Five Things To Do Before Starting A Home Remodel

// 4 min read // Illustration by Abstract Memento

Tomorrow I start my 5th renovation and it has gotten me thinking about the process and how far I had come from my first intern days where my then boss just threw me into the deep end for me to figure it out. While I enjoyed the challenge, I think its best to provide a bit of guidance from an architectural designer’s point of view to those embarking a stressful yet exciting and remarkable journey to making your home space even better.

Search local building codes or find someone to do it for you

It is never a bad idea to investigate what are some of the design guidelines and zoning limits that your property may have to prevent disappointment through the process. If being a designer (and even more a home designer) has taught me anything is that people are more creative than they give themselves credit for and they pay too much attention to trends. Understanding the limits you need to work with early on is crucial to avoid wasting time with impossible ideas that will slow down the process.

Have a clear idea of what you want

After knowing the limits — go crazy. Don’t think about cost or feasibility. If you did the first step the understanding of feasibility is embedded in your evaluation of choices. Enjoy the process of fantasying, do some local widow shopping at furniture stores, stay at different hotels if you can afford it to get ideas on lighting and layout, and explore your surroundings architecturally as much as possible. Start a Pinterest board, or mood board, or cutting pages out of your favorite magazines. Whatever methods resonate with you, indulge in them to enrich yourself with visual data. Remember be honest with yourself and identify what you really, really really want. Focus on circulation, ease of use, comfort, practicality, conduciveness to relaxation and productivity, and beauty. Forget about trends and what other people like and just focus on how you would make your space better for yourself and loved ones (if applicable).

Have a clear idea of budget

Ron, one of my favorite General Contractors/Builder I have ever worked with, always says “Anything is possible if you have money” — and that is absolutely true. That being said, knowing exactly how much you have to spend is key because anything can be done to fit your budget if you plan ahead. That is why step 2 is so important. Indecisiveness or lack of preparation through the actual building phase can be very costly, time wasting and frustrating for subcontractors who might loose a day of work because of a seemingly random quick change. So, I take Ron’s words and reframe them this way from my experience as a designer, “Everything can be done to fit the budget, if it’s considered holistically from the beginning”.

Keep looking until you find professionals invested in your goals

Designers and contractors come in all shapes and sizes — make sure you find a team that is compatible with the goals you have set for the project. Renovations rarely go 100% as initially planned. There are a lot of surprises to be found tucked in walls, attics, and floorboards. There can be soils reports that cause issues, and even flooding plains you didn’t even know existed. Things will happen that nobody expects, but if you have the right team and you all have a great designer/owner/builder relationship — everything is going to be an upbeat journey of creative problem solving and making sure you dreams come true. Don’t settle and pay accordingly.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Some of my favorite interactions with clients is explaining architectural concepts to an owner who is curious and wants to understand decisions made. Likewise, when the Builder takes the time to explain why a detail needs to change or how a certain item doesn’t work as drawn for myself and the owner to understand. The ability to have open dialogue is key, and very related to the fourth step of this list. Still, I insist that regardless of your relationship level with your builder or designer, always ask questions. Ask why, ask how, ask when, ask where, and ask them to draw it for you/show it until you get it. The more you understand what is going on the more you will be able to make more informed decisions about your house on the fly as surprise issues and impromptu moments of decisions come your way.

If you do these five things your journey through home renovation will be a more efficient, exciting, and rewarding experience.

5 Reasons You Should Book a Staycation Immediately

I promise it is not a waste of money.

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I got a new job! My husband and I were extremely excited. But how to celebrate? I had wanted to go to Chicago, but who could doggy sit? Did we want to go through the trouble/exposure of flights for two or three days? No… Ok. So what to do? “Why don’t we just stay here? In Denver? At an awesome hotel that is beautiful and pet friendly?” he asked. To be honest, I was a bit against it. I thought it to be a waste of money — we already live downtown! My husband promised me that it was going to be relaxing and fun — apparently this was something he often did with his mother and siblings! I trusted him and went with it. This is what I learned.

Your city as a resident is not the same as your city in “vacation mode”

Key elements here is to really cater your experience. I wanted a nice tub to do a “spa day”, so when we searched for a room we made sure it had this feature. Whatever matters to you — indoor pool, gym, living room area, tub, a nice shower, an incredible view, a desirable location, amazing room service— whatever it is make sure it is a treat and something you don’t get to usually experience. Once the day arrives make sure you get in “vacation mode”. Relax. I promise you will see your city in a completely different way than what you see as a resident. At least for me, it helped me appreciate where I live a lot more.

You don’t have to worry about “seeing it all”, and focus on things you’ve never had time to do

Sometimes when we travel to new places we are so worried with fulfilling the touristic list that it can be more stressful than relaxing. How many times have you been in vacation and need a vacation from your vacation? Staycations are all the relaxing and zero the worry. Bring your easel and paint set you got for Christmas and never actually used. Finish that 1000 piece puzzle you want to glue and frame, finish that book with the cup of wine next to a window like your dreamt of — in essence, use this staycation to really indulge in the things you’ve been putting off because when you are home you are either working, homeschooling, cleaning, doing laundry, washing dishes and beating yourself up for not learning Spanish and doing yoga every morning like you promised.

Not having to do chores for a couple of days can be incredibly rejuvenating

I am a very happy wife and I love keeping my house beautiful and clean — specially since I have such a collaborative and engaging partner that helps me achieve it! But not having to do any chores was incredibly relaxing and exciting. It was a weekend of garbage T.V, delicious food and snacks that we bought at the nearest grocery store, and of course — our Spa-Day. The lack of worry of the keep up, while simultaneously being surrounded by an impeccably clean and empty space that I didn’t have to worry about the upkeep — was an incredibly freeing and consequently relaxing experience that left me rejuvenated.

Exposure to new architecture, new styles and creature comforts

As an architectural designer and aspiring architect, I am very cognizant of the spaces around me and the effect they have on myself and others. Even if you are not aware of such things to the same degree, you are definitely affected by it. Being surrounded by new environments can be incredibly stimulating for your brain and senses. The more high end the hotel you stay at (within budget, of course) the more new state of the art creature comforts like lighting design, innovative bathroom layout and technological features are included. Being surrounded by such a curated experience can inspire you to re-design parts of your home and give you a boost of motivation for the upcoming spring cleaning.

A strong motivator

My husband and I had been struggling for a year to find a new place to live. We love our apartment layout but hate the amount of natural light that comes in and the lack of amenities within our community. We had no idea what the next step would be, or what exactly was it that we were looking for and so were set on just renovating our lease. After experiencing a high-rise room, amazing amenities and gorgeous views — we have a better idea of what our next apartment will be, and we are motivated and focused on the kind of experience we want going forward. If you already have your home, staycation can motivate you and your partner to appropriate certain parts of the house that are unused, give you stylistic ideas, or really clarify what you want for your upcoming renovation.

Overall staycations may seem like a waste of money that can be best used for new stuff or even a vacation further away to unknown territories. A couple of weeks before I would have agreed with you wholeheartedly. After going through the experience and really enjoying how I feel after the fact — relaxed, rejuvenated, and inspired, I cannot recommend it enough. Often we explore the places we live in the least because we are trapped in the daily grind of life and we assume we know everything about it because of it. Take the opportunity to contribute and stimulate your local economy and really look at your city in a new light. Most importantly make sure you check-in with your “vacation mode” on. I promise you won’t regret it.


Originally posted on Medium.