We bought a house.

Rather than buying a fixer-upper to move into, renovate and sell in a couple years, we decided to buy a house in an area to which we’d love to retire (and to which the grandkids, which currently number in the oughts will really, really, really want to come!  We are very forward-thinking, aren’t we.)


Long story short, we bought a fixer in Discovery Bay, about 95 minutes north of us.  It’s a community of homes built around a golf course or lake and with canals which connect to the Delta.

The house is about 1800sf, 1 story, on a lovely canal, well, its not a canal, more of a baby bay.

This is an aerial view of the area, but not our bay.

This is an aerial view of the area, but not our bay.

Below is our list of musts and wants, which changed from side to side – must to want and vice-versa, depending on how glorious or meager the item was in a particular house.

– great room

– deep water dock

– 1 story

– space for a pool table

– large deck

– not in a pinched area, fighting for dock space

–  3 bedroom, 2 bathroom minimum

– sunset views

List of deal-killers

– no dock

– 2 story

– major fixer-upper

Yeah, its a small list.  There weren’t a lot of homes in our price range.

Being a contractor and an Architect – plus having done a number of large and small projects on our own homes – Rick (me, too) is very comfortable with homes needing work.  But there are items that would simply bust our budget, like needing a new roof or having foundation issues.  Any house we bought would have to need mostly cosmetic work.

And…we found one!  It has perfectly functional bathrooms and kitchen, which is important so we can wait to redo them in a few years…plus replace the windows then, too.

The view from our deck.

The view from our deck.

So, what are we doing now?  Repainting, that’s for sure.  The inside is mostly white and the living room is a mushroom-gray color but too dark for the space and not my fave color, anyway.

Boring mushroomy-gray, see?

Boring mushroomy-gray, see?

I love yellow walls, pale pale yellow, like buttercream.  It goes with so many other colors you can accent with – turquoise, orange, leafy greens, white, black, browns, even gray.  Done!

However, I don’t want the entire house to be one color, then again, I don’t want every room to be a different color.  A small house feels cut up if all rooms are unique colors, I think.  Better to have a cohesive plan, yes?

All trim is white.  The kitchen cabinets (to be replaced later) are white so they’ll look more like they were part of the plan.  The wainscoting (how IS that word pronounced) in the hall and the bathrooms so those will be white, too. 

Unfortunately, when I say ‘white’, paint suppliers say ‘dove’ or ‘ice’ or ‘lace’.  I want the purest, most whitey-white I can find and it doesn’t exist, which is frustrating.  The brightest white I can find simply isn’t WHITE!  Its off-white…not-white…virtually-white, nevertheless, those are my choices, so I buck up and pick the one closest to a true white.

But, behold!  Sherwin-Williams does make a brilliant white for ceilings.  I can’t get it in any type but flat, so I’ve have to live with barely-white everywhere else.  At least the ceilings will be WHITE.

Now to find another color for some of the rooms.  I love the color next to the buttercream on the color chip strip.  Its darker, a warm golden beige.  Gorgeous.  Walking around the house, I decide that the entry will be the darker color.  You’ll walk from the entry to the living room, and the living room opens up in space and the lighter color.  The hall will be the darker color and you’ll walk from the wall to the bedrooms, which will lighten up.  Lighter color in the bedrooms also allows for more variety in the decorations.

Now, all I need is a color for the yucky painted-brick fireplace.  Since the TV will be placed over the fireplace, I don’t want a big black blob on that brick.  Better to have a darker, complimentary and not matchy-matchy color so the TV is a bit more blendy, without disappearing completely.  So, the fireplace brick is now a lovely brown.  It is lovely, just don’t be changing any diapers there, it might call for an uncomplimentary comparison.

Now, we turn our gaze to the floors.  I swear (and my relatives, Johnny and Celeste, support me in this) that the carpet can be saved with a good cleaning and I have the phone number to Stanley Steemers already programmed into my cellphone.

My husband swears that it cannot be saved.  He has nothing to support this theory except for puppy-dog eyes.  I yield.

Carpet choices are easier when its only the bedrooms and they are all the same color.  I ask the carpet installer, Neil from Checkered Flag, which manufacturers he prefers.  He gives me some pointers and steers me away from a particular brand that he says will stretch too much over time and he’ll have to keep coming back each year to pull it tight again.

Shopping for carpet isn’t too difficult, there are a lot of choices but I am fine with a color that looks good with the pain, isn’t too dark or too light and is, maybe, on sale.  See?  I’m pretty easy.  I was a lot pickier when choosing a carpet for our office, for some reason.

I don’t want something that is a nightmare to clean or vacuum, either.  Those fancy loopy piles that remind me of a Komondor?

Looks just like a rug I saw for sale a couple weeks ago!

Looks just like a rug I saw for sale a couple weeks ago!

Nope.  That extreme shag carpet?  Too easy to lose Legos in that stuff!  And then where are your toes?  In your hand, as you hop around muttering X%*#@! after stepping on one!

I’m not cheap when it comes to the carpet padding.  A better padding will make a less-expensive carpet feel just as appealing to your toes as the crazy-pricey one.

Carpet?  Done!  Its called Sweet Tea, but I think sweet tea has a stronger reddish color.  This carpet is more of an Arnold Palmer.

Yeah, way red.

Yeah, way red.

Still too orangey...where DO they get the names for colors?

Still too orangey…where DO they get the names for colors?

Flooring…we won’t have carpet in the main rooms.  We’d like hard-working hardwood floors.  We’ve had oak and bamboo thus far.  I like oak but I’m tired of it.  Bored with the grain – we have it in our office/house so I’d really like to get something different.

We put bamboo in our office entry, which has held up very well but I’m not fond of the unremarkable caramel color.  The colors we really like are in a stranded type of bamboo, which is strings of bamboo shredded from the stalk and then bonded together.  Bamboo comes in 5 basic colors:  naked pale, blah caramel, cinnamon, brown and very dark brown.

While the patterns of bamboo are very interesting in all of its varieties (flat boards, end, side or stranded), we really liked the stranded variety with its stripy, tiger look of dark and light browns.  Its a very busy pattern, too.  I think I’d like it more for cabinets or doors, ooh that would be cool!



Then we saw this Eucalyptus floor and fell in love with it.  It has a marvelous wood grain and it wasn’t the cheapest choice, either, so there.  And, side note, it is my niece Roni’s favorite tree.

Isn't it pretty?

Isn’t it pretty?

Most of the time, we make our list of finishes (tile vs stone vs granite, paint color, chrome vs bronze vs nickel, pendant lighting vs track vs wall sconce vs ceiling fan…and so on and so forth), knowing that little is actually set in concrete.  We see something we like (perhaps a shower curtain) and the entire room can change to accommodate it in an instant.  And that is exactly what happened.  But that is for a different post.

Its better to be flexible when choosing your finishes.  Keep your options open.  BUT, on the other hand, don’t keep putting off your decisions and second-guessing yourself.  Research but don’t get brain fry and freeze into immobility.  Make your purchase and accept that you might have been able to save a few bucks if only you had worded your Google search a little differently.  Put a check mark by that item and move on.

The same thing applies if you discover an item you want is no longer in stock or won’t come in time.  Don’t mope about it, move on.

While I’m on my soapbox, here’s another lesson I’ve learned with the multiple projects we’ve done:  Timing is not under my control.  I can’t force painters, suppliers, weather, work and so on to fall under my command.

The wood flooring was stuck at the Port of Oakland for some strange reason – delaying installation for a week.  The painters didn’t begin when I thought they would, they took a job between quoting ours and my signing the contract, so that delayed the carpet installation for a week.  Our ski boat is in the shop and the shop is swamped with work so we are in a long queu and probably won’t be done in time for our Labor Day Weekend.

I'm not sure this was the best purchase we've ever made >sigh<

I’m not sure this was the best purchase we’ve ever made >sigh<

I learned a loooong time ago that whenever I push, I lose…oh, I might win the battle, but I lose the war.  THere are things useen at work here…stress, for instance.  Relationships, too.  And sometimes, the delay for me ends up working out better somehow…like a store losing my order but now I found something better for less.  Its not the destination, its the journey.  

Now if I could just figure out why the paint in the hallway looks just like Harvest Gold from the 1970’s! 

Not at ALL the right color!!!

Not at ALL the right color!!!

Its hideous and I can’t figure out why.  The other rooms don’t look like that!  ?!?!?  Well, I’m not gonna stress about it.  I can always repaint it, right?  😉