Picking finishes can put you back at start line


RON IS occasionally driven quietly crazy by clients who can't quite make up their minds about details. It seems that sometimes as the work goes on, and the details get smaller, some version of Murphy's law kicks in and the decisions get harder.

In fact, this is the point where everything can get a little crazy. And he's finding out firsthand, now that his and his wife's master suite addition is in the final stages, yes, indeed, selecting finishes can be a lot harder than you might think.

They had decided on some of the larger finishing details, such as plumbing fixtures and floor finishes. But that was only the beginning.

Once again priorities have to be set, and this time it's all about color.

All the colors, in this case, will revolve around the furniture and the bedding. If you already have the furniture, you need only work around it. But since everything was going to be new, this turned into a project in itself.

Charlotte, Ron's wife, wanted a light, natural look for the furniture, and finally found something she liked. Then she found bed linens that are mostly pale greens and blues, and she decided to paint the bedroom walls pale green. So at least they could start matching the paint for the bedroom walls to the colors in the bedding.

However, she wants the bathroom to be a dark-ish blue, so the carpet in the bedroom has to be matched to both colors. That's where the problems started. Now they are working backward to the paint colors, because tile colors are limited, and paint and carpet colors are endless.

The floor in the bathroom is to be white ceramic tile with a tile wainscot that will bring some of the colors from the bedroom into the bath. The trick is to locate a ceramic tile border that goes with the bedding. This is harder than it sounds because, although there are a lot of colors to choose from, there is not a wide range of sizes or textures. You can find a color that works, but it doesn't come in the size you need.

Ron (optimistically) believes that if they look long enough they will find what Charlotte wants. So for now they will install the floor in order to finish the bathroom and do the border later.

But then there's a problem with the floor. Charlotte wants pure white 12-inch-by-12-inch tile. A cinch to find, right? Wrong.

The most desirable white tile is available in 4-inches-by-4-inches, or in 6-inches-by-6-inches -- but in larger sizes it's all off-white or marbleized.

They have two choices, keep hunting or compromise and use the 6-by-6. They are still hunting.

Ron's feeling is that all this choosing and matching is actually even more complicated than it sounds here. If you are contemplating a major project, or even in the middle of one, take your time. You will have to live with the decisions you make -- and with the person you make them with.

But Ron has a bit of hard-won advice for would-be renovators: Hire a decorator. Or maybe a marriage counselor.

Ron Nodine is owner of American Renovator Inc., a Baltimore design-build remodeling firm, and former president of the Remodelors Council of the Home Builders Association of Maryland. Karol Menzie is a feature writer for The Sun.

If you have questions, tips or experiences to share about working on houses, e-mail Ron at hw@renovator.net or Karol at karol.menzie@baltsun.com. Or write c/o HOME WORK, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278. Questions of general interest will be answered in the column; comments, tips and experiences will be reported in occasional columns.

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