Renovation Updates: Kitchen, Floors and My Self Doubt

There was a ton of progress made last week on our house!  We are about 2 weeks from being completely done with the kitchen and I am feeling both insanely excited and “not sleeping” nervous-  my self doubt about design decisions are creeping in in dark corners of my mind and I have to work hard to bat them away in favor of gratitude and confidence!

Lets start with the floors- we are still living upstairs where the floors are done while the Wellbuilt crew waits for for the appliances, counters and cabinets to be finished up before they do their last coat of poly.  But one thing I am VERY happy about is the color! Dark but not too dark and shiny but not glossy. Perfect!


A close up of the finish- as I mentioned before, I have white oak floors and this was a 50/50 mix of Minwax Ebony and Jacobean.


However, even while these are not super dark floors, you guys were right- vacuuming daily is going to be a new hobby for me!  One thing I am pondering is whether or not to paint or banister railing white like the spindles or attempt to match it to the floors- because it’s so old and darkly stained my dad and others have said it’ll be nearly impossible to get it the same color…. which will bug me.  So I keep coming back to this image.  I’m doing a similar runner, our floors are close and this even looks just like our banister!  Thoughts?


The amazing team at Vermont Custom Cabinetry worked tirelessly to fit my new cabinets onto my somewhat uneven floor (damn old subfloors!)  Seriously, they stayed until 7:30 on Friday night to make sure we could get our template done for our counters the next day!)  I am thrilled with the layout and insanely solid quality of the cabinets so far!  Our kitchen is small, but we are going to have so much storage and it opened up the space SO much!


I lost a lot of sleep regarding the color of the lower cabinets- I thought I should have done all white, then though I should have done grey uppers too- then decided I had made the right call given our space except…. I wish I had gone a little darker on the grey.  The color choice TORTURED me as you might remember…. and I was too scared going any darker would make our already dark kitchen too bottom heavy with the dark floors.  I should have listened to my gut and kept testing.  BUT, I have a sneaking suspicion that once the amazing Bianco Macaubus counter tops go in and white subway backsplash and grey/white grasscloth in the dining area are up I will feel more confident in my color choice (which is Benjamin Moore Cape May Cobblestone).

What I do know for sure- it’s lightyears better then my current basement “kitchen”. Glamorous, no? Lamp with no shade. Solo cups. Paper plates. BUCKETS of wine. All class.


My grout decisions compared to lower cabinets…. slightly darker than cabinets or exact same color? Andrew looked at these and insisted I was tricking him as they are the SAME EXACT COLOR! I was all, are you blind? They are SO different! Mars/ Venus….sheesh.

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I’m going with the one on the right. Unless y’all confuse me.

Also, I chose this AMAZING Rohl facuet that blended modern and country styling and did it in chrome- even thought my hardware is matte brass.  Mixing metals is all kinds of hip now.  And of course now I’m thinking I should have done an unlacquered brass faucet. I want to punch myself with these thoughts!!!!!!

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One other doubt I am having is about the thing I BASED MY WHOLE KITCHEN ON!  My Hicks pendants.  There are design elements out there, like the Hicks, that are everywhere.  Seen all over Pinterest, blogs and the like.  I am fighting the internal battle over something I truly LOVE vs. using something that tons of people have.  I also am a little concerned about them being so heavy in the low ceiling/ small kitchen.  Andrew held one up in the space and I did like the look- I can;t help it, I love those darn pendants.  But I also found these online and like them too – the brass and glass might be lighter and more open. I DOOOOON’T KNOOOOWWW.  I am my own worst client.

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Speaking on this space, I still have not decided on the dining room fixture right next to discussed pendants.  I did finally see the Arteriors one I love in person, as we put it in one of my client’s spaces this past week. It’s THE HOTNESS (and this was taken mid install- she’ll probably kill me for posting) :)


But I just don’t know! God, I suck!

One thing I DO know about is the powder room wallpaper, Hicks Hexagon from Cole & Sons– another case of something seen a lot but I do not care because it looks AMAZEBALLS!!!!!!! I came home Friday to it complete and nearly feel to my knees in happiness. I cannot wait to have everything reinstalled and my window treatments to be made and put up!!!


Andrew says he might get a seizure when he goes in here, but tough stuff, big guy. It’s worth it.


One fun weekend win- this awesome vintage brass fireplace screen complete with lions on the corners. A score at $130 at the Sowa Market!  I continue to try to blend traditional and modern and  vintage and new in this house!


Counters go in Thursday, appliances Monday and tile after that!!! We are getting close!


  1. You are seriously AWESOME. Love your Blog and read it every day when I get to my desk. Semi-obsessed! Love those second pendants and must know where they are from. Everything you have chosen is spot on and you cannot make a bad decision between any of these choices. We are sort of living a parallel life as we are also doing a bathroom and kitchen renovation right now….but are so many months away from the above. Cannot wait to see the finished product.

  2. Don’t second guess, I think your choices are right on. Keep the Hicks pendants, they have the weihht and timeless style that the others don’t. Can’t wait to see the finished product. We designers are our own worst critics.

  3. Love the kitchen so far…glad you didn’t go with an all white kitchen. The gray is just such a great color. I like the hicks pendant and I am sure you made the right choice,but I love, love the glass and brass pendants…I agree with Jennifer dying to know where they are from.

  4. Give yourself a break Erin! You are very talented and are making great decisions. I love your choice on the fixtures and grout. I think you should do the white bannisters. I like to contrast and I agree if it can’t be match exactly it will drive you nuts. No need to go through the hassle. Best of luck and have confidence in yourself. You are doing a great job.

  5. Hicks pendants are just getting way, way too common. Go for the gusto girlfriend and go for the lighter feeling lights you found on line, will tie in the brass hardware you have in the kitchen. Remember your kitchen really is not that large and you do not have high ceilings. That is my vote!

    I can pass on the dining room fixture as well – that too is becoming way to common and cookie cuter – it is what would be expected. I say go for the unexpected – not want the trend currently is in every design mag out there. I would try to find a “vintage” piece – it would be a nice tie in from your living room (vintage brass fireplace screen) – to the dining room and into the kitchen.

    By the way – your gray in the living, dining room and now kitchen is going to be a killer with Green fabric chairs in the dining room and a green sofa or green draperies. I would recommend a punch of color with eggplant throw pillows in the living room.

    I just love gray (on large pieces of furniture) with green and eggplant throw pillows or draperies.

    Love the floor color – just perfect…..
    Living through you blog to escape the corporate world!



    Hi Erin. Was surfing and came across this house in my former town Austin. Her kitchen reminds me of yours and she has some pendants that are worth a look. Only sending because you said you are mixing metals and reconsidering the kitchen pendants. I like the glass choice as well. Go with your gut. Lights are an easy change later if you want to change it up! It all looks great and I really love the floors. With three kids and a dog, I was not brave enough to go darker but I totally love it!


  7. Hi Erin! I’m giving you my opinion about your staircase. I have floors that are 1/2 Jacobean and Ebony just like yours. I still love them and I have had them for over 8 years! In my opinion, if you do white on the banister, they will look dirty and possibly yellowed from hands touching it and from the oils on your hands. I had the same problem you did, I wanted to make sure it matched. Our painter had the solution of PAINTING the rail black and I think he put a laquer finish on top so it would last. It has been almost nine years and it still looks as good as the day it was painted. (i also have two kids!) I think the black is enough of a contrast that it is obvious that you did not intend for it to match, but it will “go” which sometimes is better than matchy matchy!! I painted the spindles and risers white, but the picture of the treads and risers dark look great too. Thats my two cents, but whatever you do I’m sure it will look GREAT!!

  8. Erin, I am so enjoying following along with your process.Every choice you have made is spot on. The only one I think you should do differently is to have a dark bannister. I would even go darker than the floor, maybe like the darkest grain in the wood. All the light fixtures are amazing, don’t question the Hicks pendant, it is so in sinc with all you are doing!!
    I am going through somewhat the same issues, in choosing fabrics for pillows in my own family room re-do. So much easier to work for a nice client than myself who can tend to be a little Obsessive when it comes to the details.

    Would love for your opinion on my blog post today where I did a mosaic of fabrics. I have more coming, only to make the decision making harder on myself.

    We are gluten’s for punishment aren’t we. Sleep well my dear, you are doing all the right choices. One thing about the grout, it will darken over time, I had a colored grout at one time and it became two shades darker over time,just a little FYI,

  9. My vote: Dark banister railing – it doesn’t have to be an exact match to your flooring..go intentionally darker! (love your floors btw). Hicks pendants – stick to your initial – you’ll love them. I did the same in my kitchen – went with something that’s been seen over and over, but the lighting is still one of my favorite features in a room I’m in ALL of the time. Love mixing finishes in a room, so don’t sweat the faucet. Matching grout. (Hicks Hexagon looks fantastic in your bathroom!!)

  10. I think you do yourself a disservice by expressing your self doubt. Your blog is an advertisement for your business–it’s marketing–and since you’ve bought this house, I’ve gotten to know an unsure decorator that follows the trends. You’re choosing all of the things that are popular now. The Hicks lights have been seen a lot and I’m sure you’ll regret those in a hot minute. The gray cabinets; done many times. White subway tile. (I’d go darker on the grout.) The dark floors have been seen for a few years. The sputnik light. Brass hardware. The Louis chairs in emerald green. They’re all things that are popular right now. I’d love to see you choosing things based on good design rather than just things that are the current trend.

    I don’t love the wallpaper in the powder room. I agree with Andrew; it’s dizzying. It’s too small a print for such a small space. I’d go with a much larger print.

    I’d also go dark on the newel post and handrail. A deep gray–almost black–would be lovely. Why not do something adventurous like a gun metal metallic? That would be cutting edge.

  11. Erin,
    Such lovely choices! Yes on the grout. No on the sputnik. So, so trendy and really seems ’50s to me, which is not going to accentuate the beautiful architecture of your house. BUT… when I saw that second picture in the hotel the first thing I thought was… THAT is the chandelier that would go with the Hicks. So funny that you discussed both in the same post! You are going to be so happy when it’s all finished and it’s really going to be beautiful no matter what you pick. Love the sneak peeks but can’t wait for a huge reveal!

  12. Erin,

    The work you’re doing is beautiful – don’t doubt yourself. We all look forward to seeing the results and it will inspire us all. My husband and I are planning our kitchen renovation as well and we would love to know the source of the brass/glass lamps. Please share!

  13. The kitchen is going to be beautiful! The arteriors dining room light fixture is amazing! Congrats on your new home.

  14. not sure if you will read this, but i just finished a total house renovation (took it down to the studs). man there are things i wish i did differently!

    but here are a few things i will tell you:
    1. you may think the color of your lower cabinets are too light right now b/c eveything surrounding it is white-ish. once the floors are done and everything else in the room is done, you will probably love the color and not think it too light.

    2. kitchen backsplash grout option: we decided to forgo grout and just butted the tiles next to each other. cleaning tomato sauce off of grout didn’t sound like something i wanted to attempt. love the look.

    3. for the light fixture: go for it. go with what you love. remember your reaction to the powder room wallpaper?

  15. Hey Erin!! You’re house looks amazing so far!!!!! I LOVE the color you chose for your lower kitchen cabinets and def agree that the grout in the picture on the right is the best way to go! Your post made me feel better- I’m pretty new to the design world and as confident as I am usually with my clients I am also my own worst client. We are currently working on finishing our own home which we built three years ago and while I am 100% sure about some things I am sooo back and forth on others. It makes me feel better that a talented designer like yourself could be driving yourself crazy on your own home also. Also, I have always loved the Hicks pendants and I totally agree that you should go with your gut and not second guess yourself BUTTTTT I love the glass and brass pendant a lot a lot! (sorry to confuse you). Anyway, best of luck! Can’t wait to see the final result and to share my final decisions with you :-)

  16. Wow… it looks great….. that powder room wallpaper is incredible. My recommendation for the floors….. the Dyson cordless vacuum…… it will change your life…. seriously with those dark floors. You can just whip around the house with the Dyson in no time… trust me on this. Also, what about painting the banister black? I have the super dark floors, white walls and black French doors in my living space and I love how a black banister kind of grounds the stairs….

  17. Hi Erin- I live in a suburb of Chicago and I bought an old fixer upper with exactly the same layout. (Right down to the sun porch.) While my renovations are taking longer, I am taking notes and getting inspiration from you. So far it looks great. I had the same banister situation….my floors are 50/50 too. I painted it high gloss black instead of staining it. It looks dramatic.

  18. Your house is going to be gorgeous! The parts I have seen already are. As celerie reminds us your home should be a reflection of you. Also as you say buy what you love! Some of those items will be what is hot- most things are hot for a reason they are fabulous and people want them! Also, your readers are design hounds. We study design mags and blogs. Most people do not and most people will not know that hicks pendants are hot or trendy. They will see them as fabulous. Your home should be a mix and it is. Stick to your talented, wonderful gut and heart and buy what you love! Excited to see more!

  19. Definitely paint handrail black, otherwise will always look dirty and bland. Hicks light fixture a little big for your space, the glass looks airy and lighter.

  20. I love how your house is coming together. I am more cottage/traditional, but can appreciate your style and how everything works so well together. Your kitchen is going to be gorgeous as well as the rest of the house! I say go for the original lighting you’ve always loved. Why not!? I feel your pain in having a kitchen basement…..when we renovated ours it was about the same way. Then, we had some hurdles……one side wall of base cabinets that were sent were the wrong ones, the faucet was on backorder, etc. etc. I doubted every decision that was made, but it is my favorite room in our house now. It’s comforting to know that even an interior designer has some doubt in their decisions.

  21. Hi Erin. It’s really coming together! Can you please provide the source for the brass/glass kitchen light? Thanks!

  22. I like both lights and think you can’t go wrong with either. I have always loved the first light and plan to add those to my hall leading to the bedrooms. I also like the idea of the second light, with it’s clear glass profile that looks light and airy which will open up your kitchen. My only concern: The glass dome looks like the top (cover) of a cake pedestal. I think it would be prettier if it were more rounded and not so angular. But, I am not a designer so that’s just my personal opinion.

  23. I did my floors last year with the same exact 50/50 ebony/jacobean. Can I tell you that you have EXCELLENT taste, my dear? Stop with the self doubt – you’re a pro and everything will look great. And if not, no biggie – you can do a simple change out and everything will be A-ok. Oh yes – I always love the Hicks pendant…a classic – I posted a picture of the same exact pendant/same finish in a post on light fixtures a couple of weeks ago, so there you go – excellent taste on that choice too! Can’t wait to see your house finished – you’re going to post pics, right?

  24. Hi Erin- you are making great choices. I’m sure there will be more houses in the future for you – go with what you like now. I’ve renovated five houses and they have been completely different every time. I always tell myself there are no perfect choices and several great ones. And then I dive in. Have fun! PS- white banisters do get dirty, and if you have a really talented painter you can get them to paint a faux wood which was popular in the Victorian era here in Australia where it was hard to get quality timber.

  25. Just catching up on some blog reading…we are about to undergo our own full kitchen remodel and have to agree with you-I get paid to make these decisions for other people (and I make them in a snap!) and then it’s taken me three YEARS to figure out what I want in mine and I’m still adjusting here and there. I’m trying to decide between unlacquered brass faucet and polished nickel. (If only I could find a good one ican afford). About the hicks pendants…I put those in a clients kitchen a few years ago and I still get weak in the knees everytime I see them (I’m still helping them with other rooms). The blog/Instagram/Pinterest world is FLOODED with designers and decorators but honestly, hardly anyone has those pendants!!! Real world people have never even seen them before. If you love them, know you love them (I think you do!) then you will love them! Do what you love, and don’t let the fact that you see them on designer-saturated media outlets. They are beautiful! Such a statement. The gray you chose is beautiful for your cabinets. Like you said, stick with your gut and don’t make stressed last minute decisions! From what I can tell from blog stalking you have good gut intuition…trust it! Can’t wait to see everything finished :)
    ps. I think mixing metals will never go out of style. In my opinion anything that adds life to your kitchen/space is TIMELESS!
    pps. I will have to remind myself to come back and read this in a month when I’m waist deep in demolition and decisions…!!! :)

  26. Omg I just read a couple of comments…are these people for real???? No wonder you are questioning yourself…some people can be so blatantly rude :/

  27. i LOVE that glass/brass pendant in lieu of the hicks…

    fresh/bright/light :)

    it looks fab tho! can’t wait to see it finished :) i remember when i went over to my friends ( right after they finished their first kitchen…and they were already excited about new things/changes.

    the curry tasted amazing regardless of finish choices :)

  28. Erin, It’s all coming together so beautifully. I think all the choices you’ve made are perfection. Go with your gut!
    I think the cabinets will feel darker when you get the backsplash in. And that chrome faucet is a great choice with brass hardware.
    And I can tell you – I have a Hicks and I looooove it! I don’t care if it’s everywhere. It’s the first piece of lighting that literally took my breath away and I’m so excited to have it. And if you get Hicks fatigue in a few years, I’m sure you could Craigslist them and get most of your money back. (Thta’s how I reasoned it with my husband!) It’s not like a sofa that’s going to get worn out – a pendant will hold most of it’s value.
    Can’t wait to see it all come together!!

  29. Totally get what you mean about the pendant debate — going with what you love, but not wanting to have the same as everyone else. Aside from that, you seem to have the same problem I have with indecisiveness. You want it to be perfect, so you worry over making the wrong decision. I empathize!

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