7 Simple Questions That Make a HUGE Difference In the Outcome Of Your Design Project

7 Simple Questions That Make a HUGE Difference In the Outcome Of Your Design Project

When you first make the decision to start a renovation project, build a new house, or even a simple home makeover, you undoubtedly have a lot of questions.  Maybe you’re overwhelmed with all of the choices out there in the marketplace.  Or maybe you’re not sure about who to hire to do the job.

One of the first things that you absolutely MUST do before your start is “Begin with the end in mind” (to quote Stephen Covey).  Whether you’re planning a counter top remodel or a new house, it’s important to know the outcome and quality you expect.  When you know this, you can now ask the right questions of the people helping you along the way.

If you’re one of the lucky ones who have set up appointments with different contractors, I have 7 questions to ask that can make a HUGE difference in the outcome of your design project.  They’ll make a difference in your peace of mind and in your expectations.  And they’ll also let the prospective contractor know what you expect them to provide for you.  If what you’re asking isn’t part of their business plan, they can tell you the project isn’t a good fit, and you can move on.  Nothing is more maddening than being “ghosted” by an electrician.  Or having a contractor leave a job site for weeks to go work on someone else’s project.  So here goes…

#1 Do you use sub-contractors or have full time employees?

Honestly, it’s rare that a general contractor employees someone in every trade.  If they do, the project usually goes faster…and costs more.  Finding a contractor who has been in the business for a while and has established a longstanding relationship with the trade, is worth it for peace of mind.  Because he provides a lot of consistent work, they tend to be more available when the contractor calls.

#2  When are you available to start? 

Everyone is so busy these days, with wait lists of homeowners who need work done on their homes.  Don’t be surprised if you have to wait a few months before a contractor can begin.  I’ve had several design clients who have waited a year for a highly recommended contractor.

#3  How long will my project take, from demo until you leave?

Supply chain delays are often the reason for project delays.  So no one is willing to give an exact amount of time for your project.  But they can give you an estimated time frame.  If your demo doesn’t start until all of the products have arrived, the construction time will be shorter.  But at least, by asking, you’re opening up a conversation  about time frame.

#4  Do you have a website where I can see samples of your work?  References?  Have you worked on other projects in my price range?

Your idea of excellent workmanship may be completely different than theirs.  Make sure that their sub-contractors have worked on other projects in your price range.

#5  Who is responsible for scheduling, project management and quality control?

Whether it’s the contractor, his project manager, your interior designer…or you, someone needs to be there on a regular schedule to act as your advocate.  There needs to be one person on the team who knows your design plans inside and out.  People mean well, but things slip through the cracks.

#6  How often is the job site cleaned?  Whose responsibility?

On new construction or a renovation project, make sure that your home is protected by plastic.  Not the thin dry cleaner plastic, but one that is more substantial.  Ideally, it will have a zipper for entering and exiting.  This should be applied in all the doorways to prevent dust from entering the rest of the house.

#7  Do you communicate with me on a regular basis?  Give immediate updates on materials delays?

There will be days when no one is working on your project.  In a perfect world, one trade would finish and the next one would start.  But things get in the way and it doesn’t happen like that.  Having a weekly call with your contractor will keep you up to date, let you know which subs will be there for the week, and basically keep the lines of communication open.

We all want to have our design projects turn out exactly the way we’ve dreamed.  And we also want it to happen with the least amount of stress and wasted time as possible.  Asking these 7 questions will leave you peace of mind knowing that everything has been taken care of.

Ready to Get Your Project Started?

If you’re thinking about a home renovation, whether it’s a small project or tearing down walls, you might be afraid of making mistakes that cost you a lot of extra time and money.  That’s why I’ve created 3 Costly Home Renovation Mistakes and How To Avoid Them.  All you need to do is click on the button below to download your very own copy of this F.R.E.E. guide…easy peasy!


Adventures in Renovating: The “Morning Room” Edition

Adventures in Renovating: The “Morning Room” Edition

What a difference a year makes! We had just moved into our new (18year old) home.  Most people were still avoiding gatherings.  There were no Holiday Fairs, parades, or tree lighting.  And basically, I was overwhelmed with everything that needed to be done to turn this house into a home.  Between planning our renovation and having rooms painted, there wasn’t much enthusiasm for Christmas decorating.  And so began our adventures in renovating! 

I’m sure you’re wondering what is a morning room?  This was the description in the MLS listing for this 10×10 room off the kitchen.  We had never heard that term before.  Some people would call it a keeping room.  Other’s call it a sitting room.  We go back and forth.  And since it’s used all the time, it seems a little silly to call it a morning room.

Like the rest of the house, it needed a lot of updating.  But in the early planning stage, fresh paint and new lights were the only things on the plan.  Unpacking and settling in came first.  And then the interior designer in me took over!

The furnished room shown on the MLS listing.

Stage 1:  Make the room work with what you have.  Live in it a while and get a feel for how you’ll live in the space.  If you have plans for a full renovation in a few months, it’s wise to not make costly changes that will be taken apart later.


Filling the bookshelves with our own accessories and making it work…for now!

Stage 2: When you “can’t take it anymore” and need to do something. Discovering an unused can of paint from the last house.  Anything to get closer to our own colors!  It’s amazing how a little change of color can help you relax and feel happy.


First the back of the cabinets, and then the fireplace was calling out for new color.

Stage 3:  Finding inspiration.  Sometimes projects evolve and change.  What starts out as simple fixes that you can live with for a while, usually end up in major changes that add to your budget.  A girl can dream, right?  In the long run it adds value to your home by updating it.  Since we tend to move every 5-7 years,  re-sale is always top of mind.


This photo was found on the Rustica website and became part of the new vision for the space.

Stage 4:  Getting the dream out of your head and onto paper.  Sometimes those dreams change as you live in the space and see how it can work better for you.  And then you need to have patience while you wait for bids, demo, and construction.

Walls are cut to fit the new windows.

Let there be light!  What started out as a room with no view to the backyard, is now light-filled.

Stage 5:  The excitement of the reveal and seeing your vision become a reality!

We have windows!!!…and storage benches.

money,  be sure to grab a copy of the guide below.

Stage 6:  Highlighting imperfections.  We all love to have as much natural light as possible in our homes.  It brightens the room and lets us see nature all around us.  But sometimes it also shows us the flaws in the room that were never noticed before.  It’s hard to stay calm and take a deep cleansing breath when you’ve just had the room painted, and are now seeing new imperfections. 

There’s an old Amish saying that “only God is perfect”.  And I have to tell you that’s a VERY hard thing to deal with when you’re a perfectionist!  Over time, I’ve learned to let it go…for now.  It’s helped a lot to have a Brain Dump sheet that lists all the “not perfect” things I want to fix over time.  And the funny thing is, after a while you don’t see the “not perfect” things as much because there’s something more pressing to take care of.

Yes, my friend, renovating is an adventure in dreaming, planning, and seeing it through to the end.  It’s a lesson in patience, kindness, tolerance, and faith that it will all come together in the end.

Here’s to your own Adventure in Renovating, big or small, high or low budget, DIY or designer guided.  To help you get on track and avoid making some mistakes that might cost you time or money,  be sure to grab a copy of the guide below.





3 Secrets To a Stress-Free Renovation

3 Secrets To a Stress-Free Renovation

Starting a home renovation project is a big step.  For most people, it’s a fun and exciting time.  They enjoy the process, have fun selecting their products, and want the very best when it comes to the people they choose to work with.

But every once in a while a client starts the process with a sense of dread.  They’ve heard “stories” from their friends and family about the horrors of construction.  So they worry in advance about the mess and how long they’ll be inconvenienced.  What will they do for meals?  Where will they set up the temporary kitchen?  Will the guest bathroom be too small for both of us while we live through construction?  If you’re considering a renovation or any type of disruptive project at your home.  I hope that you’re not letting these stories scare you away.

I think we’ve all had some type of disruption to our home at one time or another.  Maybe you’ve had new carpeting installed, or hardwood floors refinished.  Maybe the entire house has been painted.  No matter what project you’ve taken on, it probably brought chaos into your life and a lot of anxiety!

a demo'd kitchen remodel

We want everything to turn out just the way we imagined…PERFECT!  But too often we expect perfection all along the way, and become impatient if a little glitch appears.  I can relate because it happens to me too.  And what I’ve noticed is when I’m tired, and the chaos has dragged on too long, I get impatient.  I start to hover around the workers (or my husband) to make sure the job is getting done “right.”  And when I find one thing wrong, I start looking for other things that aren’t perfect.  Has this ever happened to you?

Since I’ve been spending some time with cabinet installations lately, and disappointed that a ding or two is keeping that perfect kitchen on hold for a week or two,  I started thinking back on some of my clients’ projects.  I realized that the clients who were the most stressed out were the ones who had unrealistic expectations of how a project works.

new kitchen under construction

And it also reminded me that when stress and anxiety creep up and rear their ugly head, it’s time to follow these 3 Simple Steps:

1.  Take a deep breath!  When you see a mistake, a ding, or anything less than perfect, take a step back and breathe.  Know that it will all come together perfectly in the end.  Maybe not today or tomorrow.  But it will be perfect soon.

2.   Trust that the people you’ve hired want the very best for you and your project.  You’ve hired the very best.  Don’t hover around the job site to watch them at work or ask a lot of questions.  I know you might want to watch the process, but imagine your employer looking over your shoulder all day long.  It probably slows down your work and makes you anxious.

3.   Take a break.  The banging, sawing, and drilling will get on your last nerve after a while.  So make it a practice to get away for a little while each day, especially if you work from home.  When you’re at the job site all the time, you start to notice every little imperfection to a cabinet, wall or seam.  Let your installer work their magic to make it perfect and you’ll never notice there was a problem.  After all, that’s why you’ve hired the best!

If you’re thinking about a home renovation, whether it’s a small project or knocking down walls, you might be afraid of making costly mistakes.  And that’s why I’ve created 3 Costly Home Renovation Mistakes and How To Avoid Them.   All you need to do is click on the button below…easy peasy!





I don’t know about you, but sometimes I have to be perfect.  Some people would call it a value, others a flaw.  No matter how you look at it, the need for perfection pops it’s ugly head for most of us at one time or another.  We want everything to be “just so” before we put it out to the world.  How do I know?  Because I’ve been there!

For a few months now I’ve been postponing a few projects that have been on my list for a long time.  Different excuses seem to get in the way.  Then, I began procrastinating, which lead to guilt, and then stress.  Sound familiar?  It wasn’t until I watched a video in a class I’m taking, that I realized I was stuck in being perfect.

Some women need to be perfect in everything they do.  Other women are selective.  We all want our children to have perfect manners when they‘re in public.  We usually want to look our best for a date or a job interview.  And when I make the time to sit down and paint, I expect it to be perfect every time!  Of course it’s not!!!  Then I avoid painting for a while and do something that I know I’m good at.

painting class exercises

What about our homes? There are so many ways we create perfection in our minds.  We want the perfect paint color, the perfect designer, the perfect budget, the perfect weather before we start the kitchen remodel.  The list goes on and on.  How many times have you passed on an opportunity to join a book club because you were self conscious about hosting it at your house?  I remember my mom telling me that I couldn’t have a sleepover because the house wasn’t clean enough!  Often we’re so focused on not failing that we don’t even begin the process. We’re on “overwhelm” before we even get started!  The sad truth is that if we just take action without waiting for the perfect kitchen, the perfect wall color, or the perfect window treatment, our lives would be more enriched with relationships and happy memories.

Let’s take a look at a few things that can make a huge difference in getting us out of perfect and into action:

Realize that nothing is perfect.  Did you know that Amish quilters always leave one mistake in their quilts because “only God is perfect”?

Be realistic. Acknowledge your limits of time, money and resources.  Don’t let these obstacles keep you from moving forward with little changes.

Be flexible. Realize that the project will probably take longer than you expect.  Go with the flow and relax.  Enjoy the process.

Trust yourself.  If you inner voice is telling you not to buy something.  Listen to it!

Be authentic.  Be true to yourself. And, please, don’t check your personality at the front door.  Every woman brings their own dreams, visions, and talents to the table.  Don’t be afraid to let your uniqueness shine.

Make a plan.  Small steps, done consistently, are sometimes better than one big effort.  You know the old saying, “How do you eat an elephant?…one bite at a time.” Use these words to guide you through your home makeover.

Mistakes happen.  Sometimes you have a “What was I thinking!” moment that sends you into a panic.  Instead of feeling like you’ve failed or having a meltdown, sit back, take a deep breath, and get creative.  There’s almost always a way to fix it.  Did you forget to measure the wall, or test the paint color in the room?  Learn from your mistakes and take that with you into the next project.

Take risks.  Sometimes it’s fun to shake things up a little.  Go ahead.  Add some turquoise to the walls.  Throw an animal print pillow on the sofa.

Seek help.  Network with your friends, hire professionals, or take a class.  I can’t stress this enough!  So many design disappointments happen because you didn’t ask for help, assumed your contractor could read your mind, or didn’t want to pay for help.

Be kind to yourself.  If updating your home is taking too long because of no money, no time, or no help, it’s time to tell yourself good enough…for now.  Throw caution to the wind, call your friends, and have a spur of the moment party.  Sometimes entertaining at the last minute is the perfect excuse to not be perfect !  You’ll be more relaxed and feel less pressure.  Best of all, your guests will feel welcomed.  And isn’t that the point… enjoying what life has to offer?



KITCHEN…The Heart Of Your Home

KITCHEN…The Heart Of Your Home


I want you imagine, just for a moment…that your kitchen is not just a place where meals are made and dishes are washed.  It’s a place where memories are made.

What would it be like…if instead of running to close the door to your kitchen when friends stopped by, you couldn’t wait to show them the best room in your house?  A room that’s the heart of your home, where people WANT to congregate.  A room where everyone is always laughing and happy.  A room where you’re proud to entertain family and friends.  Does this sound like the kitchen you have right now? 

Everyone who’s ever hosted a gathering in their home can tell you, that no matter the size or shape, your kitchen is ALWAYS going to be the place to hang out.  And in some kitchens it can become pretty crowded…and warm!  So what allows one kitchen to pull off the perfect gathering while others just don’t work as well?  Here are a few ideas to get you thinking about creating a kitchen that is truly the heart of the home, the “center of everything”.

A Heart of the Home Kitchen might have:

1.An open flow into the family room or dining room

2. Island for prepping and serving food, especially during a party

3. Stools at the island

4. Enough walk space between cabinets and/or island (36”-48”)

5. Homework space for the kids
6. A place to sit and have a conversation
7. Uncluttered spaces: a place for everything
8. A message center for charging devices and message taking
9. A place to feed pets
10. Medicine storage
11. Table space for eating, talking, or playing games

12. A prep sink so others can help with meals
13. A desk for paying bills, searching for recipes, collecting purses and keys

Your Design Homework:

  • Using the list above, check off the items that you already have in place in your kitchen.
  • Of the items you don’t have, ask yourself if they’re really important to you.
  • If they are, make a plan to include them in your next home makeover project. Remember that some items on the list can serve more than one purpose…a table can serve you for eating meals, doing homework, having coffee with friends, etc.

Though some items on the list might require a higher budget than others, remember that you can start from where you are with the little things.  When you’re happy and excited to entertain family and friends, and your home reflects your personality, your enthusiasm will carry over and memories will be made.

How To Know When Your Home Isn’t Meeting Your Needs

How To Know When Your Home Isn’t Meeting Your Needs


Homes come in all shapes and sizes.  Some are spacious, and some are small.  Some are clean and simple, while others are cluttered with things we love. When we’re young and active, we never give a second thought to feeling confident and safe doing everyday basic things around this place we call home.  It’s a given…right? You’ve set it up and decorated it exactly the way you love.  So, how do you know when your home isn’t serving your needs? It happens when you least expect it, and not always when you’re ready.

Several years ago I became a Certified Aging In Place Specialist (CAPS).  During the two day course we learned how to modify homes so that clients can live there as long as they choose.  Basically, we learned how to make life easier in our homes as we age.  Little did I know, how several years later, we’d be needing these design tweaks in our own home!

Since helping clients remodel their kitchens and baths is my all-time favorite thing to do, I always recommend putting these Universal Design principals into place in these rooms.  But I also know that as aging Boomers, we think we don’t need them.  We still have the image of the institutional bathroom in our minds, and can’t face the thought of installing grab bars just yet. 

Well, that’s what I thought too, until the unexpected happened.  When my husband had his knee replaced a few years ago, we discovered all kinds of design issues with our three story townhouse.  This was certainly something we never considered when we bought it. The doorways were only 28” wide when a walker is 30”.  There were no grab bars in the bathroom, and too many stairs to maneuver that required him to stay in the lower level for weeks. Check out my blog post to learn more about it.

I was determined that all of these issues would be corrected when we designed our new home.  Every shower wall and toilet area was prepped for grab bars.  No need to actually install them now.  We’re healthy and active.  Doorways are 36”…check.  Plenty of good lighting…check.  Wide open walkways…check.  Appliances at a user friendly level…check.  We are good to go!

Or so we thought.  Until my own foot issues kept getting worse and worse.  I put off the much needed surgery for as long as I could, asking friends what to expect. 

I learned that I needed a knee scooter and crutches.  I learned that to maneuver the stairs, sometimes you just have to sit down and scoot.  Crazy, I know.  But sometimes you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do to make it all work.

What I didn’t hear from anyone was some basic advice that we all know and just don’t think about.

  • A curb-less shower would have made entering the shower so much easier, and I would have felt more confident. No problem with the actual showering, because a bench seat and hand held shower have made it so easy.
  • The beautiful accent rugs gracing our floors had to go. Yes, they are rolled up and sitting on the sidelines waiting for full recovery day.  Again, safety and confidence is an issue.
  • Grab bars in the shower would help the fear of losing balance and falling.
  • Grab bars next to the toilet, or even a temporary raised toilet seat with built in grab bars, would make life easier.
  • And this one thing, that has nothing to do with your home but everything to do with your physical body, is to exercise. For me it’s yoga…a strength building intense yoga…at least two days a week.  Had it not been for my yoga instructors Karen, Nancy, and Caren always stressing the need for balance and strong bodies as we get older, this journey would be a struggle.

As recovery continued, life got a little easier each day.  My “recliner office” was all set up, and I was plugged in to all my devices trying to get work done.  Life’s an adventure, I always say.  And now I know how to be prepared for “the next time.” 

Your Design Homework: 

  • Take a walk around your home. Check the doorways, the bathrooms, the floors.
  • Now make a list of the little things you can put in place that will make your life easier if you need to have an unplanned surgery…or an accident. Can you add grab bars to you shower or toilet areas?  Are your doorways at least 32” wide?  Do you have rugs that might cause you to trip if you were on crutches?