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  • Writer's pictureoriane

Field Notes.

Updated: Jul 21, 2020

Like the many sleepless nights since leaving the Roscoe Street condo, last night I found myself staring into the blackness of our current "master bedroom". It's a long and tight box, with our queen bed fitting so snugly in the corner there isn't even room for a little nightstand. It's certainly not the Roscoe Street master with exposed brick arches, brightly lit windows letting in the morning sun, with it bringing a new set of daydreams.

In this new room, the door barely clears the bed frame, and I often find myself in a state of collostrophia. I'll wake up slammed against the wall with my snoring husband next to me, and our two large dogs flung across our bodies as if we are their pillows.

We need a bigger bed.

Last night, in this sleeplessness I let my thoughts wander back to my goals for the Melrose rehab, somewhat missing my old spacious condo. Sometimes it feels like only a few weeks have passed since we packed our bags and peaced out of our first reno project. Other days, it feels like decades. I mentally go through my old Roscoe renovation to do list.

  • Rip out kitchen tile

  • Repair plaster molding

  • Resurface that dated fireplace mantel

  • Bring back this condos former glory

  • Love it like I do these two massive lap dogs

Though I certainly have fond memories- even moments where I genuinely miss that space- I can't say I have many regrets about leaving when we did (only months after we had completed our restoration project).

All good things come to an end as the next chapter awaits a beginning. As a young married couple in our first house it was a dream to rebuild what Roscoe soon became to us, a home. But, that's how dreams work. You realize them and then you find new ones.

Queue new project.

As we round a year since we left our first home, the next major renovation looms just a few short months in our future -- a complete gut of Melrose. I know how to take renovation and then I elevated it by like, 10, ok?

I can't help but look back at all the work from Roscoe Street, thinking through my do's.... and mostly don'ts.

Some thoughts on what I will and won't do on this next home.

move out day, August 2019

For the love of penny tile.

Don't. Don't. Don't do it! I confess, I absolutely love the old school look of a circular or hex penny tile, but I will never ever install it in a home again.

Though my Pinterest inspiration boards are filled with a dozen images of that beautifully traditional tile pattern, I'll never get back the hours I spent scrubbing the floors for them never to look quite as good as when they first went in. It's super pretty and classic, but it's impossible to clean. If you're a clean freak, I'd say pass on this one. s It's a design choice I won't repeat in future projects.

Tip: White grout is much more difficult to keep clean over time. Next reno project, I say skip to the white. Plus, using a dark color can make your tile pop and give it a fun edge.

Open kitchen cabinets or shelves.

Listen, I know the minimalist boho design wave has made a comeback. These look great in photos and on your Pinterest inspo board, but they just aren't practical. The aesthetic or reach convenience does not outweigh the amount of cleaning. I'm not a tidy cook, but even if I was -- I don't think the grease generated from our professional range could be avoided. As pretty as the open shelves looked everything was always in need of a thorough wash every week or so.

Tip: If you love the exposed shelves look, use them in other parts of your house. This concept works in nearly every other room. Dining? Great, put those beautiful family plates and glassware on display. Living room or bedroom? Art isn't always meant to be hung, create a beautiful display on your floating shelves.

Farmhouse sink.

Ok, ok, I would probably do another farmhouse sink. The size, depth, and look fit exactly what we needed. Honestly, I don't think you can go wrong with a farmhouse sink. EXCEPT, what I wouldn't do is mount it ABOVE the countertops---such a rookie move! As a result, it wasn't flush with the counter and became incredibly difficult to keep clean around the edges. Any time I'd wipe the counters crap would get stuck in the seam between the counter ledge and the sink. I think for the convenience of cleaning, I'm fully on team "undermount".

The dreaded "sink lip" created by the farmhouse resting on top of the counter

Forget the floors (and as a result, do them last).

When I first created the punch list of home improvement projects for the condo, refinishing the red oak hardwood wasn't on it. They were in good enough shape and at the time didn't seem worth the money or effort. But as project after project improved the overall look and feel of the condo, the more it became obvious that the floors did really need some TLC. Once every single project in the house had been completed (4 years later -- nobody said change happens in a day) I realized we needed to bite the bullet and just get them done.

This of course meant that every piece of furniture, art, and clothing had to be moved out and piled up into our galley kitchen while the floor restoration was in process. Nothing really puts into perspective the idea of "space" until your entire home is shoved into one room.

The results were 100% worth it. To this day Chris and I agree it was the best money we spent in the renovation process, as well as having made the biggest impact. We sanded the yellow-red oak and lacquered them in a 50/50 Jacobean-Ebony stain,and the rest was history.

After that experience, I've realized the importance of that "foundation layer"....floors (and ceilings!) are SO important. Don't assume they can be "fixed"with area rugs.

Bottom line. Budget for a good floor, and if you can, do it BEFORE moving in.

Shower valve placement.

I mostly loved the budget friendly overhaul we did on our very tiny master bathroom.. Even though the bathroom was small, it was transformed into a bright, airy space with materials that looked expensive, even though they weren't a fortune.

My only regret?

We may not have had a ton of good options, we (including the contractor) never considered the shower value placement in relation to the shower door.

This little oversight meant stepping all the way into the shower to turn on the water;consequently, getting blasted by cold water each and every time.

DYI under-cabinet lighting

Some things are better left for the pro's.

I can't stress this one enough, and once we start demolition at Melrose I swear I will repeat this as a mantra:

"Know your limits."


There were several "small projects" at Roscoe I wish we would have sucked it up to hire a professional for right off the bat. Though we learned a lot in attempting to DIY, a couple of these small projects took way longer than they should have and caused insane amounts of stress. Though I can replace an electrical socket with my eyes closed, things like complicated electrical wiring (especially if you are dealing with an old house with cloth wiring!!) are better left to the pro's.

In the end, the lessons we learned from Roscoe Street, although some painful, have only guided us to dreaming about the possibilities for Melrose.

There's always something to take away from each project, even if it was what you don't want to do next time!

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