Ruminating About a Remodel

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Dear Rivkie,

 My husband and I bought our first house a few years ago. At the time, I thought it was perfect and I was thrilled to be able to buy a home of our own in which to raise our growing family. Flash forward to now, and between HGTV, Pinterest, and the homes of others in our community, I am noticing flaws everywhere. Why aren’t my appliances sleek and shiny? Why is my family room not an oasis of calm with a large-screen TV on the wall that doubles as a family photo? Why is the front entryway not a total “wow”? And let’s not even start on curb appeal.


Should I start redoing my house even though that money could probably be put to better use? Or should I just live with my serviceable house, even if it makes me grouchy to look at?


 (Maybe) Renovating Rena


Dear Rena,

 Let me tell you a tale. Many years ago, when I was a young mother in the market for a house, I stumbled upon the house I eventually bought and thought, “This is it, I love this place!” It didn’t hurt that I was coming from a condo in downtown DC which, with a toddler and a baby on the way, we were quickly outgrowing. The house seemed HUGE (apparently, a toddler doesn’t take up as much room as, say, several teenagers and an almost-teen that I live with now). Anyway, I thought it was just perfect.

In just a few short years, I was bemoaning the kitchen, which didn’t have two of everything for a kosher family, the wood paneling in the family room was giving me hives, the step-down living room from the 1980s was a hazard to my small children. So, what did I do? I hightailed it to the kitchen remodeling place, and cried: “I must have a new kitchen as soon as possible or the whole world will end, I am sure of it!” They were, of course, thrilled to see me.

You know what? I love my kitchen to this day. I also love the other parts of my house that I remodeled later on. But, aside from that kitchen, it didn’t happen overnight.

Here’s what I’m getting at: You must prioritize. For instance, for many Jewish families, especially those who keep kosher, the kitchen is the first thing to remodel. It makes a world of difference to have two sinks, ovens, dishwashers, etc. So, do that kitchen, but do your research for a long time first. Call everyone you know who has done a kitchen and see who they used. You can redo a kitchen on a wide variety of budgets. (I clearly remember the night I unveiled our new kitchen to my husband and he couldn’t actually figure out what they had done, despite the new counters, new appliances, an island, two sinks, two dishwashers, new cabinets, flooring... If you are lucky enough to have a husband who doesn’t notice, well, anything, you have a lot more leeway in terms of the whole project.)

After you go through one big project, you will need time to recover, both emotionally and financially. If you have other spaces that might need some attention, two words: baby steps. Do a little painting, some decorative touches, or new lighting. Any of those things can improve your happiness quotient. I found that investing a little money in a designer/decorator can pay big dividends. They will often be able to assess spaces quickly and give suggestions across price points. Also, they usually know where to access the best products/services for your project.

All in all, you need to be happy in your home, but remember, prioritize and then do a little at a time. Enjoy the process, not just the finished product. Remember how happy you were just to have a home of your own when you first bought it. And stop watching HGTV and pinning anything until you appreciate your space.

  All the best,