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Decorating for Strangers

What sometimes gives me a headache is trying to renovate and decorate our townhouse with the tastes and preferences of someone I haven’t met in mind.  As longtime readers know, the townhouse is a layover for us.  Our plan was to be here for about five years before (hopefully) buying a cute lakefront home in another city.  This summer marks year four and we’re still on schedule to move next year.  Although we’ll do lots of de-cluttering and staging when the time comes to sell, we’ve tried to make things easier (and more economical) by making design decisions that will transition easily.

Because home buyers can be conservative and can sometimes have a hard time seeing past clutter, bold design or unusual design decisions, we’ve kept core elements “neutral”.  When you take away our colourful art and accessories, the townhouse is quite simple: bright white walls, trim and doors, sheer and neutral curtains, white bathroom vanities with marble tops and grey floors, maple hard wood flooring (which is light and airy, but not too trendy), lots of white tile (in a herringbone pattern in the kitchen for some stealthy fun), and classic but contemporary fixtures in various neutral finishes.  No turquoise chandeliers (although I want one)!  Even a lot of our furniture (white guest bed and bedding, cream sofa, dark leather dining chairs) can be easily toned down for staging the house.

We could go wild and stencil walls, paint the ceiling blue and do all kinds of fun things and then just paint it all out when it’s time to sell, but it’s taken so much time, effort and cash to get the home from its “before” stage to what it looks like now, that it would be heart-breaking, and maybe out of our budget to be honest, to have to do it all over again for resale.  Paint is expensive!

I think our formula is a good one but, honestly, you can never know what a home buyer will like.  A house with bright green cabinets could catch someone’s eye while a home with a pretty grey bathroom can turn people off.  It’s a gamble, but odds are better if a home can appeal to as many people as possible.  So we keep things on the “safe” side.  Honestly, I love our house and am grateful we have such a pretty place to call home, but sometimes it does feel like we’re living for the future owners, in a weird way.

Just for fun, because maybe you can relate, here’s a list of some bold design choices that I like to fantasize about when I think about a future where we get to decorate a “forever” home:

  • Colourful stone counters in an all white kitchen or bathroom
  • Patterned wallpaper accent walls
  • Colorful bathroom tiles
  • Bold kitchen backsplash tiles
  • White painted floors or colorfully painted floors?
  • Turquoise painted kitchen cabinets
  • Colorful appliances
  • Painted ceilings (I do kinda want white walls still)

I will have some colour on the laundry room floor soon, because I doubt a cheery laundry room will make or break a deal, but I can see potential buyers running from a colourful design element any larger – or more permanent – than that!

Even with my self-imposed limitations, there are plenty of ways to add personality.  I like decorating with colorful art, throw pillows, and other accessories (I have a huge art project in the works).  Although our main furniture pieces (beds, sofa, etc) are neutral, I do love a colorful accent chair or table.



  1. Lil
    April 10, 2013 / 12:59 pm

    I love love love a white floor, but I can't help but think it would always look dirty. Walk into the house and any dust/dirt on your shoes would transfer to the floor.I've never known anyone with white painted wood floors and I'd love to know how hard they are to keep clean.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      April 10, 2013 / 4:40 pm

      I read on A Beautiful Mess that a white stair case is apparently easy to keep clean ( I think the trick might be in the top coat so the floors stays glossy and dust can be easily wiped up. A matte texture would probably trap it. I think dust might show a bit easier though. Maybe a better choice for upstairs rooms that people don't track as much outdoor grit into? All I know is grey floors are awesome for hiding dust to delay the inevitable cleaning, lol.

  2. louize
    April 10, 2013 / 1:07 pm

    It is amazing what you see when you visit places for sale – this weekend I visited an apartment, completely renovated and they had coated the entire bathroom INCLUDING the bathtub in concrete – while I like concrete walls and floors, I really wasn't sold on the bathtub!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      April 10, 2013 / 4:41 pm

      WOW – a concrete tub?!? That's definitely limiting the market a little. We've seen some homes in our area have nice renovations but for really specific tastes: blue stone counters, diagonally installed hardwood floor, etc. Some never sold, some took a while.

  3. Jazmyn Strydom
    April 10, 2013 / 1:33 pm

    I know how you feel! We are selling in 3 years and we don't want to do anything TOO bold.. I keep thinking we aren't staying here forever… I cheat on my house all the time with Houzz and dream up what we will build! You've done a great job 'neautralizing' the bones of your home with keeping it fun with art & accessories.Where do you hope to buy?

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      April 10, 2013 / 4:43 pm

      I cheat on my house too!! I pin ideas for future homes, knowing they'd never work in this one. Thanks for the vote of confidence! So far, everyone who walks in the doors like it – even older generations, although my grandma thought the glass sink might be hard to keep clean (she's right!).We haven't decided on a city yet. We have a few in mind but I think it might depend on job opportunities. I think when we do move, it will be crazy difficult to work out the logistics (sell this house, move cities, buy another, find work for both of us). Maybe we'll end up staying here, LOL!

    • Jazmyn Strydom
      April 10, 2013 / 8:01 pm

      We love to dream don't we! We are limited.. staying in our area! But there's a LOT of new construction and lots of new developments… one day look up "Morden Manitoba"… also Winkler Manitoba. Fun stuff!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      April 11, 2013 / 3:22 am

      Ooo, I will!

    • Jazmyn Strydom
      April 11, 2013 / 2:17 pm

      Those two 'cities' (Winkler is a city.. Morden just became one because they changed the amount of people for a city to be less) have grown SO much!!! The new developments aren't even really on google maps! My development finally is! well my bay.. but most of the houses aren't up on google maps. It's amazing to be able to see the community grow right before your eyes. There's a contractor called 641homes (look it up!) that's who I want to build my next place! But not QUITE so contemporary on the interior.. a bit of eclectic contemporary I think! I really love living in my small community.

  4. Stephanie, Sandpaper and Glue
    April 10, 2013 / 3:33 pm

    I have a strange love for the weird yellow stripe in the bedroom picture. One of the reasons I started reading your blog is because you have a similar plan to us- stay for 5 years and make wise choices, then move to a home with either lots of land or lots of water. Home #2 will have at least one yellow or turquoise ceiling…but for now it's white all the way!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      April 10, 2013 / 4:44 pm

      Me too!! I realized I have pinned at least half a dozen rooms with half painted walls, mid-wall stripes and other fun details on white walls.Our #2 has to have a turquoise ceiling too!! It's so nice to know other people are in the same boat. I hope your plan goes smoothly and you get your dream home 🙂

  5. Jaimie
    April 13, 2013 / 1:20 am

    I understand how you feel about a temporary home. There are a lot of things I'd do to my house if it was going to be "the one", or even just for the next 10-15 years. We are currently in the process of prepping it for moving out sometime this summer and leasing it. It's an interesting perspective to be updating things I'm not going to live with longterm. I find myself much less picky, because I've got no real emotional investment in it anymore. These things may not fit my personal taste precisely, but they'll look nice and should hopefully not turn off potential tenants, while not coming across as completely bland and generic.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      April 13, 2013 / 2:25 am

      Ooo, leasing it out is even trickier: having to pick really durable finishes that can withstand a tenant who may not be the nicest to it. I hope you find a great tenant and have great success leasing it!!I know what you mean about being less picky. I made snap decisions with the bathroom renovations that now I wish I'd thought over more. But I know for the future. For now, it's fresh and new and versatile and that's really what matters most. Thanks for reminding me of a plus!!

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