’t do decorative painting. He IS decorative painting.

And yes, he said that’s how he got started. Chris began as a decorative artist and then got asked to do straight painting.

 

So, how’s it going with the new painter?

 

Fantastic! Chris’ guys have been here only two days, but it seems like a week. They are almost ready to prime downstairs. They have real equipment: electric sanders, a dust extractor, and two industrial-strength vacuum cleaners.

The room is left tidy and as dust-free as possible.

And, 80% of the surfaces are now beautifully smooth wood. I feel like I can suddenly breathe.

Chris is a doll. I have had at least five in-person meetings, and we have shared many texts and phone calls.

 

He knows paint. And, refreshingly, he has taste.

 

So, in a “it couldn’t be more perfect scenario,” Chris will stencil the harlequin (checkerboard on a 45-degree angle) floors. All is being coordinated with Gary Dessert, the owner of Sequoia Wood Floors.

 

Gary is also fantastic, very professional, and clearly loves his work. He has been here three times and brought over several samples yesterday. I never would’ve gotten this with Robert’s guy.

Robert’s guy is the type that says: “What stain would you like to use?” And that’s the end of that.

 

Please tune in on Thursday or Friday for more about my chosen stain.

 

I think most of you will be pleased, and I definitely am.

Gary is doing the floors downstairs first. The job is commencing July 8th and will take six days.

I know I promised more detailed shots of the kitchen. There will be more, for sure.

And, more about the bathroom, too.

 

However, last Monday, Brendan and Eugene temporarily put up the bathroom vanity, got it level, and without the legs looking wonky.

 

I don’t know how they did it, but it will be fine. Please ignore the bad lighting. All I had on was the one overhead bare lightbulb.

 

new bathroom vanity June 2024

Aside from that, here you can also see that the bathroom walls weren’t finished getting prepped, yet there were finish coats on some of the trim.

Note Monday July 1st. Never mind. I am going to take care of the floor. It’s not just the floor. The trim is all wonky, and now that it’s all primed, it doesn’t look any better.

xo,

 

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27 Responses

  1. Oh, I took a look at the painter’s website – the gold leaf work is absolutely breath-taking! (And the camel photo is adorable) Might there be some gold leaf in some future images??? 😉

  2. Congratulations on getting not one, but two Prince Charming craftsmen! We sure do have to kiss a few frogs, don’t we??!! 🐸👸

    As far as websites go, have you considered having a Patreon? I follow a podcast that has a patreon, and it seems like it might be a good fit, for someone with your expertise and loyal fan base.

    We follow you, not because you’re an influencer, but because you elevate all of us to appreciate true Beauty. (And we enjoy hearing about the Beasts now and then!)

    Can’t wait to see your “happily ever after” 🥰

  3. I am curious, do you think you would have had the same problems if you had been the hired designer for this project rather than the client? Maybe the contractors thought of you as “just some rich lady” instead of as a professional with expertise worth respecting. (Which is not to suggest that lack of respect towards a client is acceptable!) Or maybe they’re like this to everybody.

  4. Hello Laurel, I have had the same issue with copyrighted photos, so I try to use only my own. The problem with this is most of my items are put away beyond easy retrieval, and my quick reference photos (if any) are not of blog-publishing quality.
    .
    A special annoyance of mine is when owners of non-copyrightable material, such as museums or archives with 19th century photographs, “claim” copyright of all their possessions, which is clearly illegal, but hard to fight. The courts really need to establish usage guidelines with up-to-date considerations. One historical society (to which I was planning a large donation of material) was so mean about using a thumbnail image from their website, that I decided to donate elsewhere!
    –Jim

  5. Hi Laurel,
    watched your ‘ Video ad’ with google chrome on my old apple laptop and outdated operating systems from remote area Australia with patchy internet connectivity.
    Quite a few ads at the start and had to drag the time (red) line forward to see all of it but I was glad I did as it was great to see the old, worn out shell transform into the amazing, beautiful home you have worked so hard on!

  6. Oh my goodness, F. Me too! I am so glad that I’m not the only one that had ridiculously unscrupulous contractors! I was TAKEN until I found the right guys. I learned that I have no idea how to thwart con men (yes, one was out on bail, I’d no idea and I wrote him a check!). Sweet Laurel said it best, “ A year ago, I thought I didn’t want to overstep my boundaries” Yes, if I ever do any more building/remodeling I will be extra stepping boundaries! I won’t care if I make eyes roll.

  7. I got two ads of 14 seconds duration in the beginning when watching the old inspection video. It didn’t stop me from watching. My browser is Chrome and I am on a desktop using Microsoft-latest version. The site has jumped a bit but other than that no problems. Love your blog.

    1. Hi Deb,

      Thank you for your input and especially for stating which device and browser you are having issues on. That is very helpful to see if there’s a pattern with a particular browser and/or device.

  8. Laurel, in your experience, do male designers have the same level and frequency of conflict with the contractors? I wouldn’t know. My hubby has seven degrees and no common sense whatsoever; I am always the one dealing with the repair guys, trades, and contractors we hire. For me, they’ve run the gamut–great, helpful, professional, great work product to laughing at everything I say like I’m a stand-up comic. The laughing turd waffles I complain about to their company bosses, and I cease using their businesses for my needs. The great ones I tell no one about. They’re mine.

  9. You killed me with “And, refreshingly, he has taste.” Ain’t that the truth!! The people working on our homes more often than not just want KISS work that isn’t interesting or challenging (or pretty). I agree with commenter Kristin who said I guess asking for things to be done correctly makes you a crazy B. It sucks and is so off putting! Doing things ourselves so that they get done right (and with less stress) is half the reason my husband and I DIY practically everything that needs doing around here. Money being the other half of course haha.

  10. Your renovation is stunning, and I have enjoyed every single post. It’s like going to school and having a favorite teacher!
    My main reason for posting, though, is that I was also unable to see either Cale’s video or the apartment inspection video. I use Chrome on a desk top, so thought I would see if it might be accessible on Edge. Lo and behold, it is there, but with the ads, ads, ads. When I clicked on inspection video, there was an ad, but Cale’s video played. I eventually got the inspection video to play – with more ads – but it is kind of a mess.
    I think I must have an ad blocker on my Chrome browser, but not Edge. What is happening on your video may be another problem that needs to be straightened out by your “internet guy.”
    I’m sharing this on the comments because I saw others expressing concerns. Ad blockers may be the answer. I hope they can find ways on their devices to make your website more entertaining for them, because it’s such a great blog.

  11. I too am having troubles with excessive ad content. The video begins to play then the ads start again. Not sure if it’s still a consideration but I’d much prefer a paid site, no ads anywhere, and still use the Amazon and other links too. I miss the longer blogs. Having said all that, I adore you Laurel, and as long as you’re blogging I will be here.

  12. Hi Laurel,

    “I am not perceived as an expert by the contractors. No, if anything, it’s more like a somewhat eccentric pain in the ass. haha”

    You nailed it on the head! I guess, unless they’re used to more complicated work (i.e., custom work like yours) that’s how they will perceive you. I have learned that if you want things done really well, and if you have the money anyway, hire the experts — they are worth it. Shoddy work turns out as expensive as well because you have to have it redone and because of that it takes more time — and it’s aggravating.

    Happy you found good craftsmen for your home!

    p.s. I don’t see your hilarious videos, as well (FYI).

  13. Like Heather wrote I also have an overwhelming ad problem and get thrown out of your site regularly. And I couldn’t watch the inspection video because of an endless loop of ads and then the video starting over every 20 seconds with more ads. This ad issue has been getting worse. Sometime I just want to leave the site. And I’ve been following you since around 2015. I know it’s hard to make a site work well for mobile and pc.

    1. Hi CC,

      I am working hard to eliminate the video loop back to the beginning. That should not be happening! Otherwise, nothing has changed with the ads in at least two years. The one that is annoying is the opt-in to encourage new sign-ups for the blog. But, it’s not an ad. No worries, I’m working on that one too.

  14. Laurel, the vanity looks great – could not tell there was anything weird with the floor. Again, I am with your son, I think the reno is genius and you are being too modest. Am looking forward to seeing what happens with your floors. If I were 20 yrs younger and not retired, I would talk my husband into a reno. As it is I am trying to talk him into moving to the Cape. Oh – and per your other readers comments on issues with the site. It is an iPados problem – began about 2 or 3 upgrades ago. I am usually on an iPad and have all the problems your other followers have. When I switch to my Microsoft laptop running the latest OS with 365, I have no problems, no ads running, etc. When I check Apple support, there a lots of posts by users complaining of the same problems and has nothing to do with your blog site s/w.

  15. Hi Laurel,
    I loved seeing the inspection video. I guess I forgot what your home originally looked like. And I didn’t realize the den had two entrances.
    I’m so happy things are turning a corner for you. It’s about time, right?

  16. Love the “before” video! Now
    I can truly appreciate all you have accomplished! Also, I appreciate the explanation about images. That it’s nuts! I can’t imagine why someone wouldn’t want the free advertising you give by posting images of their work.

  17. I’m so relieved for you that things are rolling along again and that you have found some wonderful trades people to do the painting and the floors!

    But I have to tell you that I’m having troubles with your site. Sometimes it takes forever to load, and then disappears. I have to really work at it to stay in contact with it. I know you depend on the advertising but it’s gotten extremely annoying recently. An advertisement pops up followed by one or two more on the same page so I can’t even see what you’re writing. Sometimes I even get thrown off your site and have to restart.

    I don’t know if everyone is having this problem but recently I recommended your site to a friend whose daughter is taking design at an Art College in Toronto, but she said neither one could use it because of all the pop up ads. I thought this was so sad because when I told her what you are doing with your home, she knew her daughter would love it.

    I’ve been following you for a few years but I wonder how many others abandon your site after they see all the ads which interfere with true enjoyment of what you’re doing.

    I’m not very computer literate and I use an iPad. Maybe someone can tell me if that’s the source of my problem or there’s something I can do so slow down the ads.

    This is probably the last thing you need to concern yourself with, but I wonder if anyone else is having the same issues. Maybe it’s my iPad or that I live in Canada and not the US.

    Task for your help.

    1. Thank you, Heather. There is only one pop up and it is to encourage people to subscribe. However, I too, find it annoying and have tried to get my developer to change it. I am going to contact him right now. The ads don’t pop up, but might change or move for a few seconds only.

      It has nothing to do with where you live, but more to do with tablets and mobile devices. You will always have the best experience on a desktop computer.

      The video is another issue that I need to discuss with my ad network. For me, the video plays, and then 20 seconds or so, into it, an ad comes on and then the video starts at the beginning. OY!!! It is not supposed to do that. So, I will look into that right now.

  18. wow, what a change (good idea posting that ‘old’ video’—that was good to see how it was because the new change is firmly embedded in my mind now

  19. Laurel, I sympathize with the images conundrum- I have encountered this also through my work at a non-profit! Crazy.
    Have also had numerous sad interactions with subs and contractors who are the “what type of stain do you want” types. So many infuriating stories! And I swear, there’s always an undercurrent of misogyny there. I guess asking for things to be done correctly makes you a crazy B.
    I LOVE your almost finished apartment and have learned sooo much from your blog. Super grateful!!!

  20. Is it just me but I can’t locate the link to your hilarious video – some days we do need some laughter.

  21. I am very curious as to what the new painters had to say when they walked in and saw the results of the last painter? I’m so happy for you! Everything always seems to have a way of working out, doesn’t it?

  22. Laurel,
    I am breathing a sigh of relief on reading about your awesome painter. So happy for you! Take care.

    Paulette

  23. Congratulations on finding just the sort of craftsmen you need for this, Laurel. What a pleasant change! I had a look at the painter’s website, very impressive, especially the faux stone / marble items.
    What a pain about the images problem, and even more annoying that the honest blogger gets the hassle rather than the troll types who have no scruples but who can’t be located.

  24. I’m so very happy you have found the professionals needed to complete your stunning home renovation, joy! Please don’t ever consider moving! I hope to be able to enjoy new images for a long time:) such amazing talent Laurel…

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
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