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Do you guys & gals second-guess EVERY choice?

A C
3 months ago

I’m so stressed over every single tiny item I’m picking out. I cannot afford a pro to walk me thru all of this, so I’ve tried to do tons of reading on how to avoid making mistakes and choosing finishes that are classic and tasteful and stand the test of time. How come every time I order a vanity mirror, choose a spot for an electrical outlet or select a fixture or floor material I feel sick to my stomach? I am terrified that the things I’m doing and picking will look horrible once they’re all put together in the house. Some days I feel like throwing my hands up and telling my builder to just do whatever (although I’d never do that). The fear of failure is terrible. Do any of you have this feeling or am I just being overly dramatic? I have ordered different items only to call the next day to cancel because I just cannot commit. It’s getting ridiculous. I guess I just need someone to talk me off the ledge.

Comments (27)

  • PRO
    Mark Bischak, Architect
    3 months ago

    How do you know you "cannot afford a pro"? Have you shopped around or are you going by hearsay?

  • Susan
    3 months ago

    I think second-guessing decisions concerning a big investment such as designing/building a house/home that, literally, has thousands of moving parts and where mistakes can compound issues and blow the budget is very normal. Having said that, knowing your tolerance for risk-taking, researching/handling details, and prioritizing you/your family’s needs and preferences can help to mitigate the anxiety/stress of going through this process. Is there an interior designer involved? They can help guide you through the process…one step at a time. If not, it may be money well spent. The research you have been doing to educate yourself is very helpful…so is creating an idea book of inspiration photos that you like. Based on those preferences, you/an interior designer can make a specific list of needs/finishes for each room/area of your home and storyboard them to see how they work together and meet/exceed the goals you have for your new home. If you have a well-defined plan for your new home, it will be much easier to make decisions because you will see how they relate/benefit/support the overall functionality/aesthetic/vibe of your home. The key is to put in the time and effort in the planning stage now, so when your new home is done, it will function well for you and your family throughout the years. And if it all becomes a little overwhelming from time to time, take a break. Allow yourself the time you need to sit with your decisions. The more you see each area come together, you’ll be more confident in yourself and the process. Best wishes!

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  • PRO
    Mark Bischak, Architect
    3 months ago

    Be happy you do not have to specify nails or adhesives.

  • chicagoans
    3 months ago
    last modified: 3 months ago

    @A C I'm much the same way! I used a spreadsheet with multiple tabs (appliances, plumbing fixtures, tile, pulls, lights, etc.), and each tab had multiple (sometimes dozens) of items with descriptions and links. Then I'd go down a rabbit hole of reading Consumer Reports and other reviews. This post about picking out tile is just one example of me making a mistake that maybe I can help you avoid.

    Like you, I get stressed about the cost, but meeting with my financial advisor before even putting a bid in on a house (mine was a remodel rather than a new build) helped me feel more comfortable. I'll add that my designer was worth every penny I paid her. She saved me money by passing along her discounts, developing a functional kitchen design, and by helping me and my SO bring a vision to life. She also has great relationships with vendors so that definitely made appointments at places like the lighting store or stone yards easier. I feel like I couldn't afford not to use a skilled designer.

    A C thanked chicagoans
  • T T
    3 months ago

    It's normal to stress. Our builder emphasized that none of the finishes are permanent. If you really hate it, you can always replace it. Even if your can't financially justify replacing it right now, telling yourself that it's an option if you really hate something after living with it for a while may take an element of stress off of wanting everything to be perfect.

  • Olychick
    3 months ago

    I try to remind myself that I've lived in many homes where the placement and choice of things were made by the previous owners. And they all were fine. I didn't hate much of anything done by others. The outlet in a less than convenient place? I just lived with it and it was fine. Changed out a light fixture or two when I could, but otherwise the houses were nice, and pretty and comfortable. Nothing decided by others was heinous, so I would guess the same is going to be true for you. Very little but the floor plan is unchangeable and you're likely making reasonable choices for everything. Will it be perfect? No, but it will still be ok. And once it's done, you'll just accept it and probably love it and will just enjoy your home.

  • ShadyWillowFarm
    3 months ago

    You have to allow yourself the grace to live with “good enough” instead of “perfect.” Your taste is specific to you; it doesn’t matter what someone else prefers. What is functional for your lifestyle is also specific to you.🙂

    A C thanked ShadyWillowFarm
  • clt3
    3 months ago

    Yes, and we were doing it from a distance. I found it helpful to put all of my selections on a Pinterest board where I could move them around and look at everything together. I told my contractor when we were finished that there wasn't one thing I was disappointed in or would change.

  • S M
    3 months ago

    Yes, I think it’s perfectly normal. I went through the same thing. It’s hard to have to make so many choices and worry that they won’t look good together. Our builder has a designer, so she was able to pull all the samples to look at, but I’d gone in knowing what I wanted ( which was a bit outside the box ). She always said it was fun to work with us since we knew what we wanted and made decisions and stuck with them. She said most of her clients either didn’t know what they liked or wanted, or second guessed / made change orders constantly. See, it’s human nature! Yes, I worried a LOT about how the final product would look, but tried to remind myself that there are lots of things I like and there is no one perfect combination. Nobody knew how worried I was or how much second guessing was going on in my head. When it all came together we were super happy and have no regrets on any of the choices. It’ll be great, try not to worry

    A C thanked S M
  • A C
    Original Author
    3 months ago

    @clt3 we are also doing this from a pretty good distance. That adds to the stress. I do have "mood boards" to try and visualize how things would look together but I don't really trust them. Good to hear that this approach worked out well for you.

  • PRO
    DeWayne
    3 months ago
    last modified: 3 months ago

    How much do you think actually using a pro will cost you? Because that is what you need to have happen. If a pro saved you more $$ from making mistakes, which actually costs you less in the end than making those mistakes, would that be enough incentive to use one?

  • Jennifer Hogan
    3 months ago

    I don't disagree with those who say using a pro is a good idea, especially if you are unsure of your own decision making skills, but sometimes you know your taste better than any designer will.


    When I help someone else pick finishes and colors or when I pick them for myself I start with the colors that must stay. In your case the colors are all new with a new build, but you may have furniture or art or things that you will be bringing with you.

    When I moved I had been collecting MCM teak furniture for the past 40 years. I wasn't buying all new furniture, so I knew whatever colors I picked it would need to work nicely with my furniture.


    The second thing I think about are the colors that make your heart sing. Those colors that you are drawn to and buy over and over again. For me it is grayish purples and teals. I also like some brighter teals and purples and some wine reds. But whether it is a purse, vase, wall art or bedding, it is likely to have purples and teals.







    Since I own so many things that are these colors and I am drawn to these colors I want to keep large samples of these color as I pick the finishes for the home.


    I like to pick the high impact finishes that are expensive and not likely to be changed for a very long time first. Flooring covers more of the home than anything other than walls.

    I want to pick flooring that works with what must stay and the colors I love. For me, I need a flooring that works with all of my teak furniture, my purples and teals.


    Next I would pick cabinets that work with the colors that must stay, the colors that I love and the flooring that I selected.


    After cabinets comes countertops, then backsplash then wall color, then trim, building from the largest, most expensive surfaces to the least expensive, easy to change later surfaces, but continuing to select things that work with the elements I have already selected.



  • Susan L
    3 months ago

    If you have a design vision for each room, then the decisions become a lot easier. You pick the finishes and fixtures that cohere to the vision. It narrows down your choices and you have an easier time. If you have no vision and are picking each tiny thing individually without guidance, then it’s a nightmare of second guessing. A pro can help create the vision. It’s also really nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of and just validate your choices quickly. They can also help with late breaking problem solving. Considering how much psychological agony they could save you, are you sure you can’t hire someone? Maybe you can find someone who will work hourly as a consultant rather than handing them the whole project.

    You have to see the big items in person, and together. I.e. flooring, paint and trim finishes, and tiles. Online photos and mood boards really don’t work. I just finished a remote build too - everything I needed to see together, I either went in person to my designer’s office and we took shopping with us, or I ordered duplicate samples for me to keep with me.

    And yes you still make mistakes. Even with a designer. It’s not the end of the world.

  • Olychick
    3 months ago
    last modified: 3 months ago

    If you have a VERY tough skin, dare to post some of your most worrisome dilemmas here. You will get some very good feedback from some wonderful people, honest but kind. And you will get slammed to the floor (maybe, if your choices aren't their favorite things) by a couple of people who will tell you to throw it out and start over (maybe). I'm being hyperbolic for sure, but there are really talented people here, some pros some just passionate about design who will either help you or boost your confidence in your choices. Overall, it's a wonderfully helpful site for people in exactly your position.

    I think about designers as the same as hairdressers. They've all been to school, but not everyone was at the top of their class. Nor are they all naturally talented. I see lots of pretty awful haircuts out in the world! So, hiring a designer is no guarantee of a result you love.

  • Susan L
    3 months ago

    Would you cut your own hair though?

  • Olychick
    3 months ago

    I could probably do a better job than some hairdressers! Just kidding because I am a former hairdresser and do cut my own hair, lol. My point being just that because someone has hung up a shingle, either for design, or hair dressing, doesn't mean that they have talent. Or that you'll be happy with the results. That's why this place is so valuable. And many people live in communities that don't even HAVE designers to hire.

  • Jennifer Hogan
    3 months ago

    I went to beauty school back in the 70s. I found out that in Pennsylvania hair dressers no longer need to pass a practical exam - they just need to pass the written exam which is about safety, not skills.


    I was going to one hairdresser regularly, but when I wanted a change no matter what I said to her I walked out with the same haircut as she had given me the last time. She was old school, had gone to beauty school with me, but she is just stuck in her ways.


    I tried out a new hairstylists about 8 weeks ago, trying someone new tomorrow. I told the last one what I wanted. Showed her a diagram as well. Told her that when you comb the hair out from my scalp in the back it should be a straight line, not rounded, not longer at the top or at the bottom, but should be a straight line parallel to the back of my head. The girl tried and tried, but she couldn't do it. Straight out told me after two attempts that she couldn't make her wrist bend that way. She didn't know how to position her hand to accomplish the task. It was sad, but I would have been bald before I got what I wanted.




  • PRO
    Jeffrey R. Grenz, General Contractor
    3 months ago

    Mistakes will cost more than a good consultant.

    Delays will cost more than a good consultant.

    Your time will cost more than a good consultant.

  • Jennifer Hogan
    3 months ago

    I have had similar experience with designers as I have with hairdressers. More often than not I feel like I am getting the style they want vs what I want. Don't use plastic flooring - get hardwood. Don't get plastic countertops - get real stone. Hate corner fireplaces. The fireplace should be the focal point. Don't get a sectional - poor seating choice. Decorate with neutrals and add color through accessories.

  • PRO
    Mark Bischak, Architect
    3 months ago

    Have you tried a dart board?

  • Susan L
    3 months ago

    The feeling you have of "second guessing" is telling you that you're not confident in your choices. Some people second guess all their choices, even when they've educated themselves sufficiently (I'm that way), and some people are confident in themselves no matter what, and some people are confident in themselves when they know they have enough information and education. Which one are you, OP? If you're in the first camp like me, you can't trust your own self-mistrust, and will have to either move forward with reservations, or get a second set of eyes (pro or non-pro).


    (Sorry for the amateur therapy session.)


    Or you may be looking at your mood boards and think: I like how the colors go together but there's something wrong and I can't put my finger on it. If so, go ahead and post those here, and the pros will tell you what is disturbing you.

  • palimpsest
    3 months ago

    To expand on what I said about limiting finishes. My parents built a house in 1969. Back then there were not as many manufactured cabinets available, a lot of the cabinetry in the house was built onsite, so interpret what I say below accordingly.


    Every cabinet in the entire house, from the dining room, to the closet built ins, to the bathrooms, to the finished basement to the garage were the same style. They were painted or stained in different rooms. The vast majority of them had identical hardware. The dining room had expensive decorative hardware, the garage had basic hardware, everything else had the same solid brass plain knob, brass finish except chrome in the bathrooms. The kitchen and laundry room had the same cabinets as each other, a manufactured version of what was in the rest of the house, with an added detail. The dining room had an added applied moulding.

    The two full baths had identical finishes. And for 1969 a little unusual, white porcelain floors, white tile walls, white bath fixtures, white marble countertops. They didn't look identical, because they had different decorative lighting and wallpaper. Same with the powder rooms, they had the same flooring as the kitchen and downstairs hallways. They didn't look anything alike though because of different decorative lighting and wallpaper. The kitchen was also all white, unusual for 1969, and the counter in the kitchen was shared by the two powder rooms and it also showed up in the finished basement.

    So One basic cabinet style in the entire house. One type of hardware, hundreds of hinges and probably 100 identical knobs in the whole house. One floor, one wall tile and one counter finish for two bathrooms, same with the powder rooms. Five identical bath sink faucets. One style of recessed lighting throughout the house in every room or closet where recessed was needed

    All of these were decisions that needed to be made to Build the house and instead of making individual decisions for each room, One decision could be made to cover the same decision in a number of rooms.

    The things that gave the rooms their own personality, paint, wallcovering, decorative lighting could all be made after that.

    It was the contents of the rooms that made them individual, you would not have had the impression that "Oh this is the same thing in every room"

  • malabacat
    3 months ago

    We did exactly as palimpsest suggested in both our remodel a decade ago, and in the house we just finished building. I think of it as having cohesion throughout the whole house. In both houses, we have the same casework and the same wood floors throughout the house. And the same hardware.


    When we remodeled, we used the same countertop in the kitchen and in one of the two full bathrooms. The bigger full bathroom has a different countertop. Both have different colorful tile. In that house, the powder room is quite different, but we wanted something kind of off beat.


    In the new house, the bathrooms all have the same countertop and tile floors. But the wall tile is very different in each, giving a distinct look to each bathroom.


    Decision fatigue, and worrying about every decision is so hard. Minimizing how many things you have to choose will help with the stress and second guessing. Less to second guess :-) Good luck!

  • Iluvdark kychns
    3 months ago

    At some point you have to realize that you can't take any of this with you.....

  • Cara Fidler
    3 months ago

    Hi. That is unfortunate that you are agonizing over your decorating choices. Very few things can't be corrected or returned tho. I'm sorry you are struggling so. Perhaps if you posted some of your decorating choices, pics of rooms already decorated, etc. you could get some helpful feedback. But at the end of the day, I would go with my gut. Does it please you aesthetically? Is it something that just feels right to you? Does the color soothe you? I think you are overthinking here and are bamboozling yourself. Just go with it and don't second guess yourself. What's the worst that can happen? Keep the faith and don't worry so much.

  • Keen B
    3 months ago
    last modified: 3 months ago

    As you know from the build thread, I've agonized over some of my choices--most recently kitchen backsplash--and I have also suggested to people they hire help. My frugal DH would balk at this for us, so I understand your hesitancy.. But there are many talented folks, still in school, just starting out, dabbling on the side, who can offer advice for less than average.. But even so, you have to know what you like, and I don't mean elements. I mean overall look of a room. There are tiles I LOVE that would not work with my overall kitchen design. That's one of the bigger errors I see on some of these DIY renovations, etc. They put everything they love in one blob and it ends up like a beef, peppermint patty, blueberry pie.

    Most of my decisions I am in love with, and much of what I did I learned how here (that and I am creative.) But how I did it was I looked and looked at inspo pictures to see what I loved, and to learn how everything worked together. I looked at things I didn't like either, and tried to figure out why not. Then I started inspo/mood boards. Even so, there are rooms/ choices I designed that others might not love.

    It's when I have chosen an element without the whole in mind that I have been unhappy--my DH and I fell in love with a chandelier (which is always great when we both go, oh, yes! That it's.) We bought it 18 months ago when we thought the house would be done LAST fall. Now that it's up, it is really wrong. I think we loved it in the shop when it was way above us, and all lit up and glittery, LOL. Even when my DH hung it and sent me pictures, I liked it. BUT in person, it's too big, too bleah, not right. What I lack in design is sizing vision, that knowledge of how big/small something should be, or how busy or calm. A designer often knows that easily.

    Still, funny story, an acquaintance of mine with money to burn and zero wish to even think about these things, hired a designer well-known in town. The look she ended up with in her formal home was absolutely atrocious, like something someone thought Scarlet O-Hara and Suzanne Sugarbaker would want with black and white and red and green vomit. LOADS of layered chintz and heavy brocade. She kept it all for a year, probably because she was suffering a sort of mental "The Emperor has no Clothes" about the designer. All that stuff is now languishing in a local high end consignment shop...as she starts over with a different designer. So Jennifer Hogan's comments are not wrong.

    The best thing you can do is collect every image you love and try to channel those, but make sure the plans blend from room to room. My look was old cottage with transoms, wood floors, old doors. I couldn't suddenly put in a super MCM plastic kitchen.