Nice to Meet You, New House

This is my fourth morning in the new house, and here is my perspective from the folding table we have in the kitchen/family room area, since my office is still buried in boxes:

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Clearly we’re not ready for prime time, but I wanted to share a few thoughts on learning a new house—which might be obvious to people who move frequently, but since the last time I moved was 17 years ago, they’re all new to me.

1. Don’t decorate in advance.

To my designer friends who say never make any decorating decisions before you live in the house for a while, I say, THANK YOU. It helps to see how your existing furniture lives in a room—or doesn’t, if that’s the case—before you can really know what works. I thought that our former living room furniture (which is also our oldest, so I didn’t care about it that much) would have to be chucked because it wouldn’t look right anywhere. I was thinking we’d need an IKEA run for the tiled room off the garage, which will be the boys’ domain, but as it turns out, that old living room furniture actually works pretty well. Shocking. All we might need is a neutral rug—sisal maybe?—to soften the space.

2. Lighting is the key.

I’ve written several decorating stories that quote designers who say lighting is the most important aspect of any design. SO TRUE. This is the most surprising thing I’ve learned about this house: All the funky track lighting that’s in every room casts really off-putting light at night. I feel like I’m under interrogation. And this type of lighting turns each space into a series of bright spotlights separated by very dark chasms in between. The cool beams across the ceilings (which I love) also cast very dark shadows at the top of some walls. Where some people might move into a house and immediately think they need a chair here or a painting there, I am in desperate need of a new lighting plan!

3. The Open House is very different when it’s Your House.

Here’s the best example: I HATED the bathrooms when I was touring this empty house. Maybe that’s because we had spent time choosing the tile and colors for our master bath in the old house, and the idea of moving into someone else’s bathroom was just weird. But the first thing we did was organize the bathrooms over the weekend, and I actually have fallen in love with them. They are huge, first of all, and both our bath and the boys’ bathrooms have cool niches to fit a storage chest or hamper. We got new towels and bath mats for each bathroom, and they look even better. Next on the list: replacing the drawer knobs, and we’ll be set (for now).

Second example: The entry hall, which is also the dining room, has floor to ceiling windows. There is a cap in the ceiling for a chandelier, but I initially thought, “No way — who would want to break up that gorgeous site line with a light hanging down in front of it?” Wrong. Candlelight is no match for this big tall space. We need a chandy. The Big Question: What will provide enough light, look great, but not interfere with the views?

4. Patience is a virtue.

We’re pretty much going to be camping here for the next few months—Nadia with Aidan Design is redoing this kitchen, and demo starts in August. So at least half of our kitchen boxes remain unpacked until the new cabinets are in.

The place is a mess right now, too, because we put in a French drain system around the perimeter of the basement, plus a backup sump pump (all those lovely expenses that are distinctly un-aesthetic but absolutely necessary). Dust everywhere. The floors are gross to walk on—even after we attempted to have them cleaned the day before we moved in. But I have to keep telling myself: Eye on the Prize. We’re in it for the long haul, and a few months of “roughing it” (Not! But it’s all relative) will be worth it.

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Comments

  1. Jennifer Sergent says:

    Very cool Catherine, thanks for the suggestion!

  2. Best wishes. I know it will be amazing when done. Keep us posted on your progress.

  3. Enjoyed reading this post as we are currently renovating (ie re-constructing!) our new home. I have the same issue with a chandelier spoiling a view from the kitchen table. I am pretty sure I am going with this Circa Lighting chandelier: http://www.circalighting.com/details.aspx?pid=4325 —I will look forward to seeing your home evolve!

  4. wonderful post! great advice . I am amazed you have found time to even write a post in the midst of the move! I am looking forward to continued updates!