One Year Later: What We Love, Regret, and Still Plan to Do in our Guest Suite

When we first moved in to this house, one of our top priorities was to update the guest suite in our basement. We love to host and frequently have overnight guests so we wanted to have a nice, comfortable space for them to stay. This coming Sunday will mark one year since I revealed our completed guest bathroom renovation (you can find that reveal post, along with all the sources, here), and two weeks after that I revealed the adjoining guest bedroom renovation (reveal post with sources here).

This was the first major renovation we’ve ever done, and it was the first, and still only, time we’ve worked with a contractor. We learned so much through this project and while we haven’t had nearly as many guests as we thought we would (definitely did not predict a global pandemic coming less than one month after we finished the room!), I thought it would be fun to look back on that project and talk about what we still love, what we wish we had done differently, and what we want to do!

As a reminder, here’s what both rooms looked like pre-renovation!

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What We Love

Honestly, I love 98% of the decisions we made with these two rooms! The biggest change we made was adding a window to make a legal bedroom and that was a no-brainer that we are so happy with. The addition of natural light makes a huge difference!

The updated baseboards, chunky door trim, and board and batten on the foundation walls in both rooms all bring some much needed interest and character and I still adore all those added details.

I’m thrilled that we turned the built-in TV nook into a linen cabinet with doors (see more of that process here). It added so much functional storage and I love that the accent color (Sherwin Williams Oyster Bay) makes it a special feature.

The choice to forgo a dresser and instead use a narrow console table as a vanity was also the right decision – guests don’t need all the storage in a dresser and this provides a functional use for what was otherwise a pretty awkward slanted wall.

We also added heaters to both the bathroom and bedroom (there was previously no heat source in either!) My mother-in-law suggested just adding radiant cove heaters to a few of the walls and this was a good choice. They provide a nice heat for our guests and are tucked up near the ceiling and blend in fairly discreetly.

In the bathroom, I love almost everything we did. I love all the fixtures, the color choices, the different tiles, and the mixing of matte black and nickel finishes. I’m glad we saved money by reusing the same vanity with additional trim on the bottom and sides to make it fit the space perfectly.

I especially love the custom vanity top and undermount sink!

We have absolutely no regrets over the decision to expand the shower into the dead space we found behind the wall – it is so much more spacious now! And the double niche is so handy for our guests to keep their toiletries!

What I Wish I Had Done Differently

My biggest regret with this whole project is the top of the bench in the shower. I’ve talked about this before, but I didn’t plan all our materials in advance so when our tile guy presented an option that he thought would work for the top of the bench, I felt pressured to agree to it even though I didn’t love it. I’ve regretted this decision ever since. The tile he presented wasn’t even big enough to go wall to wall, so there is a grout line right down the middle. Not only do I not love the tile itself, but I really hate that grout line.

I was afraid to speak up and say no to that tile for a variety of reasons. I didn’t know where to go to source other tile options, I didn’t know how long it would take to order something else, I was afraid of going even more over budget, I didn’t want to be a problem client who delayed a project or was being difficult, I still hadn’t decided on a vanity top so I didn’t know what would match that . . . the list goes on. I wish I had just spoken up and said “thank you, but that’s not what I had envisioned. How can I go about finding other options?”

On that note, I wish we had relied less on our contractor and done more of the work ourselves. In the end, our contractor did a great job, but this was his side job that he fit in during evenings and some weekends and there were many moments I was itching to just jump in and do things myself so the project could keep moving. There’s also a LOT of communication that has to happen with a contractor and there were a few things that had to be re-done because they weren’t quite what we wanted the first time. That being said, working with a contractor made Justin and I realize that while we need someone else for major things like changing plumbing, moving electrical, knocking out and moving walls, etc., there are many things we can do ourselves. Our experience here actually propelled us into all our future DIY projects, which have saved us lots of money and ensured things happened just like we wanted. So maybe it’s a good thing we had this experience first to show us all the ways we could do things differently in the future!

What We Still Want to Do

I still want to replace the overhead boob light (if you know, you know) in the bedroom. I didn’t do this the first time around because we were already way over budget. Plus, the light box is off-centered in the room and the current light blends in well enough with the ceiling that it’s not very obvious. It will take the right kind of light to work and not make things look weird and off-kilter but I’m up for the challenge!

The carpet in here and throughout the rest of the basement is old, bubbling up in places, and has lots of discolorations and signs of wear so it definitely needs to be replaced. I also want to re-address the walls. I didn’t include the paint color as something I technically regret, because the white is honestly fine. At the time it felt fresh and clean; however, now it’s feeling boring and pretty uninspiring. I still love the contrast trim but I want to add wallpaper to all the walls (something a bit more understated than the previous wallpaper haha!) I’ve ordered a few samples and I’ve been having fun dreaming of different options for this room.

Lastly, down the road I’d love to have someone else come and re-do the shower bench top to something I actually like. I don’t know what that will involve or how difficult it would be, but I want to at least look into it and see what my options are (which I should’ve done in the first place!) It stinks to want to replace something that we spent money on to install, but I think it would be worth it.

Overall, we’re still really really happy with this space and we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to have a lot more guests come visit in 2021!

Lessons Learned: Guest Suite Reno

In case you missed it, I recently shared our renovated guest space. Our house has three bedrooms: three on the top floor and one in the basement. The basement bedroom has an attached bathroom and it made for a natural choice in guest room, but it was in desperate need of some updating.

To see pictures of the final bedroom, you can check out this post,

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And to see pictures of the final bathroom, you can check out this one.

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While Justin and I have done many small cosmetic changes to our previous homes, this was the first time we hired a contractor and did major renovation work. We learned so much from the project and today I thought it’d be fun to look back on the project as a whole: what we learned, what we loved, and what we wish we did differently.

Lesson #1: Plan Extra for Timeline and Budget

I had read somewhere to plan for a project to take 10% longer than expected and cost 10% more than expected. So we planned for extra time and money . . . and we were still way off. Our initial timeline of 5-6 weeks stretched to almost four months and we went over budget about 25% from our original estimate.

One big reason for the blowup of our original timeline and budget was the shower. When the old fiberglass shower was removed, we discovered unused space behind the wall and decided expand the shower to be much bigger and include a bench. This dramatically altered the timeline and budget with more time, more labor, more materials, and more money. We knew this and decided to allocate more money towards the project. And now that we’re on the other side, I can confidently say it was 100% worth making these changes. We love the shower and all the space it now has for our guests!20191030_202714

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Even with the changes to the shower, we still went over our adjusted budget. There were a few things that we didn’t initially take into account, such as a new shower fan and heaters for the room; however, a lot of our problem was that we knew the things we needed to buy on our own, but we didn’t actually plan out exactly what we would buy beforehand. Which leads me to my second lesson…

Lesson #2: Plan out ALL materials in advance

We knew we needed drawer handles. We didn’t plan which ones in advance. We knew we needed a shower door. We didn’t plan which one in advance. We knew we needed a light fixture, tiles, a counter top, faucet, a shower head, towel rods . . . you see where I’m going here. We didn’t plan any of this in advance. I waited to make those decision as we went along because I wanted to see how the room was coming together to make sure that whatever I chose was going to work.

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The problem with not knowing these details in advance is that we didn’t really know how much we could allocate to everything. We just had a general fund that we had set aside for the project and when we bought a shower door, tiles, towel hooks, etc, they just came out of the pool of money.

Looking back, this seems like a really obvious rookie mistake, right? I didn’t know how much each item was going to cost, and I was just choosing the items I liked as we went along. I was trying to stay balanced (i.e. I splurged on a shower door but said no to my dream mirror and chose a cheaper option) but in the end, the lack of planning is one of the reasons we went over budget. I really should have gone through and priced out every single item we needed to buy beforehand. That way I would have known exactly how much I had to spend on each item, and if there would have been items I wanted to change or add as we went along, I would’ve been able to adjust other items accordingly to stay in budget. Planning every item also would have helped me to see all the little items that I wasn’t initially thinking of, such as a shower valve, light bulbs, etc. to make sure we planned for everything.

#3: Don’t buy things too far in advance

This sounds like the opposite of what I just said, but while there were many things I should have planned in advance, there were also things I bought in advance that I shouldn’t have. For example, I bought not one, but TWO mirrors in advance. I thought I would use one for the bathroom mirror and couldn’t decide which one, so I got both. Unfortunately, I used the measurements based off the old mirror size. I didn’t know that the vanity would be raised or that the new light fixture would hang down further. The space for the mirror ended up being smaller than before and neither mirror worked in the space. Not only that, but I bought them too far in advance and they were both outside their return windows!

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Luckily, one mirror was able to be used in the guest room above the vanity table. The other mirror is still in the box but I do think I know where I want to put it now. Still, these were silly purchases to make so far in advance!

#4: Get clear on your vision

Probably our biggest lessons learned came from the bathroom vanity situation. I knew I wanted to change the vanity, and told our contractor we’d be replacing the old one, but didn’t have a clear vision for what that would look like. Demo had already begun when I decided I wanted to do a floating vanity. Then we realized the way the plumbing had been done wouldn’t work with a floating vanity and would be way too expensive to change. This shouldn’t have been shocking. We definitely could have looked at the plumbing from the get go and realized our limitations.

Then we decided to keep the old vanity  with a few updates and just replace the countertop. I searched and searched online and in stores for a pre-made one that would fit wall-to-wall, but couldn’t find one. We were already 3 weeks into the project when I talked to a local company about getting one made. We wasted seven weeks before switching to another company (read the whole story here).

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While I’m ultimately really happy with how the counter top turned out, if we would have honed in our vision for the vanity, realized we just needed a counter top made, and reached out to multiple companies from the get-go, we would have saved a ton of time and a whole lot of headaches and frustration.

Also, we would have avoided another hiccup, which was . . .

#5: Choose similar materials at the same time.

I chose the floor tile, shower floor tile, and shower wall tile all together. Then the tile guy brought in some samples for the shower threshold and bench. Then I chose the vanity top after all that was installed. Now, looking back, I wish I had chosen ALL the materials together. The one thing I really don’t like about the bathroom is the shower bench top.

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The option presented to me by our tile guy is fine. I like it enough, and it seemed like the best option at the time. But I don’t like that we had to use two pieces instead of one and now that all the other materials are in, it just doesn’t feel quite right with the rest of them. I really, REALLY wish I had used the same material on the bench top as we did on the counter top, but I didn’t know what that material would be when we did the shower.

This is a good example of many lessons learned together. I could have loved the bench top if I had a clear vision, if I had figured out all the materials and chosen them together, and if I had . . .

#6: Allow time to figure out what you really want

Because of my poor planning and because I didn’t have all my materials at once, I allowed myself to settle for something that was just okay. When my tile guy presented this top as an option, I didn’t research further. I wasn’t crazy about the tile, but I didn’t hate it and thought it was probably the best option. Yes, I should have started thinking about the materials earlier. But I also should have allowed myself a little time to look into other options to find something I loved instead of feeling pressure to just pick something and settle for just okay. I should have asked to delay the decision a day or two to look into other options.

#7: Test paint on the surface it will be on

I talked about this a little in the reveal post, but when I went to select a trim color for the guest bedroom, I tested it out on the wall because the trim wasn’t installed yet. Silly me! I knew to test it on multiple places throughout the room because light can change slightly throughout. I knew to test it next to the wall color to make sure I liked the contrast. And I liked the color I chose . . . until it was actually on the trim. The color looked different on the wood trim than it did on the wall (duh!) and I didn’t like it on the trim. So I had to go and re-paint all the doors trim. I love the new trim color, but it was tedious and annoying to re-do and had I just tested paint on the actual trim pieces I could have avoided the whole thing.

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#8: Get opinions from multiple contractors/companies

When we first started planning, we reached out to two contractors. I’m so glad we did, because only one of them proved to be reliable (obviously, this is the one we chose). Then when it came to vanity tops, I looked at multiple companies but only followed through with one (because at the time, this was the only company I could find with the material we wanted). Obviously, this company was not a good choice and we had to go back to the drawing board and find someone else. Lesson learned: always get multiple opinions/quotes/etc.

Overall, I love how both rooms turned out. In many ways, it fulfills and even exceeds my original vision for the space! We learned a lot from the whole experience and I know that the lessons learned will be valuable help to us as we continue to go through the house room by room and make this house into our dream home.

Guest Bedroom Reveal

For the past 3+ months, we’ve been working on updating the guest space in our home and everything is finally finished! I could not be happier with the transformation and I’m so excited to finally share how the space looks now.

Welcome to our guest room!

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When we first moved in, I knew this area was the first major renovation I wanted to tackle. This basement bedroom was a natural choice for a guest room, but there were some pretty major things to address: no window, dark walls, odd outlet placements (why is there an outlet halfway up the left wall??), and of course, that wallpaper.

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The biggest change we made was to add a window to bring in natural light and make it a legal bedroom. Luckily, even though it is in the basement, only the bottom half of the wall is foundation/underground so our contractor could add it without much extra hassle to the exterior. The natural light is mostly indirect due to the angle of house and the fact that the window is behind our back deck, but it still makes a huge difference.

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I also knew from the very beginning that I wanted to nix the wallpaper, brighten up the walls, and add board and batten to make the half-wall into a feature, which ended up doubling as a headboard. I love how it turned out!

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Justin cut down, sanded, and stained a nice thick slab of white oak for the top of the wall, which provides not only a shelf for plants and simple decor, but also extra space for guests to place things if needed. And did you notice the artwork giving a little nod to the room’s original decor? Much more my style!

There wasn’t a way to fit a dresser in the room without it seeming crowded, so on the wall opposite the bed we converted the built-in TV cabinet to a linen closet for guest use and to hold extra towels, blankets, pillows, etc. You can read all about that full project in this blog post.

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We also swapped out all the old trim – I wanted a much thicker look and it actually made the room seem bigger and the ceiling higher! – and painted it in a soft contrasting color. I didn’t want too stark of a contrast, so at first we had it painted just a shade or two darker than the walls. but it didn’t end up providing quite enough contrast for me. I chose to lighten up my favorite shade of gray to 75% and repaint all the trim and doors and I’m so much happier with the contrast now.

Even though there isn’t room for a dresser, I still wanted a space for guests to sit and get ready. I had a narrow table from the entryway of my previous home and, when paired with a mirror and chair, it was just right to use as a small vanity. It also solved the problem of what to do with this awkward little angled wall – win win!

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A wider desk would have been too clunky in the space, but this is thin enough to work and still provide space for jewelry, make-up, etc.

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There is an en suite bathroom, but that bathroom is the only one in the basement so it is frequently used even when we don’t have guests. Because of this, the room sort of doubles as a hallway to the bathroom. I wrote all about the bathroom renovation here.

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When it came to furnishing the room, we did get some new things but I also tried to shop our home as much as possible. A lot of the frames, books, candles, tchotchkes are things I’ve collected over the years. It’s fun for me to find ways to mix new things with the old!

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I plan to share a post of all we learned from this experience at some point, but for now, I’m just going to enjoy soaking up this new space. 🙂

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Thanks so much for following along with this fun renovation!

Sources

(Note: I provided non-affiliate links to everything I could, but many things were either thrifted, bought from a store with ever-changing inventory like TJ Maxx, or bought years ago.)

Wall Color: Sherwin Williams Alabaster

Trim/Door Color: Sherwin Williams Repose Gray (tinted at 75%)

Window Trim Color: Sherwin Williams Dot to Dot (this was the original trim color, which we painted over on all the trim but kept around the window)

Linen Closet Color: Sherwin Williams Oyster Bay

Linen Closet door handles: Rejuvenation

Linen Closet drawer pulls: Rejuvenation

Round Mirror: Home Goods

Vanity Table: World Market (similar)

Chair: Target

Bedding: Home Goods

Sheets: TJ Maxx

Nightstands: Wayfair

Lamps: Target

Lampshades: Target

Magnolia Candle: Target

Alarm Clock: Target

Window Roller Shade: Graber

Lily Prints: Juniper Print Shop here and here

Lily Print Frames: Ikea

Ballerina Print: Juniper Print Shop