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Every week, decorating and entertaining editor Liz Gray will write about the highs and lows of remodeling her first home. Read her first post for more details.

In many ways, buying a house is like starting a brand new relationship: You meet the house, fall for the house and spend hours thinking about how great it is. But a couple of months in, once the boxes are unpacked, you start to notice the little things — like the design equivalent of realizing that your shiny new significant other puts the toilet paper roll on upside down (for those wondering, the paper goes under.)

After living in my house for two months, I’ve realized certain things bother me more than others. (Surprisingly, the wall-to-wall paneling in the main living area didn’t make the list.) I’m counting down the  top 5 design crimes I’m itching to fix ASAP — which do you think is the worst offender?

#5: Grandma’s Wallpaper
We hated this so much that we started stripping it the second day we moved in. The equally ugly coordinating border is still up, but its days are numbered.

Floral Wallpaper

Buh-bye, floral wall and border!

#4: Stairway to Ugly
Okay, the entire second floor hallway is covered in burnt orange carpeting. Okay, it looks like it’s been hanging out here since the late ’70s. Not the worst part. My biggest pet peeve is this staircase:

Faded Orange 70s Carpeting

Orange carpeting, don't bother to write.

Sun from the picture windows has faded the rise of each step, leaving behind a seriously depressing yellow hue. On the other hand: It was ombre before it was cool, right?

#3: Horror Movie Lighting
The first night we stayed in the house, the “bzzz” of the fluorescent lighting in the powder room and master bath made me feel like I was in a bad motel where the only other guest was a serial killer. Irrational fears aside, the lights take forever to come on — especially annoying in the middle of the night.

Light Fixture

See ya, bad lighting!

#2 and #1:  Kitchen Nightmares
As an avid cook, I spend a lot of time dreaming about how much better my kitchen (and life?) will be without these cabinets. They’re made of particle board and covered in peeling white contact paper, plus the doors are oddly uneven. I can’t wait to fix this.

Dated kitchen cabinets

Kitchen cabinets, it's not you, it's me.

The scuffed-up, flower-covered linoleum floor is another sore spot. I’m thinking about covering it up until I can completely replace it.

What do you think? Which is the worst, and how should I fix it? Tell me in the comments below.

100 Responses

  1. Mary Frances says:

    Where is most of your time spent? Is it the Kitchen – then do it. Shut the door to the wallpaper room, let it sit there, stripping the wallpaper can be done in spring, when you can open up, air the room and paint. The buzzing medicine cabinet is a no-brainer — take it down, pick up a nice overhead light fixture, and have an electrician insall a DIMMER. Replace with a beautiful new mirror to match new lighting. Then go to the kitchen, see about new cabinets and decide on how much you want to invest. I would put the kitchen as my biggest investment. If you have to sacrifice do what you can afford – if you ca't afford new cabinets or replacements –what about shelves. There are plenty of DIY ideas that might work. Good luck. Mary Frances

  2. Mary says:

    Wow – this house sounds very familiar. We, too, had (have) ugly wallpaper, carpet on the floor in the kitchen, peeling laminate cabinents, "wagon wheel" light fixture in dining room and ugly carpet on the stairs covering hardwood. Start with the wallpaper and fresh paint – amazing difference! We then pulled up the carpet and put down self stick vinyl tiles in kitchen. Wagon wheel fixture went when we painted the dining room. 6 years later we are still working on the house, but every completed project is so rewarding!

  3. LaNell says:

    oh…you left out 'dome lighting' in kitchens (I'm in SW Fl, and it runs rampant here).

  4. LaNell says:

    And…carpet in a kitchen or bath, or even carpet ANYwhere. UGH!!!
    I have my condo tiled, sloped to the middle, with a DRAIN hole. Just
    hose it all down ((-:

  5. BettyD says:

    Change out the bathroom lighting and medicine cabinet first. Remove the wallpaper next. It can be therapeutic. Didi anyone ask "What were you thinking?" Just joking! I enjoyed remodeling when I was younger. It was easier for me to see the changes than to start from scratch with building. It's difficult to suggest what to do without knowing your budget. Sounds like cooking and entertaining are important to you. Go for the kitchen next or even first.

  6. Trudy Scherting says:

    I love the comment about buying a house is like starting a brand new relationship. How true that is! It really takes time to make a house a home. Changing with the number of people that come and go with the house, children leave, a parent might move in, always looking to decorate around the needs of who is living at this home.

  7. Just KJ says:

    Paint and soap. Get rid of all that you can and clean. Then paint what you can, just having the old stuff out (and even thought I hate the paint smell), it gives you a fresh start feeling. Paint and soap are not expensive, depression meds are! If you chose to paint the cabinets ( I would) pick a color you might consider for the walls if and when you get new cabinets. Lets you know if you can live with it.

  8. dj_w says:

    Our house had harvest gold shag carpet in a couple of different versions that didn't match when we moved in 24 years ago. We have replaced it room by room with solid hardwood floors. It was worth the wait and there have been many other projects along the way, but I would have you consider that it should come out of the bedrooms first. Although I dislike the dust factor of carpet, safety is foremost in my book, so the carpet on our stairs gets replaced last — and with more, but much, much nicer carpet and you may wish to consider doing so after the rest of the upstairs is renovated so it doesn't get messed up. Harvest gold may come back in style, but not in my house. Oh, and despite my reservations, I loved the result when my parents painted their dark den panelling with a light creamy color called mushroom. Enjoy the challenge and transformation whatever your decisions.

  9. [...] chosen our first home improvement project. So, what will it be, you say? I’ve showed you my 5 least favorite home features. I’ve lamented about my completely paneled room. But none of those things made the first [...]

  10. wahela says:

    My daughter bought a house with those nasty cabinets in the kitchen. Her hubby took all the doors off, painting them three layers with that Nu Kling paint, and painted the rest of the cabinets, and they look like really nice white cabinets. You could do something like that until you are ready to scrap it all in the kitchen. Daughter put new drawer pulls on, and it looks really new. My biggest pet peeve, I bought a 1936 Craftsman house from a DIYer. He did a lot of really good stuff, new furnace, HWH, AC, all new electric, waterlines, moved the bathroom into a bedroom and made the old bathroom into the laundry room upstairs, and kept all the glass door knobs and old furnace vent covers, etc. Then he put up in some modern brushed nickel things that totally do not match. Right after I bought the house, I bought new counter tops, rubbed bronze faucets and handles, antiquy looking lights for over the table and in the bathroom, and a round old fashioned mirror. He had mixed new with old, and I loved the house, but right off, could see what he had done. Original wood floors, glass door knobs, etc. so I got rid of all the brushed nickel and shiny silver more modern touches. Now I have an old fashioned 1936 Craftsman with all new innards, water lines, elec, etc.

Liz GrayLiz is a senior editor at HGTV.com and an co-editor-in-chief for Design Happens. She lives in a midcentury tri-level that’s stuck in the ‘70s…for now. When she’s not working on...


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