Remodeling, Cost & Value


Let me get to the point right away.  Remodeling and renovating one’s home is EXPENSIVE.  There’s no way around it.  I could write a dissertation on all the reasons why I think it is so, but I’ll spare you.  From my experience, if the price looks to good to be true, it probably is.  As the weeks and months and years of my business go by, I spend more and more of my time working with my clients, not on the design of their renovation or addition, but on budgeting, managing expectations, comparing bids, re-budgeting, looking for qualified contractors, and getting my clients from design to actual construction.  I try my hardest to be in the know as far as construction costs so that I can effectively manage their expectations at the earliest stage of the project by doing research, talking to contractors, talking to real estate agents, reviewing other past and current construction bids.  The majority of the time I am in the realm of reality with my guesstimates, but occasionally I am too low and shock, awe and some drinking of adult beverages is involved.  More recently I had to inform a prospective client that their two-story addition was going to cost $200,000 and not $100,000.  I hate it.  Hate.

Two things.

First of all, most of us (your design and construction professionals) try really hard to to make the process as easy as possible.  Most of us are not out to get you or rip you off or trick you into spending more money, because in the end, that doesn’t serve anyone.  If you feel like your architect, designer or contractor does not have your best interest at heart, then you need to address it with them.

Second, before you start assembling what I like to call ‘your team’ (architect, contractor, interior designer, landscape designer, etc.), do as much research and pre-planning as you can.

  1. Make a wish list.  Inclusive.  Type it out in a document.  Everything that you’d like to do to the home.  Even if you don’t want to or can’t tackle everything at once.  It will help your professionals map out a Master Plan if necessary.
  2. Make a priority list.  Take your wishlist and create sections A, B, C and so on.  A items are highest priority, B items are second level, etc.  Thinking through your priorities ahead of time will help you later on in the event that your budget is not big enough to cover everything.
  3. Use Houzz, Pinterest and pages torn from magazines to corral all your ideas, things that make you happy.
  4. Ask friends, family, neighbors and co-workers about their remodeling projects and how much they cost.  Talking about money can be prickly, but I haven’t found anyone yet that won’t gush about their latest home improvement project including how much they spent.
  5. Use remodeling’s Cost vs. Value site to look up average construction costs for a range of projects and how much value you can expect to get if you have to sell your house.  This can sometimes help you decide what projects you truly want to tackle because if budget and resale are a concern, you want to make sure you are using your dollars wisely.


Do your homework.  Give yourself plenty of time.  The pre-planning, team assembly, design, and construction almost always takes longer than most of my clients and prospective clients anticipate.  If you’re calling your architect in late March, don’t expect to break ground for an addition on May 1st.  Eh hem.  A much smaller remodel, like an in-place bathroom ‘gut’ renovation, maybe, if you find the right contractor.

hi November (or Govember)

A trip out west, election day and a sick girl.


I always know who she is missing more by who she asks for in the morning.

Today, it was Dad.

Trying to catch up this week.  Making long lists.

creating a perfect home in a not-so-perfect house

Unless you have the money to hire an architect full-time to design and document your custom dream home, you’ll find yourself stuck living in an existing house or picking out a model from a mass-home-builder’s short menu of available plans.   Basically, the majority of us including me live in houses that fall short of meeting our needs (and wants…God, how I’d love to have a mudroom one day!).  Whether those shortcomings have to do with lack of space, a weird layout, an open plan when you like cozy rooms, cozy rooms when you like open plans, small or nonexistent closets, unused rooms and on and on, there are things you can do to make improvements without renting a front-end-loader and knocking the whole house down to start from scratch.

My Clients (R and J) own a modestly sized Sears Catalog styled home. (We’re not sure yet if it is a true Sears home, but the one next door is!)  It is a 3 Bedroom, 2 Bath house with a Living Room (and fireplace), Dining Room and Kitchen as well as an unheated Playroom off the back which was once an enclosed porch.  They have one daughter (M) and one of them works from home full time.  See the existing First Floor plan and Second Floor plan.  They love their home in some ways, but not so much in others.

Here is their wishlist for the First Floor:

  • Open up the wall between the Living Room and Office (front)
  • Take the door going down to the basement and switch it to the other side of the stair in the Office (middle)
  • Open up the stair going upstairs to the Dining Room, adding a railing, balusters and a newel post
  • Expand the Kitchen into the Playroom

Here is their wishlist for the Second Floor:

  • Pop up a dormer in the back of the house and create a Master Suite (Bedroom, Bath & Closets)
  • Maintain a second Second Floor Hall Bath, possibly with a Laundry Area/Room
  • Maximize closets wherever possible

Because they are looking at renovations or changes to both levels of the house, a large package/consultation (7 hours +/-) was needed.  I arrived early (with latte in hand, of course) and the first thing I did was take measurements so that I could get outlines of their existing floor plans down on [graph] paper.  I then sat down with R for a bit to go over their wishlist so that it was fresh in my mind.  I spent the next couple of hours doing some sketches on trace trying to address the items on their list.  I sat down a second time with R to look at the sketches that I had done and get his feedback, talk about any new ideas and make sure I was heading in the right direction.  I did a few additional sketches in response to R’s comments and questions.  I did a quick exterior view of the proposed addition and spent the rest of the time tidying up all the sketches and reviewing them with R.

Continue reading “creating a perfect home in a not-so-perfect house”

making space for the good

I just LOVED this article written by the amazingly brilliant Danielle LaPorte on The Huffington Post.

How to Make Space for Quality to Show Up in Your Life

“Letting go makes way for something closer to your truth… which is always more beautiful. Always.”

I truly believe this because I’ve seen it happen in my own life and in the lives of people around me.  Whether it’s a chair, an entire house, a job, a relationship or a bad pair of pants you’ve got to let go and make room for better things to come.

Read this.  And then read it again.  (And then maybe go donate some stuff that you haven’t used in awhile!)



plan now! for a home (or work) renovation project in 2013

With the holiday season upon us, no one really wants to think about 2013 yet.  But if you are thinking about about a project in the new year to refresh your space (renovation, addition, redecorating, etc.) the earlier you start planning the better.

*If you spend some time getting clear on your goals and your budget, your project, big or tiny will go smoother.

*Also, the good contractors out there fill up their spring and summer schedules pretty quickly, even in our current economy, so the earlier you get in touch with them the better the chance you’ll get the work done at your convenience.

*Even if you just want to get one room painted, do the leg work now (picking colors, getting samples, making up your to-do and supplies lists) and as it starts to get a little bit warmer you can take advantage of the spring sales and get everything you need at a discount.

*Right now the big box stores are crowded with people buying their Christmas trees and life-size blow-up snow globes for their lawn.  But right after the holidays they will be empty and that is the perfect time to start pricing and sourcing materials, asking questions of the staff if you are planning on doing a DIY project and simply just getting educated about your project whatever it may be.

Check out my SMALL, MEDIUM and LARGE design packages for various size renovations.  These can help get you on the right track by giving you an idea of what is POSSIBLE and then also what you can AFFORD.

Ask me about custom designed packages for everything from a large addition to a one-room (re)decorating project.  Drop me a line here.


home design packages

If you want some help with a renovation or addition project at home but are either intimidated by the idea of hiring an architect or designer or think that you can’t afford to, check out my home design packages available in S, M and L sizes for different project sizes.  They are budget friendly and full of design goodness and value.

Click here for more info.  And email me if you have any questions.  I can also custom design a package just for you.

the weekend 12.06.03

our weekend

top: lots of playing outside enjoying the weather

middle: finally starting our very small garden, it’s about all I can tackle right now

bottom: there was some pool time today, despite it still being in the 70’s here, K didn’t care

Is it wood or tile? Walker Zanger Nature Collection

I love the look of this new tile from Walker Zanger.  Yes, it’s tile, “made with state of the art glazing technology”, creating an antique wood floor look but with the durability of tile.  I think I like the grey the best.  I’d love to see it in a mudroom at home.  Or in an office located in an old building or warehouse to bring in a bit of vintage feel to the space.

Any takers?

To see it close up, go to Walker Zanger and click on New Products.

(photo credit: Walker Zanger)


buy and renovate to get your ideal home

I don’t know if it’s a buyers’ market or not, but every time I turn around another house goes up for sale in my area.  Consider yourself lucky if you find ‘the perfect home’ out there.  Most times in some way, small or big, a home whether brand spankin new or historically old will fall short of meeting ALL your needs or wants.  But with all the inventory of houses for sale, prices are good which means you can buy something in the ballpark of ‘perfect’ and spend some cash to renovate it and bring it up a notch.  If you are looking to buy AND RENOVATE a home take a look at my home-buyer packages which can help you discover the HIDDEN POTENTIAL of a house/property and also determine if the improvements you want to make are FEASIBLE, BUDGET FRIENDLY AND MARKET SUSTAINABLE.

The packages are designed to be quick, painless (aka user friendly) and affordable.  I can also custom design a package for you.  And I’m always happy to coordinate with your real estate agent and/or general contractor.  Drop me a line.

You can check out a home-buyer session I did for a local lakefront property to get a better of idea of the process.

Happy Hunting!


Order Antabuse