The Paradox of Choice

I imagine that after this project is finished I’ll be out on a date, and I’ll say “I know we barely know each other, but can you order for me?” Maybe dinner isn’t such a big deal, but a lot of the decisions I’ve made this year have been really exhausting!
In case you were wondering, this post’s title is the same as a book (available here) about how bad for us it is to have too many options. I didn’t read this book, but in high school we read a review of it from the newspaper.

The first time that I really, really burned out on choosing things was after doing a walk through with the electrician. We discussed where every light, switch, and outlet in the entire house would go, and then he asked me to pick up the bathroom exhaust fan for him. I knew from childhood experience that Panasonic exhaust fans were way better than the Home Depot grade ones that we once had (they were loud and broke quickly) and that I wouldn’t regret having anything else. But when I went to find which model I wanted I was confronted with a list of names that filled me with rage. They had the WhisperCeiling, WhisperWall, WhisperFit, WhisperSmart, WhisperGreen, WhisperLight… you get the idea. Those are all real. All I wanted was an exhaust fan! Finally I figured out that the WhisperCeiling would do the job and that was the end of it.

Even worse than this is picking out windows. When it came time to figure out which ones were best, I asked the Internet, and I learned that every brand I looked into was both the best in the world and a piece of crap that’s only good for firewood. Luckily for me, the first two windows to go in were a Craigslist find so I didn’t have to choose the brand, but I’ve decided that they’re so wonderful I’ll stick with them everywhere else. Mine are Marvins. They’re great windows. Some say they’re the best; some don’t. I’m over it.

More complicated than this is the back wall of the kitchen. I decided that the whole house would be brighter and prettier with a patio door there, and that it would improve the layout of the kitchen. The size is kind of set; I want it 8 feet tall to match the windows, and 5 feet wide so that there’s room for cabinets on both sides of the 10-foot room. But what of the style? It has to slide; the room is too small for a swinging door. But should I get decorative mullions to try to make it look as traditional as possible in my old house? Or would I prefer a more modern look that would fit with the kitchen cabinets and (non-inherited) furniture I’ll eventually have? Do I want the wood frames skinny to maximize glass area, or thicker and more substantial looking? These drawings show what the frame thickness would change. I took these elevations from PDF’s on Marvin’s web site. These are the width I’d get, but mine would be a good bit taller; not exactly committed to this brand yet either, but most of them are similar. You get the idea anyway.

Marvin patio door elevations.

As far as brands go, I haven’t priced a Marvin patio door yet but the internet says they’re really expensive. But then, the details like screen doors that don’t fall of the track and really clean lines from all the weatherstripping being hidden in a wood frame matter to me, more than they should.

My mom, being very much a fan of traditionally styled things, was emphatic that I wanted decorative muntins on my windows. I’ve started leaning away from them. But then my dad said that if I get the simulated divided light grilles, which permanently attach something on the inside and outside, it could even deter burglars. That idea swayed me for a little while. If I did it, it would look like two of this (from their kitchen) except taller. Higher than their ceiling actually.


In the end, I’m leaning toward the chunky frames and single panes of glass, no grilles. But I’ll stick with the Craftsman style casing that came with the house and keep that throughout the first floor. Here’s a sophisticated architectural rendering that shows the before and the after in the same view. It makes me really, really want these doors right away. Good thing this project is taking so long – I have an extra year’s savings to dump into the place now.

patio door rendering


9 thoughts on “The Paradox of Choice

  1. Mary Elizabeth

    Hi, Chad,

    That patio door in the kitchen will really make the place look great and provide a lot of light.

    I’m with you–thicker frames and no fake pane dividers. I don’t think the style will compete with the Arts and Crafts look of your woodwork but will enhance it. Not sure what your dad means about deterring burglars with fake grills. Does he think the glass will be harder to break? Ask the manufacturer about that. But from what you’ve said about the neighborhood, I think a burglar alarm system and its accompanying warning sticker on the back slider will help more than anything.

    As far as the brand is concerned, my husband and I put in all Anderson windows in the old place and our new place came with new Marvins and two older Anderson crank-out windows. They are all good quality, but when we put on our new addition, we found the Marvins were a little cheaper for the same thing. I do highly recommend the quality of them, and they are made in the USA, which is important to us. If you install them yourself, be aware that the sliders are adjustable so that they operate smoothly.

    I know what you mean about choices being stressful. We’ve been doing this longer than you’ve been alive, and each time we do a major renovation project we get a little stressed with the choices, of which there are more and more each year. Standard height toilet or ergo height toilet? Round bowl or elongated? Oh, and in which direction is the slider going to slide? Sheesh! And you haven’t even chosen your room colors, have you?

    Onward and upward!


    1. Chad's Crooked House Post author

      I know which way the slider will slide. Either on the left where people coming in and out will bump into whoever is standing in front of the stove, or on the right where the dishwasher will block it when it’s opened. I think the latter is the obvious choice. Luckily the toilet that came with the house is usable so I don’t have to make those choices. I was all over the place about tile, though, until Craigslist rescued me with a bargain I jumped on. It’s definitely going in a different direction than the black radius bullnose I would have used before though. And if I had pane dividers it would be the simulated divided light ones, which at least don’t look fake. I just think that I’d do that and it’s still a sliding patio door. It’s not period appropriate, so why try to make it look like it is? I think matching the existing trim will look good with a kinda modern looking one though.


    1. Chad's Crooked House Post author

      Yeah, that’s the plan. In the end, I think the hefty look of the “French” slider (I think the name is silly though) is worth a small reduction in glass area, and that without the decorative muntins it will look good with everything.


  2. Eights&Sevens

    So much to think about – love the whisper fans experience. I mean who comes up with this stuff. The main thing to remember is that you won’t get everything perfect, but you’ll have a perfect imperfect home in the end!


    1. Chad's Crooked House Post author

      Yes, I think of GW Bush’s quote, “I’m the decider. I decide things.” I guess I could say the same about myself, but even if I make a choice that’s irrevocably, stupidly bad, it won’t be as bad as the Iraq war!


    1. Chad's Crooked House Post author

      Well my front door’s handle is beat up, so I was already planning on replacing it after all the contractors are done. At this point they all have keys, and there was a revolving door of tenants before I owned it, so I figured changing the locks at the end made sense. I prefer analog to digital for just about everything, but I’ll keep this in mind when the time comes!



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