Mary’s Rules of Renovation

In 2010, while working at Gunkelmans, I wrote a blog entry about dealing with a renovation. Here it is again… my “rules” still apply in 2012…


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I’ve created a set of remodeling guidelines to help you with a remodel as small as a bathroom to gutting a three story home.

1. Establish an “Idea” File

The minute you have merely the thought of changing your kitchen or tearing down a wall to create one wonderful space between the living and dining room, begin collecting ideas from your favorite magazines and blogs. I appreciate when a client hands me a sheath of pages at our initial meeting. Circle the specific object you like or write directly on the page…”love this color…Master Bedroom”? Let your imagination fly; there IS a connection in all those torn out pages!  Your designer will help you to see it.

2. Assemble a Team

Peruse your local magazines and newspapers to see current work by local architects, builders and interior designers.  Go on tours; this can help you see updated concepts and learn about local talent.  Probably the most important source of talent is to ask for referrals from people you trust and admire.  There is nothing better than good words about good work.

Regarding a team approach, many of us feel we are losing control over a space when consulting with a design professional.  I see it as a logical and exciting concept!   Consider the advice given often to business managers to try and hire talented people more skilled at certain tasks than they are themselves; this is valuable when tackling your renovation.   Good design professionals will listen well and help you achieve your vision, and have fun along the way!


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3. Manage the Budget

It’s okay to make compromises in order to think about a completely finished space when you are projecting your bottom line. In addition to budgeting the new wall, plumbing fixtures and paint, be sure to include a portion for furnishings and art. It is discouraging to have beautiful “bones” and no chair to sit on or lamp to light the newspaper you are trying to read. Having said this, I will also advise to invest in something special.  It may be a piece of art that makes you tingle; it may be beautiful slabs of marble running up an entire fireplace wall soaring to the ceiling.  It will cause a stir in you every time you walk into your home.

4. Move Out

When one is completely demolishing the daily routine, confusion ensues day after day after day.  Many of my clients who have spent this time in a rented space speak of it as a very “freeing” and special time.   A simple time and a little peace in the midst of chaos.

A successful renovation is such a wonderful feeling!   Your daily life is affected in a beautiful way.  Now that is a worthy accomplishment for 2012!

My best,


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