HGTV & Me

I'm the first to admit, I've wasted away some perfectly fine Saturday afternoons plugged into my favorite TV shows, "Flip or Flop", "Property Brothers", "Fixer Upper", and my latest new obsession, Nate Berkus' new show, "Married to Design".

However, when they get to the important part of the show where they discuss budget I start yelling at the TV.  I imagine all the producers sitting around a room somewhere saying things like ''well, we know that project that Joanna did this past week for Fixer Upper was really a $100,000 project, but if we tell our audience that it will seem out of touch to our dreamer audience who thinks they can make this happen for $30,000, so lets just go with that. It's a nice, friendly number.  Oh, and leave off the part that mentions not a stick of the furniture, lighting, artwork or accessories are included in this number, ok?"  (Insert visual of me here yanking at my hair and mumbling under my breath.)

Unfortunately, most of my current clients and future clients are probably glued to the same HGTV shows.  Remember, and this is key, they are selling imagination and possibility. And it's just that. Sure, I'd like to tell my clients they could have their entire house redesigned in under 5 weeks and for around $30,000.  I'd like to tell them, as a bonus, I will even paint the exterior of the house and throw that in the furniture and a newly planted garden.  (You know who you are, Joanna.)  Probably the biggest offender are the cutie pie Property Brothers.  There is just no way I am going to send you away for a couple of weeks and you will come back to an entirely new house, completely furnished and decked out with all new accessories and artwork.  Ta Da! 

The great news is that it IS possible to recreate all these looks that you've seen and dreamed about, it's just going to cost you more than you think.  For instance, a recent Property Brothers episode listed the cost of an entire first floor, complete with new kitchen and all furnishings & accessories for $32,000.  That number would maybe cover the kitchen remodel.  Most likely it will come in around $40,000, after new appliances, flooring, etc.   About 50% of the cost will be in labor.  Labor means the plumbers, electricians, the contractors and of course the painters. And remember, you won't be able to have the Brothers do your work, so you need to find a good contractor.  He (or she!) should be someone who comes recommended, not someone you find randomly on Craig's List.  They should have references, or better yet, be referred by someone like me who has worked with many of these people. 

I am also aware that most people don't have disposable income available for these projects and will likely use a home equity loan to do them, and that's perfectly fine.  You can call your bank and they will walk you through the process.  Most contractors are paid in a 'draw' fashion, which means they will give you a bill every few weeks as the job progresses.  This keeps your finances manageable and insures the contractor and his crews will be paid on time.  As for my role, I also bill every few weeks and will keep my clients aware of time lines for selections, such as appliances, lighting, paint & furniture.  I also am frequently on site during construction assuring that all is well. 

So, yes, the HGTV shows are totally fibbing when it comes to real budgets. But, if you're savvy about the process and let me guide you, you can certainly find ways to make it happen to fit within your budget. Always remember, as my brother in law once said, 'Good things aren't cheap.  Cheap things aren't good."

When to Hire an Interior Designer

The role Interior designers play is often an underrated one. On the surface we appear to be merely home decorators, and since most people are capable of decorating their own home our services are often overlooked. But what we actually are, are visual planners and most importantly, expert listeners. Highly skilled in envisioning the spacial layout of a house or room and custom fitting it by taking the time to understand your thought process and lifestyle. 

Any design process requires a holistic approach for it to be most effective for you. Most architectural firms today enlist the help of interior designers at the beginning of any project because they understand that while they are experts in designing the foundational structure, they rely on the interior designers' skills to design the interior spaces to the highest level of comfort and aesthetic quality.  

Visually planning a space may seem simple, but beyond the vast number of choices available for something as simple as choosing a lighting fixture, there are also countless considerations, both minor and major, that are often overlooked that usually end up costing much more in re-designs. Working with a designer who has a deep understanding of how the entire architectural/renovation/remodel/buildprocess works, what products to choose and source is not only cost effective, it is a huge time saver for you.

Building a home or renovating can be an exciting, but daunting task. After you have chosen an architect and have blueprints in hand, its actually up to you to visualize what all the flat boxes, symbols and numbers mean.  For many, it's almost impossible to visualize the flat plans in living 3 D.  An architect will generate Computer Aided Drawings (CAD), but its still up to you to retrofit your lifestyle into the new spaces. This is where designers come in - helping you navigate, room by room, asking questions about how you intend to use the spaces so we can bring your aesthetic preferences to life: 

Do you entertain?
Do you love to cook?  
Do your kids have special hobbies?  
Will your family be growing soon?
Do you plan to have overnight guests? 

All the things you maybe just haven't considered, or are unsure of how to incorporate into a design. It is so crucial to think those things through before any plan is in process or walls are built in an effort to avoid the dreaded "Change Order". 

I often meet with people who have spent months, and even sometimes years, trying to piece together a renovation or remodel project on their own, only to be sidelined by the confusing (and costly) bits and pieces. 

A great example would be my clients who, after spending a full year building their home, consulting with me to assist with some "mistakes" that were made during the build. None of their furniture fit the spaces, rooms didn't function well, windows were too large and even switches and outlets were in the wrong places! We were able to fix just about everything, but it was quite costly, and could have been easily avoided. This is why hiring a designer during the architecture or planning phase is so critical. 

A good interior designer will prove their worth not just in cost and time savings, but more importantly as a trusted consultant who can effectively translate your vision into a reality that exceeds your expectations. Choosing a designer with whom you have a good rapport is key - it's important to find someone who you can be open and honest with and who also has an even temperament.  You may not realize it now, but you will need someone who is good at solving problems and not easily ruffled when a crisis appears.  (And count on it, there will be fires to put out!). Whether it's a simple room re-decoration or an entire home renovation, an interior designer will always be a valuable asset.