Workday Reading

The Edition: No. 77

The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time. — Bertrand Russell (I hope you have a relaxing weekend!)

Supported. How to be a better ally to your women colleagues.

Frocked. This $39 v-neck sheath is a definite wardrobe staple.

Gifted. Why celebrities get so much free stuff during awards season.

Homed. H&M’s jute laundry basket and marble tray will be mine.

Lead. Why following your passion isn’t always good career advice.

Shopped. This Mango striped blouse and pink-printed dress have me thinking spring thoughts.

Blessed. 15 stories of financial windfalls and how they changed the recipients’ lives.

Scrubbed. This charcoal scalp scrub from Drybar is a game-changer.

Spoken. A TED talk on achieving your most ambitious goals. (h/t Meghan)

Heeled. These Ann Taylor suede buckle pumps are so comfy and chic.

Uncoupled. 10 Reasons Why Being Single is the Best.

While I’m in Montana working, Kyle is in Spokane overseeing our endless remodel.  We parted ways with our designer after realizing that our project wasn’t a priority for her.  And we’re sharing a contractor with two other projects, so things are moving much slower than anticipated.

But as I envision what our bedroom will look like, I keep coming back to this project from Studio McGee.  Our bedroom is the one place I’m spending money right now, because all I want is a cozy retreat.  To those of you who have built, remodeled, or decorated your own spaces, what was important to?  What did you prioritize?  And what was the best or worst money that you spent?

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LEAVE A COMMENT

    28 comments

  1. J says:

    Our house is older, so we know that we’re going to have to redo the roof/siding/windows sooner than later, and most of our house fund is going towards that. We prioritized items in the rooms that we knew that we’d spend most of our time in: the mattress on our bed, kitchen appliances, and a good sofa. Best money spent was on our sofa. Yes, it’s a recliner. But it allows us to curl up as a family to either watch a movie or read books. Second best was our mattress. We moved up to a king, researched and agreed on a bed that both of us enjoy, and now deal with the kids coming into the bed and invading our space. Worst money spent is on the gym equipment that I don’t use. I prefer free weights and use those all the time. I really want to decorate to make our house more “put together”; right now the theme is “toddler toys.” That’s going to have to wait until we get the big exterior items out of the way. If you want a cozy retreat bedroom, then put your money into that. Make sure you truly love the items you’ll use the most (bed, chair, maybe vanity?) Everything else is accessories; those can be changed out more easily. Good luck!

    February 22, 2019/Reply
  2. Crystal says:

    FYI — I think your TED Talk suggestion omitted the hyperlink (unless you meant to only link the front page of Wit & Whimsy?).

    February 22, 2019/Reply
    • Belle says:

      Fixed, thank you.

      February 22, 2019/Reply
  3. Lindsey Baker says:

    I *love* Studio McGee!! And that picture is beautiful. Our master, that we finally redid about a year ago and got rid of all the mismatched stuff, is navy on one wall and gray on the others. We love the BM Polo Blue with BM Gray Owl combo. Then we added the modern sleigh bed from West Elm to soften it a bit – https://www.westelm.com/products/upholstered-sleigh-bed-set-h918/. It took us like 9-10 years of being married before we finally spent time and money on our room, and wish we’d done it WAY sooner.

    February 22, 2019/Reply
    • Annie says:

      We have this bed too (in oatmeal) and I’ve loved it. Also used BM for the walls, but used Hale Navy.

      February 22, 2019/Reply
  4. Beth says:

    My fiancé and I had a LOT to prioritize when we bought a house last summer(thankfully, no major/structural changes needed to happen, but there was a lot of 1980s and grandma style that had to be removed — still having nightmares about the mauve carpet and chintz floral valances everywhere).

    The best things we spent money on (whether splurge, or not):

    1. Memory foam king-size bed — I can starfish to my heart’s content, and we can have different sleep schedules and not wake each other up getting into and out of bed.
    2. Hardware (door knobs, cabinet handles and drawer pulls, etc..) with a substantial weight — I feel like this is one of those little things that really made our bathroom and kitchen look more pulled together and nicer/more expensive than they are.
    3. The third (yes, third, 3rd!!) color of paint for the accent wall in the bedroom — also, bless my fiancé for not asking questions after I decided I loathed each of the first two colors after a few days each (also, and I cannot say this enough, one lesson I learned the hard way is the need for BIG test patches with colors you like and looking at them in all different lightings).

    February 22, 2019/Reply
  5. WeLlfedfred says:

    Time is money, and I wish I’d spent more time on the spot, actively supervising. Our workers had a lamentable tendency to use “what’s on the truck” instead of going back to the supplier and insisting on the materials that had actually been ordered. So we have some white outlets, some “ivory, some “beige”… and a cream-colored bathroom that was supposed to be all white with a gray floor… I still grind my teeth when I think of it. As for the multi-colored strip of tiny tiles in the kitchen backsplash, I was told that they only came in white. I was in time to stop the installation while hubs ran to home depot and grabbed the assortment that we had agreed on.

    February 22, 2019/Reply
  6. Carrie says:

    We did an extensive remodel on our home when we moved in and several projects over the years, and the hardest lesson we’ve learned is you get what you paid for. If he’s a good contractor, then it might be worth putting up with slowness. After spending $13K on new floors, we’re now having to replace them at $15K less than two years later because of our contractor. Money spent on a bad contractor is always money you’ll have to spend again to fix it. But in terms of money well spent, taking out a few walls to open up the living space was 100% worth it. It transformed our space and made it more suited for our lifestyle.

    February 22, 2019/Reply
  7. JM says:

    Belle and others – would love to hear your advice for new flooring. We’re remodeling and having the hardest time picking wood flooring for our kitchen/living/dining. Species recommendations from anyone? Specific brands, models, colors? My problem is that so many of the grain patterns feel too much like 1980s oak to me. I like the dark floors but fear they’ll be dated soon. And I hear folks dislike dark floors because they show all the dirt. I need help!

    February 22, 2019/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I’ve had two different kinds of flooring. In my last spot, I had luxury vinyl plank. I was surprised how good it looked. The decorator advised choosing a darker color with a scraped texture for a more natural look. In the current home, we had the Kentwood Athabasca flooring. It’s a light oak. The tip I would give you, definitely asked about incidental costs — glue, sealant, etc.. Often the installation cost does not include those incidentals.

      Honestly, you can’t worry about what will be dated. Nothing is timeless, so choose floors you like.

      February 22, 2019/Reply
    • Bev says:

      We built a new home 3 years ago and used acacia scraped wood floors throughout the house, except for tile in the kitchen and carpet in the bedrooms. It’s on the darker side (compared to pine or hickory) but has some lighter grains to it. It’s beautiful and I have not tired of it at all. I Swiffer it every other week and have cleaned it once with my Shark, so it’s very low maintenance (we don’t wear shoes in the house and don’t have pets). The floor has a 50-year warranty. The acacia cost more but it was well worth it.

      February 23, 2019/Reply
      • K says:

        Re the dark floors showing everything – true enough, but my single best investment has been the Roomba. It runs every day, and there’s not a speck of dust on the dark wood. And, my allergies have been much better!

        February 26, 2019/Reply
  8. Rachel says:

    Oh man, remodeling a home is a very difficult process. Good luck!

    My husband and I bought a rowhouse about 7 years in the middle of DC. It was in fairly good condition, but had been a rental for ten years and need a full gut of the main floor. The previous owners had tried and failed to turn the basement into a separate apartment, and it was stripped down to the studs. The house needed a lot of work, but that is the only reason we were able to buy it. Very few people are willing to take on a remodel project.

    Initially, we loved our contractor. He did a great job on the main floor gut: built and moved two staircases, moved all utilities to the basement, full kitchen renovation, the works. The main floor was a dream. We took six months off before tackling the basement. By that time, we were no longer the contractor’s only project, and we quickly learned what you already know: you get bad service when your contractor is split across projects. The basement took three months and it should have only taken one. Grrr.

    What I learned: splurge on the details that are important to you. You love clothes, shoes, skin care, and make up. Can you get built-in shelves for your shoes? What about a built-in vanity? I wish I had taken the plunge and made some custom shelves. Splurge on a new mattress. We have a tempurpedic, and I love it. I am truly that weirdo who will talk to you about my temperpedic for hours.

    Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to paint on your own. We decided to paint the basement to save $3,000 and I would have gladly paid triple not to go through that hell again. Painting an accent wall is one thing, but painting a whole house properly, with primer, the right paint, and clean up is a whole different animal. Learn from me: we ran out of paint halfway through our project and I sent my husband out to get two new cans. But I told him the wrong finish so we painted half the room with noticeably different paint, and so we had to do it twice. Just get a painter and save yourself the stress.

    Aside from our bed, our major splurge was high-end appliances. We spent a lot of money on a quiet dishwasher. We also upgraded our heating/cooler system and installed a Nest thermostat.

    Good luck, and while I am sure it is hard to be away from Kyle and the remodel, you are probably not missing the stress of the remodel!

    February 22, 2019/Reply
  9. Annie says:

    Number 1 is the contractor. I love my contractor and recommend him without hesitation to everyone. It’s worth vetting to find the right one who is honest about costs and time (and can tell you things you don’t want to hear).

    As for decorating, my recommendation is to become best friends with your tape measure. So many people get scale wrong and you can’t recover from that with decorative touches. It’s also helpful to remember that layers of a home develop over time, your style chances over time, and the interior spaces I’ve found truly interesting weren’t designed overnight.

    I’ve spent money on pieces that anchor each room – couch, bed, etc. Then I added as time and budget allowed. When I built my house, I could not for the life of me decide on kitchen handles. I lived with blue painters tape handles for months till I found the right ones. They’re aging beautifully and definitely wouldn’t have been in the budget when I was building, but they were six months later.

    February 22, 2019/Reply
    • Annie says:

      Also, I think it would be super fun to throw this out to the Facebook group and ask your readers to post pictures of their spaces that they love.

      February 22, 2019/Reply
      • Belle says:

        That would be fun. I’ll post it this weekend.

        February 22, 2019/Reply
    • pam says:

      ANNIE with the contractor you would recommend. what part of the country are you in? DC area???

      February 22, 2019/Reply
      • Annie says:

        Unfortunately not – I’m in Colorado. If someone has a recommended contractor in DC, hopefully they’ll chime in!

        February 22, 2019/Reply
        • Sarah says:

          DC recommendation here. We did a full gut of our 100 year old rowhouse about two years ago. We loved our architect – Carib Daniel Martin and our contractor was great too – Washington Landmark Construction. The only thing with them is if they try to use “Easy Paint” for their subcontractor for painting, insist on someone else. We had Carib manage our project for us, so he was the bad guy with the contractors, but I think it was like one incident over something I would have never noticed (centering an air vent).

          February 25, 2019/Reply
        • Allison says:

          Are you in Denver? Who is the contractor you love?

          February 25, 2019/Reply
  10. Rachel C says:

    Spend money on things that aren’t easily changed – flooring, bathroom cabinets, counters, etc. You won’t regret spending the extra money to get what you love but you will regret saving and being “stuck” with something you settled on.

    When we built our house 3 years ago, costs were stacking up, so I agreed to give up my $600 unmount kitchen sink. I kick myself every single day because we will have to replace our counters, which will cost a lot more than $600 in order for me to ever get one.

    February 22, 2019/Reply
  11. Katel says:

    Heated tile floors – in the bathroom of my old house and in the basement of my current house. Both times I used the electric mat type and I learned from the first time to buy a programmable thermostat.

    Echoing the comment about not compromising on things that aren’t easily (and inexpensively) replaced – windows and exterior doors. We did a window replacement from Home Depot grade windows and a sliding door and what a difference in keeping the house cool in summer and warm in the winter. It’s not a jazzy as a kitchen upgrade but so worth it.

    February 23, 2019/Reply
  12. Jane says:

    I worked in an interior design and architecture firm for years. One thing we always did was to include something “unexpected” to gives the space a sense of excitement and interest. It was always fun to come up with that spark of surprise and see how it enlivened the space dramatically, just as a piece of clothing or accessory can make or break an outfit.

    February 23, 2019/Reply
  13. Kay says:

    I did a complete gut and remodel of a DC row house about two years ago. I actually split it into creating a full English basement. If you are doing more than cosmetics, like moving plumbing etc, then my recommendation is to spend money on things that you cannot easily replace. Do it once and do it right. For example, double pane windows, cast iron pipes, routing the aircon properly, the roof, super quiet shower fan, etc. In many cases, these are things no one else can see, but really matter to the over all structural integrity and living environment. Seriously you won’t notice a different between a cast iron pipe and a pvc until some flushes the toilet upstairs and you hear water rushing through your kitchen (hello bad DC flips!).

    I spent basically my entire furniture budget on upgrading my kitchen cabinets to silent close and putting a much nicer, silent garbage disposal and dishwasher in that my crew didn’t initially think was a big deal. These are things I literally use everyday and would not be easy for me to replace once construction was done.

    February 23, 2019/Reply
  14. AddisoN says:

    I love the article on why it’s not necessarily a great idea to follow your passion professionally. Growing up, I often heard the advice to figure out how to get paid to do what you love. But if I’d turned reading, writing, cooking, or traveling into my job, I’m pretty sure that would have taken all the enjoyment out of it. I’m lucky that I stumbled into the perfect job for me by chance. I never would have picked it on my own and there are parts of it that drive me crazy. But because it plays to my natural strengths, it’s fulfulling even in the most frustrating moments.

    February 23, 2019/Reply
  15. Diane says:

    We have been gradually completely renovating our house for 3 years and are almost done. My best advice is: 1) King size bed. I did’t think there was anything wrong with a Queen until we got the King. 2) Professional paint consultation. Shortly after we moved in, I paid someone $75 to walk through our entire house and suggest a color(s) for every single room. When it comes time to remodel that room, I pull out the list and we buy the paint color that’s already been vetted. She hasn’t been wrong yet. 3) Don’t take others’ opinions too seriously. We had a lot of 1980s orange oak woodwork. A LOT. We received a lot of opinions that painting the beautiful wood would be a travesty (mostly from my mother). We finally pulled the trigger and painted all of the remaining wood and I’m very happy with the results. I wish we would have done it from the get-go. 4) If you feel stuck with design, get one thing at a time. Feeling like you have to have every element picked out before you can commit can be overwhelming. But if you just have to choose your furniture, or lamps, or bedding, it is a much more manageable task. I had a lot of fear that I would commit to something that would limit my choices of other things in the future, but instead I found the step-by-step approach ensured I chose things that I actually liked.

    February 25, 2019/Reply
  16. Allison says:

    I’d like to mention this because I haven’t seen it brought up yet. Keep in mind if this is your forever home or right now home, and spend accordingly. Our 1930’s bungalow was renovated before we bought it and the kitchen is not my style, but it’s fine and functional. So I’m not spending the money to re-do, as we’ll probably only be in the house 7 years, and we’ve been in it 4 already. We prioritized the bathrooms instead, they needed it more and now the guest bathroom is actually comfortable for guests. No reason in investing alot in a kitchen that I wouldn’t get back in re-sale value for a house I won’t be in forever.

    February 25, 2019/Reply
  17. Jessica says:

    Kitchen, kitchen, kitchen. It’s where i spend most of my time at home and therefore was where i spent all the money. Don’t regret a penny of it.

    February 27, 2019/Reply