The transformation of a house into a home is a wonderful, fulfilling journey I feel honored to facilitate in the lives of my clients. And yet, I have so much compassion for those embarking on a renovation for the first time. I never want to discolor the hopes and dreams of anyone’s project by explaining how difficult the process might be at times.
Construction and design are industries that rely heavily on the cooperation of others. We are at the mercy of the supply chain, of schedules, of budgets… so many moving parts. Though these unknowns can feel daunting, it is no reason not to improve things. After all, that’s how we are wired as humans: we want to make things better.
We are celebrating twenty years in business this April at LMB Interiors. In this month’s column, I’m sharing my sage advice for those beginning to approach a home project.
Ask Questions: Whether for your established home or a new purchase, it cannot be overstated that the time spent interviewing, vetting, and selecting your team should be done with thoughtful intention. When the going gets tough, you want to understand who and how someone will be under high pressure, and trust they will maintain the momentum.
Find out how delays are dealt with, preferred methods and frequency of communication, and how scope creep or scope change is handled. Ask how they handle vendors when work quality is below their standards–or yours! Then listen. If you pay attention, you can quickly discern if you’re in the company of a team player or someone operating from ego. Look out for stories that reflect defensiveness. Trust you’ll be in good hands when interacting with someone who has spent time self-reflecting and taking responsibility for their mistakes.
Temper Expectations: You may be stepping in with optimism regarding timelines, unaware of how decimated the supply chain remains due to the pandemic. Good vendors are in high demand, and this is true across the board with professionals in all home industries. If you’re planning a remodel in 2023 and desire custom, high-quality work, it’s not too soon to start your search now.
Prioritize Team Work: Construction is not linear, and there is no right or wrong way to launch it. If there is a vendor you already trust—whether an architect, designer, landscape architect, or contractor—start there. Ask them who they have successful, long-term relationships with. Chances are they’ve stuck together because they have each other’s backs, and are united in service to their clients.
We recently completed a large-scale project in Piedmont. After going through a San Francisco home remodel fraught with problems, these homeowners were savvy enough to be thoughtful when approaching their Piedmont forever home. Hours were spent interviewing. Their one requirement was that the contractor and designer needed to have worked together previously. Symbiotic project management was essential, and we were able to offer that as a team alongside contractors Mark Bohon and Kristofer Brekke, who we’d worked alongside on a home in Sea Cliff. Even with these ideal conditions, the project began in the Spring of 2020 and rolled into the end of Summer 2021. (Reach out to LMB Interiors to be connected to Kristofer and Mark.)
Understand Budget: It is crucial to anticipate how your budget will come together. It makes sense to want to know how much your vision will cost. However, this is impossible to accurately predict without a one to two-month discovery phase, during which dreams are communicated, plans get put on paper, and materials are selected. Only then does budgeting begin. Without a clear understanding of exactly what is being built, a team can only guess based on experience. Budgets vary greatly depending on the quality of finishes and design, and the level of craftsmanship you desire.
If you are lucky enough to be embarking on a remodel soon, I leave you with this final piece of advice: approach it with open-mindedness and flexibility. Sometimes, unexpected things happen and pivoting is required. If you prepare yourself, you’ll be in for a fun story and a grand adventure after it all. Great stories are what create connection with our home and our community, and isn’t that what it’s all about?
A version of this article appeared in the Piedmont Post