January 2, 2020

Read This Before You Renovate

Is a renovation or new addition in your home's future? There are some unique issues to consider when planning construction. Here's what you need to think about.

With the holiday decorations put away, and a fresh new year stretching ahead of us, it’s natural to think about changes you might want to make to your home. Sometimes, these are relatively small alterations, like realizing your living room could really use a fresh coat of paint. In other cases, it may hit you that it might finally be time for that big renovation you’ve been thinking about in the back of your mind. Maybe your family has grown, your needs have changed, your style has evolved, or your finances are finally at a place where you can seriously start planning what you’ve been dreaming. Whatever the reason, before you jump in, there are some things to consider.

Think About Your Needs

Before you start bringing in professionals, think long and hard about what your needs are. Have honest conversations about what’s important in your home’s function and feel with your partner or other family members who will be affected. If there’s a problem you’re trying to solve, be clear about that. Two years ago, my family and I needed more space. We loved our home and always assumed that when the time came, we would put on an addition. It’s a good thing we didn’t start knocking down walls right away because once we started digging into the rules and regulations, we learned some things that had us second-guessing our plans. We even got as far as working an architect to draw up some plans, but when we weighed the cost of what we could get, we ultimately decided to move. We were able to get more space for our buck and still stay in an area we loved. Are you sure renovation is the right path? Putting this level of thought in before you get too far down the road also helps you articulate your desires to your designer and architect. If you’ve been following along, you know I’m a big proponent of gathering images that capture your vision. This is yet another instance where it will help you communicate what you’re trying to achieve.

Be Realistic About the Impact

You’ll also want to be pragmatic about the effects of the project. The obvious one is budget, of course. Money discussions are critical to have early on because sometimes your budget and scope don’t always align. If this is the case, it’s better to know earlier than later so you can prioritize your list. In some cases, you might decide to put off certain items for later. This feels a lot better than jumping in fast and then having to make compromises on the fly. (Although you will probably still have to do that with some things no matter what.) It’s also essential to think about your personal threshold for mess and stress. Do you want to live in your home during the construction, or does it make more sense to move out for a bit? There are ways, such as creating a temporary kitchen, to set yourself up to be somewhat comfortable during a big project like this, but there’s no avoiding the dust, noise, and people coming and an out all day long. The scope of the project will be a major factor in this decision. Many of us can handle inconvenience and irritation for a finite amount of time, but when the weeks stretch into months, it may be a different story.

Get Everyone On Board

At the beginning of the project, I really like to get the whole team together. It’s a great chance to meet face-to-face, speak about everyone’s roles, and establish a schedule. Working from the same timeline gives us all a chance to identify potential problems, and work out some of those kinks on the backend. Open communication and clear expectations go a long way in reducing headaches down the road. Transparent delineation of authority clears up any confusion about who is responsible for making certain decisions and who needs answer a particular question when group emails are flying back and forth.

Be Thoughtful About Style

When we are working with our clients on a major renovation, they often say to us, “This is the style of our house, but our personal style is different.” I believe we don’t need to box ourselves into one look. My favorite layered, unique designs blend elements of a variety of styles. That being said, you do have to be very thoughtful about how you approach it. This is where a designer’s expertise comes into play. One way to achieve this in a respectful way is to keep the original architecture, and then as you transition into the space, go a bit more modern with the finishes. Kitchens and baths are two spaces where it makes the most sense to update because people are generally looking for a clean feeling and up-to-date materials there.

Allow Space for Emotions

Finally, I think it’s valuable to recognize that even the most necessary and longed for improvements can have some surprising feelings wrapped up in it. Give yourself permission to feel whatever comes up and see if there are ways to honor the momentous changes. Sometimes people want to keep little mementos from the home or historic bits that are uncovered. Could you make hooks out of hand-cut nails or reuse an original material, such as brick, in a new way? Do you want to save or maybe even frame a scrap of crazy wallpaper you discovered? In one case, we had everyone sign the walls before they got covered back up. Be sure to take photos that capture the before, during, and after. In the blur of a renovation, especially when things start to move more quickly, it’s easy to forget some of what is was like. To sum up, I’ve helped clients through countless renovations, and these are the things that are sometimes forgotten or surprise people who haven’t tackled a project of this scale before. I hope if you are considering renovating your home, these tips will help it be a smoother process for you, and you end up a with a final product you adore.

Until next time,

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