Just Bought a Fixer-Upper? Feeling Lost?

We understand.  We get lots of calls from homeowners eager for us to solve this very problem. It’s overwhelming, but we’re going to break it down into some simple steps to guide you on your way.

You Can’t Knock Down Every Wall

Not every project is a full gut.
Not every project is a full gut.

You bought the property because you saw potential (or someone convinced you there was), and now you look at every wall as an opportunity to take a sledgehammer to sheetrock.

I understand the sense of urgency, wanting to get it done before you move in or shortly after, but this is the wrong approach and all your efforts will get short-changed. It’s wonderful that you can begin to visualize the changes and are thinking about how to best use the space, but you’re getting a bit ahead of yourself. You need a plan to move forward.

A few weeks back, I received a call from a prospective client. It went something like this:

“We would like to redesign our dining room by removing the wall to the kitchen, finish our basement with lounge area and laundry, add a walk-in closet in our bedroom, paint all the rooms, and design two living rooms, starting next month if possible.”

“Taking a wall down” is  to 2017 what an “accent wall” was to early 2000’s era Trading Spaces.

Yes, there might be some walls that ultimately change, but let’s think about the big picture first and be sure all the scenarios are well-considered. We loosely refer to  this as “design”!

It’s Not as Bad as You Think

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I think our imaginations get the best of us. I like to tell clients to dream instead about the features they would like rather than how it will be assembled in the end. After all, would you put as much thought into which scalpel the surgeon uses during your appendectomy? Or do you focus rather on how the procedure accomplishes a healthy outcome with minimal scarring and long-lasting health?

Their medical colleagues aside, I wonder if surgeons find themselves in that metaphorical situation!

You Need A Plan

Need a Plan

We throw a great deal of our efforts into the early planning and design phases of renovation projects. It’s much less expensive to change a detail or catch an oversight on paper than it is in the field.

As early as our initial client consultation, we are unearthing and gathering as much information as possible about the needs for the space. And the detailed plans become the valuable blueprint for moving forward. No stone is left unturned.

As a result, our presentations are rather eye-opening and they are so well thought out and organized, there’s no question what the end result will be.

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You Need a First-Rate Builder

Get a First-Rate Builder

Back to the surgeon analogy, would you seek out a second-rate doctor for a consultation let alone for a routine procedure or surgery? And trust me, I wouldn’t let my doctors anywhere near a hammer and nail.

“The success of our projects depends on the Client-Designer-Builder synergy. This is such an important component.”

We refer to and work with only the most skilled and highly respected builders, general contractors and trades in our field. We engage with professionals that speak our language and are able to translate the beautiful designs we dream up into the physical reality.

Anything less invariably leads to poor results, unhappy clients and is a failure to fulfill on our promise.

Expect to Pay (But to Get More Than You Pay For)

Platemark Interior Design Commonwealth Avenue Upholstered Bench

Can you relate to this? We can’t help but ruminate over the price of something before we buy it – new shoes, a suit, luxury car and of course the asking price of a home purchase. But we don’t buy it because of what it costs.

Let that sink in.

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Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute

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We receive a lot of calls like this too:

“We’re trying to finish up our renovation— which is taking forever — and our contractor is telling us we need to pick out paint colors and tile and fixtures and — “


I know this is obvious to me but maybe not to everyone so I’ll explain my frustration here. Scroll back up and remember when I was discussing the planning aspect of what we do? It’s important and I’m not a psychic but I can usually predict the future.

Without professional help, here’s what always happens next:

  • Scramble on weekends for in-stock tile that may not be appropriate for the application or has to be installed with unsightly corner conditions, crooked cuts or not at all because it won’t be there in time.
  • Panic about paint colors and just pick a beige and be done with it.
  • Oops, they painted the wrong sheen on the molding, oh well.
  • Buy some faucets or fixtures that seem perfect and were actually in stock, then they arrive damaged or missing a part — a common scenario, but when you’re planning ahead, it’s a cinch to handle.
  • Or worse, add duct tape to the problem …
Door Gone Wrong
Great solution … ugh

Delay, Delay, Delay

Craig Tevolitz Holding Butch

Every project needs a project plan. I find the reason for most delays is because we are anxious to get started, everyone dives in and then miss an unanticipated detail that pushes out the schedule.

That could be a late part or fixture, which delays a sub trade and becomes a cascading effect with other trades.

If possible, we avoid commencing a project until:

  1. The builder and all their trades understand the design. If I arrive to a job site and one of the leading trades that day has not studied (or, oh god) not read my drawings, a failure point has just been identified. The positive side of me says we just avoided real mistakes from happening.
  2. All fixtures, tile, flooring, lighting and cabinetry are approved by suppliers and the builder has reviewed them all for suitability. We aim to purchase all of this well in advance.
  3. The builder has pulled all the necessary permits and the client has gained approval from condominium boards, neighborhood associations, etc. Everyone forgets that one!
  4. Most importantly, the client is on board, aware of — and has approved — all the design details.

Hire a Professional – You Get Professional Results

We run a tight ship! We can’t guarantee there won’t be problems but it’s our job to manage them when they occur.

I always ask new married clients if they hired a wedding planner. I’m usually just curious. We didn’t have a planner at our wedding and it was under 30 people and the venue was our (newly renovated, ha!) condominium. Much larger a wedding, I could imagine losing my mind, keeping all the plates spinning, anticipating what a planner would know in a second that would take me hours or days to navigate what to do and not to do.

Plus being clever and creative and resourceful and on time.

We’ve anticipated all the bumps, it’s our job to know when — not if — they happen, because they always do. Anticipating a pie in the face gives you time to duck. And what a different outcome!

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