Episode 284: Reeling Over Renos

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As I weigh the merits of moving away from our beloved river towns in Westchester, I’m enjoying answering the questions in the mailbag about home renovation dilemmas.

This episode, I answer questions about…

[9:36] Flooring choices for a bathroom: vinyl sheeting or linoleum (Alison, Canada)


I have a question about flooring choices for a bathroom. We’re building a house and we’re going for a traditional Victorian vibe throughout. We are planning on doing vinyl sheeting, or linoleum instead of tile in the bathroom to cut down on costs. I’m drawn to more patterned looks that are hopefully classic. I’ve added a few images in this email. My husband thinks we should go with a basic slate tile look that’s fairly plain. We both want it to last for 10+ years. I realize linoleum is not the most classic flooring choice, but what do you think will last the longest in terms of style? I’m open to any ideas.


I am hesitant to give the green light on linoleum flooring. Bathrooms tend to have very small footprints, so they do not need that much flooring and tile. It doesn’t have to be that expensive. The labor can get a bit pricey, but I really want to encourage you to consider going back to tile versus linoleum.

You are probably familiar with tiles that look like they have some sort of vintage print. I think that can go very well in a Victorian style application, but I also think it’s a bit trendy right now.

When I was thinking about making renovation selections for my own bathroom and kitchen, I considered tile like this for my own space. Ultimately, I felt like they weren’t going to look timeless. They’re hot right now in this interior design landscape of contemporary farmhouse style. I don’t think they are going to look evergreen for very long, so I would be more inclined to go with a hexagonal marble or porcelain. I like the idea of going with a black and white or gray and white.

I don’t love the checkerboard, because that reminds me of being at the hop in the fifties. That doesn’t feel timeless either – in fact, my peel and stick vinyl bathroom when I was growing up was those black and white solids.

Another trend I wouldn’t hop on board with right now is the rustic wood vinyl planking in a gray wash. I don’t feel like gray washed wood is timeless either. It has been hot for a few years, but I think it’s on its way out. It has had its moment, and in another few years nobody will want it.

That’s the thing about Victorian design – everything old becomes new again. Something like marble, however, was not only great back then but it is also appealing right now.

With a renovation, I would think about all the spaces in your home. What are in the other bathrooms? What is in the kitchen? How can we make it feel homogeneous? Rather than thinking of one bathroom or one tile at a time, I try to create vignettes.

Whenever you’re feeling lost, I recommend going to the tile store and asking for advice. Even when I’m working on renovations with my clients, I don’t pretend to be the expert in all types of tile. So we get the idea, we go online, and we search for inspiration pictures that really encapsulate the vision that we’re going for. Then we speak with one of the experts who works at that store and go through the options together.

So, I would not consider the floor in a vacuum. I would consider it based on the selections that are already there, or based on the opportunities I have to make new choices. In addition, I think you need to get a clear idea and have some inspirational photos as to what Victorian style means to you. “Victorian” can be translated into lots of different looks.

Even when my client tells me, “Betsy, I’m beachy,” or, “Betsy, I’m boho,” I make sure to figure out what that word and what that style means to them. It could mean something different than the actual definition or what it means to me.  These are all things to keep in mind as you’re working on these renovation selections.

[17:46] The kitchen backsplash: patterned or plain (Natalie and Brian, Scotland)


My partner and I have just had an offer accepted on our dream home. We are going to be moving in this month. I’ve attached a rather large photo of our new kitchen, and I wanted advice on the backsplash. We were thinking about black tiles, but I’m not sure this would work well, or if we would be wiser to go with something more neutral. There is a window and a door into the garden, so it brings in lots of natural light. We think we can get away with something a bit darker.

The other photo I’ve attached is our sofa. I’m thinking of gray curtains for our new house, as they would tie in with some of our cushions, but I’m wondering if we should go bolder with another splash of color or if the yellow cushions would be enough of a contrast. I’m not sure whether to go patterned or plain.


The picture of the kitchen shows warm wood cabinets in a maple tone with orange undertones, a silver range hood, silver handles on the cabinets, black and stainless steel appliances, and a gray countertop. With all of this in mind, I think that a black backsplash could be quite interesting because it would really tie in well with the black and stainless appliances.

The kitchen is very light and bright. The challenge, when I look at the pictures, is that behind the range hood on the back wall of the kitchen there isn’t really a place where the backsplash should stop. It has been following the line underneath the cabinetry but it looks arbitrary on the back wall.

When the range hood is about six inches higher, I think it would make a really bold and fun statement if the backsplash would go all the way up on that wall behind the range. I think it would give this room a lot of personality.

There are also square gray slate tiles on the floor. If I was going to do the whole wall behind the range hood, I would do something a little bit larger than what you have now (it looks like about 4 in. x 4 in. square tiles). One suggestion would be a black marble tile, because just a pure black tile will show every imperfection, splatter, or splash. The marble would help to break it up and draw less attention to those imperfections.

If you don’t choose to take the backsplash all the way up, you could still do black marble in a smaller size. The kitchen is neutral, almost a blank canvas. We could overlay a color or a shape, but we would need to keep it contemporary and cohesive with the clean lines.

Regarding the living room – besides the blue sofas and the yellow cushions, the room appears to be devoid of color. The color palette currently feels somewhat arbitrary because you have a yellow splash on the blue with no inspiration piece. You mentioned that you’re looking for drapes, and those could definitely be an inspiration piece in this room. That means we would want to combine the blue with the yellow so that the palette makes sense, and maybe even introduce another color so we get our full 60/30/10 color palette.

If you don’t want to go with bold or patterned drapes, I would consider adding a rug to the room as the inspiration piece. This rug could have yellow and blue, and I would suggest some gray in it if you choose to do gray drapes. Gray is typically not part of my 60/30/10, so the rug could have even one or more colors besides yellow, blue, and gray. That would be a great way to liven up the room and make it feel a bit warmer.

It has been so wonderful to connect with you all again this week. Do you have questions? Send them to me. You can reach out to me at affordableinteriordesign.com/podcast . I’ll be waiting anxiously for your questions because the mailbag is practically depleted. I need something to talk about, so ask away! I hope you’re having a wonderful start to your summer.






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