Five interior decorating lessons I learned the hard way

Most interior decorating articles involve a picture of a beautiful room. This is not one of those articles. Like most amateur interior decorators, I’ve learned many lessons through trial and error. The good news is, my mistakes don’t have to become your mistakes. For instance, although paint is one of the least expensive decorating options, it can be costly when it’s not done properly.

Painting is a simple fix, right? For some reason, the old owners of our house decided to paint every common room with one wall of sea-foam green. It was all right (for now) in the bathrooms, but the living room and dining room didn’t mesh with our Southwestern decor. Time for a little painting. So off we go with some beautiful paint. We slapped it on the walls in a heartbeat. It was absolutely gorgeous; for about two weeks. That’s when it started to peel.

Lessons 1 and 2 learned:

  • Old houses have several layers of paint that need to be stripped.
  • Always use primer, even if you’re putting dark over light.

So what if our house needs a few cosmetic changes? We bought a house that needed a bit of elbow grease. It has beautiful hardwood floors. Unfortunately, the old owners did half a re-finish job on them. They didn’t continue the stain into the closets. We figured we could match the stain and just extend the work. Not so fast. Matching stain isn’t that easy. Now we have to do the entire surface of all the wood floors over.

Lesson 3 learned:

  • Re-finishing wood floors is an all or nothing proposition.

We thought we could update our counters one step at a time, too. In our “new to us” home, we have old white tile counter-tops. We knew we would have to replace them. Our idea was to replace the broken tiles first, tolerating the look until we could afford new counter-tops. Not so fast. We purchased what we thought were matching tiles. They once were. Problem was, we didn’t account for aging.

Lesson 4 learned:

  • If you have to replace aging tile, plan to replace all of them at once. Tiles yellow with age.

In the kitchen and one bath, we have lovely vinyl covering hardwood. How awesome! Let’s get rid of that vinyl and uncover the hardwood. Problem? There was a reason for the vinyl. The hardwood underneath was damaged and warped. This is not something we can fix ourselves. Now we have to buy new vinyl until we can afford to pay someone to repair and re-finish the hardwood, as well as blending it in with the other finished floors.

Lesson 5 learned:

  • Budget for professional help before you tear up the floor.