Updating My Parents' 1990s Home

As you probably know, my parents moved to a new home last year. I'll cover some of the backstory to refresh you, or fill you in if you're new here. The main point of this post is to introduce a series of coming posts that will be covering updates and projects as we work on them.

Their new house was built in 1990. My grandparents were the original owners, and it really hadn't seen much change inside or out until late 2016 when we started slowly transitioning my parents' belongings in (and my fan collection and studio space into the basement). With my mother being wheelchair-bound, the master suite needed almost an entire gut and reconfiguration to be functional, which was completed professionally before we moved them in permanently. We got rid of old carpet, dated fixtures, and 90s wallpaper for beautiful taupe-gray tones, completely waterproof laminate floors, and gorgeous updated tiling. With a more open flow and less obstructions, it became the balance of beauty and function required. My parents are not super design-savvy. Mom likes to dabble in HGTV, but that's about the extent of it. While they both had final say in everything, I guided and selected a lot of what went into this space both with a designer for the real 'building material' type stuff, and on my own with a lot of the electrical fixtures and finishing hardware. It really was very much my aesthetic vision once we moved past the basic functional layout aspect, and I'm pretty proud of how it turned out.

Kaye wall fan from Matthews featured. Towel hardware from Danze, the Parma collection

Quorum Friedman vanity lights featured. Cabinet hardware from Miseno. LED ceiling lights from Kichler

Devices from Lutron and Legrand. Paint above tile is Sherwin Williams Colonnade Gray

That aside, many of the other spaces remain mostly untouched. My parents bought the house because of its overall functionality. While the master suite needed to be completely redone to work ideally, the other spaces already offered flexibility for my mom to feel more freedom in than their previous home and haven't needed the instant overhaul.

Of course I've gone through and made some small, quick changes and updates here and there to freshen up a bit in the meantime. I replaced boring, cheap light fixtures with some quality ceiling fans and showroom grade lighting products throughout many areas. These were simple things that immediately made all the difference in upping the quality and appearance around the house. There is still more I'd like to do in the way of lighting, but vast improvements have been made so far.

Premium from Emerson Ceiling Fans in the kitchen dining area 

Hunter Original in the sunroom 

Flush-mounted mini chandeliers from Kichler in the hallway

We also immediately replaced the cabinet hardware throughout, as the old lacquered polished brass handles were losing their finish and looked terrible. I need to say here, that this cabinet hardware from Gobrico is available at an incredibly accessible price point. Nothing else I looked at even comes close in the affordability department. Most hardware in this trendy brass finish is priced at a premium, but these can go for less than a couple dollars per handle depending on the bulk package you purchase and the handle size you need. They utilize a strange screw thread that I don't remember offhand, so if the included length doesn't work for your cabinets (it wasn't long enough for our drawers) you'll have to go on a little search to find proper screws or tap them out to work with something you've got, but even then the cost savings are worth it. We got a box of screws to work for basically nothing. They actually seem like pretty fair quality, too. I figured if they didn't hold up well we wouldn't be out much cost-wise and could upgrade again later, but so far they've done very well. They're not solid cast metal, but the finish is of good quality. We have a towel ring that always hangs on the same handle, complete metal on metal contact all the time, and still not a mark in the brass finish. These are available on Amazon in a variety of finishes and variations. This general style of hardware has seen great popularity in recent years, it's very transitional and looks good with just about any cabinet design, so it's hard to go wrong. Get the best value on the brass hardware I used here: 50 Count Bulk Hardware or here: 30 Count Bulk Hardware

Aged brass hardware from Gobrico

In the kitchen, all new appliances were installed. Previously, only the refrigerator had been replaced over the years. The dishwasher was not working at all. No biggie before since my grandparents always hand washed, but in the end my parents need a functional dishwasher, and everything was ready for an upgrade and now matches. The old appliances, besides the fridge, were black. We kept it in the same kind of dark family, just with a very current appearance using GE's slate finish. I really love how it looks with the other finishes, and it made the cabinets look a little fresher. Above the fridge, there was previously a cabinet with doors like you can see above the microwave. We had the contractors working on the master suite alter the space above the fridge to fit the new taller profile of fridge that has become popular, replacing the closed cabinet with a deep cubby. Perfect for cookbooks, or a wine rack, as we ultimately ended up putting there.

Slate appliances from GE

We've done some work in the garage to make it more functional, especially in getting my mom in and out of the house. That's not so much relevant here, but worth mentioning. I've also added ceiling fans and improved the lighting out there.

Fluorescent strips from Lithonia, industrial fans from Vostermans Ventilation/Envirofan

Also worth mentioning is the replacement of the outside lighting on the front of the house, which was a gorgeous update that really shifted the vibe to a softer transitional feel instead of the very traditional look it had previously with polished brass and beveled glass. Very much the styling we're aiming for going forward inside the house. Eventually we're likely going to repaint or even re-side the house, but for now this was an easy exterior update that just took an afternoon, but also one that made such a huge impact. The price point of these Patewood fixtures from Progress Lighting offers an insanely good value. Both of the sizes we utilized retail around or below $100 per fixture, an important factor to consider if you have a number of fixtures to purchase. Most other quality showroom brands do not offer this high level of design anywhere near such a low price point. I should know, I dug through pages and pages of outdoor lights before I came across these beauties. I can't believe these retail so comparatively cheap AND are available in three sizes. Amazing! Here are some links to the fixtures we used. Small fixture: http://shrsl.com/r4em Medium fixture: http://shrsl.com/r4eq
Patewood collection from Progress Lighting.

Medium size Patewood fixture for the garage

Small size Patewood fixtures near entry door

In light of the master bedroom update, I've also slowly been replacing ivory electrical devices like switches and outlets throughout the main floor with white decora style for an updated appearance. The contractors installed ivory in the remodeled master suite to match the rest of the house, but it looked terrible with the gray. I vastly prefer white devices, and decora switches are easier for my mom to operate, so while I hadn't planned on changing everything out, the improvement in appearance is well worth it and most of the switches were going to be changed anyways. Knowing that we're likely going to be continuing the greige color palette, it was an important consideration to make for future changes.

Receptacle/night light combo from Legrand Radiant Collection, screw-less plate from Lutron Claro Collection

Lutron Diva dimmer with Claro screw-less plate

Leviton Vizia astronomical timer for outdoor lights, Leviton Decora switches, Lutron Claro screw-less plate

Leviton Decora switch, Casablanca 99019 remote with wall mounting combo plate

I believe that covers most of the major updates to the main floor up to this point in time, I plan to feature many of the projects to come here on the blog.

This house was, and in some places, still is, very stuck in the early 1990s. Now, I love historically correct decor no matter what era it's from, but what I like even better is taking elements of the original and styling with them to be current while removing the really dated aspects. Not everyone wants to live in a time capsule, if you do all power to you, but my parents want to put their own stamp on this house and give it new character. With my interest in overall design, there's a happy medium that can be found. Not only is it often more budget-friendly and less work to approach it that way, but it also maintains some of the original vision that went into the home. There is a distinctly 1990s feel; golden oak everywhere, and polished brass still remains in the door knobs throughout. And it's beautiful as it is. So I want to work with what's already here. I think it's important to maintain a certain amount of originality.

The comeback of brass finishes could not have happened at a more opportune time to work with this house. I don't think brushed nickel or bronze looks very good with golden honey oak. Black isn't a bad option, but brasses pick up on the warm tones of the wood like nothing else. Polished brass and even antique brass can make the combination look very dated, but the warm aged and brushed brasses that have become popular over the past couple years pair so incredibly well with the oak and have that fresh, modern look that nickels or bronzes would offer. Still, they remain in the same family as polished brass and pair well with anything existing you might still have in that finish. This is why we went with brushed and aged brass hardware on the closets and cabinets. It kept the same kind of feeling as the polished brass it replaced, but it looks fresh and current. And the real best part was we didn't have to change the cabinet hinges to match, nor did we have to go through and change all the door knobs to match. They're all in mostly great shape, so why pay to change those things when they play off the new aged brass finish so well?

Satin brass closet door hardware from Emtek

This trend in brass has been at the back of my mind in a lot of the concepts and ideas I've been thinking up for future projects. It's trendy now, but it's also timeless, so it won't really go out of fashion. Just about every decade has seen its own moment in golds; it's always relevant and coming back around. Mixing together those tones as I've been doing blends decades of varying decor together and creates a cohesive design without having to update every single component. Matte black and dark iron finishes have been enjoying renewed popularity again, as well, and those are additional metals I've been keeping in mind since my parents have a certain amount of decor items already in that family of tones. Black and brass create a classic combination overall, so all of this is very workable together without going on a shopping spree for new pieces. Remember, what you already have can be reworked in new ways!

As far as color palettes, I'm not ready to say goodbye to the grays yet. A lot of rooms badly need paint. The walls here have always been basically white everywhere, except the bathrooms which were wallpapered. Now, only one bathroom with horrid wallpaper remains. That room is one of the projects I really want to dive into, since it's a room that would really allow me to think outside the box. Anywho, most of the walls need some love after 28 years. I don't want to go with too heavy or cold gray colors, but something on the taupe end with maybe some accent colors or variance here and there. Perhaps a few varying neutral tones to add interest. Plus, I really like the warm look of the honey oak woodwork paired with a cooler gray tone. It can't be all warm on warm on warm. I haven't thought too far into any specifics of that yet, but that kind of stuff will be coming up at some point soonish. Most of the furniture pieces have their own amounts of color, so additional splashes of color are not needed so much on the walls and it can be kept pretty neutral. We also need to replace the flooring. The original carpets are still in place everywhere besides the master suite, and they're looking pretty worn in the traffic areas. With the wheelchair use from my mom, carpet just doesn't hold up very well so likely it'll be a hard product, but that also has not been fully discussed yet.

So I think that brings you up to speed if you haven't been following along. I just wanted to cover the basics of what's been done, and provide an idea of where we're going and what my inspirations are before posting up any specific project. Lots of exciting things to come on this topic, we're going to be playing with a lot of design!

Thanks for reading. See you next time. Leave me comments if you have any suggestions or ideas for things I should implement.


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