Designers’ fees can be frightening. “Sticker shock” is not uncommon for homeowners. I’ve got answers to five frequently asked questions about how much a designer may charge you for their services, and how their fee is calculated.
Has This Happened To You?
You call a designer to help you with your kitchen or bathroom remodeling. They may say their fee is “X” amount per hour, but you really don’t know how much you’re going to pay that designer in total. They may tell you that their fee starts at $2,500 and goes up from there. Or they’ll tell you that their fee is a percentage of your investment. It’s confusing and frustrating. If you’re thinking of spending only $10,000 in your bathroom or $20,000 in your kitchen, you don’t know how much you’ll need or want to pay for a designer to help you.
The first question is critical for helping you decide how you want to proceed with your project.
#1: “Do I Need Someone To Help Me?”
That’s a great question! You may not need a designer if you’re:
Thinking about freshening up with a new color scheme
Painting your existing cabinets
Installing a new countertop and backsplash
Installing new flooring
A contractor can accomplish these types of projects without a designer. But they cannot advise you about the color and style, other than their personal preferences. You’re on your own to make these decisions. Or you’ll have to hire a decorator.
The second question is a good follow-up:
#2: “When Do I Need A Designer?”
You should hire a professional designer if you want to:
Do more than freshen up — new cabinets, new appliances, etc..
Change the layout within the same footprint.
Enlarge your bathroom or kitchen.
It’s reasonable to pay a designer to help you if your target budget for a bathroom remodel is $20,000 or more, or if your budget for a completely remodeled kitchen is $35,000 or more. Why? You’re going to need someone to:
Help you select the right products for your budget and lifestyle.
Create detailed plans that follow codes and show all your decisions.
Refer you to qualified contractors and suppliers.
The third question will help you refine who to hire.
#3: “Can I Hire A Decorator To Help Me?”
Not necessarily. Unfortunately, most homeowners (and many contractors) don’t understand the difference between:
Decorators: People who can help with colors, furniture, window treatments, and accessories. They do not have the education, training, and experience with building systems to draft plans and specifications. They need specific technical knowledge to make recommendations that are best for you and your budget.
Designers: People who have education, training, and experience. They can draft plans for a project. But they may not have the specific knowledge of products and codes to prepare detailed plans and specifications for your remodeling project.
Kitchen-Bath Designers: People who have education, specific training, and experience related to remodeling. They can draft detailed plans and prepare specifications for contractors’ estimates and permits. Some kitchen-bath design specialists have become certified to prove their knowledge and dedication to help you. Get more information about these designers at the National Kitchen & Bath Association website.
Architects: People who have the most education but may lack the training and experience to help you with specific details for your kitchen or bathroom remodeling project.
#4: “Okay,” you say, “I get it. But what is a kitchen-bathroom designer going to cost me?”
The fourth question is asked most frequently. It’s frustrating because there isn’t a lot of specific information about fees. But keep reading! You will need more information to understand how fees are calculated. There are three basic systems that designers use:
Percentage of the project cost
Jill Geisdorf of Chic on the Cheap was recently quoted on houzz.com, “No two projects are the same, and no two designers charge the same.” Bob Vila says, “Most independent kitchen designers charge by the hour with rates that can range from $65 to $250 an hour, and $125 to $150 is typical. If your designer charges by the hour, you’ll want an estimate of how many hours the designer expects your project will require.”
This system gives designers the most flexibility because they can charge whatever they want for every project. You must know:
When the designer will expect payments.
What percentage of the fee they’ll expect you to pay for each interval.
Percentage Of The Project Total
The percentage system is based on a percentage of your total investment. The problem with this fee structure is that it’s in the designer’s best interest to increase your investment. Who’s going to be your advocate? Unfortunately, it will be you.
There’s A hidden “Gotcha.”
Some decorators, designers, and kitchen-bath designers may charge a lower fee. But they’ll want to sell products to you so they can mark up how much you pay for those products. Also, they may receive referral or finder’s fees from contractors, manufacturers, and suppliers. Selling products and receiving finders’ fees increase their bottom-line income. You have a right to know how much the designer is making on products and referral fees. Of course, you should get a written agreement that states what services are included, what services are not included, a breakdown of what they charge, and how they will invoice you for their services.
Now, the fifth question:
#5: “Why Are Designers So Secretive About Their Fees?”
I understand your dilemma. Everyone cites a range, but no one wants to be locked into a specific fee — publicly. I hear your frustration. But there are two reasons for the secrecy:
Designers do not want their competition to know what they charge homeowners.
Months or years after the fee is stated, someone may demand that fee, creating a potential dispute.
You’ll have to call candidates to gather information, including how much they charge so that you can make an informed decision. Wouldn’t it be nice to know what and how they charge and be able to write it down on a comparison list? I’m going to give you a free chapter from my award-winning book to help you! You can get a copy of the chapter immediately by simply filling out the request form below. Filling out the form will also subscribe you to my friendly newsletter that’s filled with great information, remodeling hints and tips, and special offers.
Now I’m going to share my information with you because you deserve it. It’s one aspect of being a Homeowner Advocate.
You Ask For Total Honesty and Transparency. Here It Is!
I never sell products. Never! My responsibility is to help you find the best value for the products you buy. I have never received nor paid referral fees and never will, helping you get the results you want for the lowest possible investment. I am totally transparent about what you’re paying for my services.
Here is how I calculate my fee: After seeing your home and talking with you, I’ll tell you — in writing! — that my total fee is a calculated comparison with other similar projects I’ve had recently. Here are two projects that are good examples:
A Master Bathroom that was 168 square feet (11′ x 14′), with the following features:
Minor changes to the layout
A private toilet room
Storage for all personal-care items and linens
A whirlpool tub
A large, separate tiled shower with fixed and personal showerheads, a shampoo niche, and a bench
Dimmable LED lighting
Powerful, quiet exhaust fans
I devoted about 27 hours to that and similar projects. At $135 an hour, my total fee for all my professional services would be $3,645.
A Kitchen that was 250 square feet (15.5′ x 16′) with the following features:
Minor changes to the layout
New appliances (range, hood, refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave oven)
Quality plumbing fixtures
New custom cabinets
Stone countertops and custom backsplashes
Dimmable LED lighting
Ventilation that complies with current codes
I devoted about 39 hours to that and similar projects. My total maximum-not-to-exceed fee for all my professional services would be $5,265 at $135 an hour.
Invoices are sent at least once a month and they’re calculated to the nearest 15 minutes. You’ll pay only for the time I devote to your project. My maximum fee remains the same unless the scope of your project changes or you request more services. My goal is to help you achieve your goals. Get information about my creative design process, then call me today to chat about a project you’re planning.
How much you pay a professional designer is going to be an essential part of your total investment. Their fee is only one aspect of your decision about who to hire. The relationship you have with your designer will last from the day you meet until after your project is finished. Therefore, it should be based on:
Mutual trust and understanding.
A common goal.
Get the FREE chapter of my book about designers.
Your comments are welcomed!
Diane Plesset, CMKBD, C.A.P.S., NCIDQ is a Homeowner Advocate who specializes in helping homeowners with remodeling and addition projects. She has been the principal of D. P. Design since April 1984. Diane is the author of the award-winning book “THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling” and many design awards.
There are many things you can do to prepare for home remodeling.. In this blog, I’m going to focus on what you can do before you call contractors and design professionals. As I stated in last week’s segment of “Today’s Home,” most people think about remodeling their home for several years, unless they’ve just bought a home that they intend to remodel immediately. You’re in the majority of homeowners if you’ve been thinking about remodeling for two years or more. You chances for success increase exponentially when you embrace change.
3 Things Confuse and Overwhelm Homeowners
One: Went shopping and got confused by all the choices.
It’s not uncommon for homeowners to go shopping for tile and countertops before they do anything else. I’ve seen homeowners wandering the aisles at big-box stores and showrooms with a glazed look on their face that rivaled the glaze on the tile. The same confusion can happen if you go to appliance, plumbing, or lighting showrooms and see all your choices. It can be a great tool if your goal is to shop for ideas and inspiration, not for final products. The additional stress associated with making final decisions without professional guidance can overwhelm you and make you lose interest in remodeling your home.
Two: Watched home improvement programs that provide very little reliable information.
Most of these programs show you what other people have achieved, but no one tells you how long it took from beginning to end, how much the homeowners invested in this project, and how much of the project was “free.” The programs feature named suppliers and products that financially support the show, but they do not tell you how much the advertisers gave to the project in exchange for being featured. The problem I have with all TV remodeling shows is how much of the project ends up on the editing room floor. We’re shown what the advertisers, directors, and producers want us to see. If we can watch these programs for entertainment, we’ll be much better off. Unfortunately, many of us get hooked and believe everything the programs want us to believe.
Three: Read blogs and magazines about home remodeling that don’t say where to start and how to walk through the logical steps.
Magazine writers and editors are limited by the number of words and images, and they have to appeal to a wide audience to sell their advertisers’ products. Each of the magazines has at least 50 competitors for the commerce. You can easily spend $100 or more on home remodeling and renovation magazines to gather all the information you need to plan and execute your project successfully.
Online searches cost nothing, but you may spend hours searching for the information that will really help you. Using the right search terms is critical not only for you but also people (like me) who want to share knowledge and experience. It doesn’t help us that search engine algorithms change frequently. Paid internet advertising can be as expensive for entrepreneurs as print media – and it’s a crap shoot!
Yes, Lists DO Help You Achieve Amazing Home Remodeling Success!
Confusion happens to all of us when we try to keep everything in our brains. You’re probably tired of me harping about lists, especially if you’re not a list person. In the re-launch segment of “Today’s Home,” I stressed the importance of using the Homeowner Surveys to help you select products. Last week, I talked about remodeling priorities which includes making lists. Here’s a recap of the basic priorities you have when you’re in the “thinking” preparation for home remodeling:
What do you want to achieve with your remodeling project?
An updated kitchen or bathroom?
An addition that includes what rooms?
How much do you want to invest in your project?
When do you want your project to start and finish?
What specific products or features are most important?
It’s hard for me to be honest about whether I really need something or merely want it. Does this happen to you, too? I’ve learned that my wants turn into needs when I’m trying to satisfy my ego. It’s the “wants” that can drive up an investment, because it’s human nature to justify our wants and believe that they’re actually needs.
Visualize and Dream Your Amazing Success: Two Simple Steps!
It’s fun to visualize and dream. Collect pictures of projects or products that are interesting, online or from magazines. Make a note about why the picture excites you, makes you feel all tingly when you think that you can have something similar in your home. Over the years, homeowners have shared their pictures with me. It helps me to understand what they want to achieve. Clients with the most successful remodeling projects have been the ones who found a way to organize the information they gathered so it was easy to find and share. Here are ideas I’ve gotten from them:
1. Get a simple multi-pocket file folder and assign categories to each pocket such as:
Pictures (It may be hard for you to tear up magazines. You don’t have to, if you use “sticky notes” on the pages. If you keep the magazine in tact, you’ll have the name of the magazine and publish date for reference)
Miscellaneous (this can be like the junk drawer in your kitchen!)
2. Set up a file folder for your project in your email inbox.
You can have one folder for everything, or you can set up a main folder with multiple sub-folders that are similar to the pockets in Example #1 above. When you see anything interesting on the internet, copy the URL and send it to yourself in an email. The great thing about this system is that you have a subject line as a reminder or a way to search, and you have the body of the email where you can describe what you like. The wonderful thing about using this technology is that you can send anything to anyone at any time. After I learned this trick from a client years ago, this is the system I use for all of my clients’ projects
This sounds like a lot of work, but believe me, it will pay off when you have successfully finished your remodeling project without disappointments and hassles! Homeowners who have used one or both of these systems have proven the validity of the recommendations! They knew more about the details of their project, talked more knowledgeably with everyone, and actually enjoyed their project from beginning to end!
Get Ready To Talk With Remodeling Professionals
After you’ve completed these tasks, you’ll be able to talk with contractors and design professionals. You can actually start getting names and contact information while you’re working on the information-gathering tasks. There are several ways you can find the people who will help you achieve your home remodeling dream. Here are six ways that have been successful for homeowners:
Let family, friends, neighbors – everyone! – know that you’re thinking about remodeling your home. They’ll offer advice and may refer you to the right people! A referral from a satisfied homeowner is platinum for everyone in the remodeling industry. Contact a local remodeling organization like:
Angie’s List, Home Advisor, and Houzz are free for you, but they may collect a referral fee or charge for prominent display of a company. There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s an important part of our capitalist economy. It doesn’t mean that the company with a a full-page, full-bleed color ad is any better than the company with a well-done quarter-page ad. Both companies have to establish and maintain an advertising and marketing budget that’s a percentage of their income. Would you rather bring your business to a company with a smaller ad, or would you rather hire a company that can afford a glitzy ad? What’s the real message that each company is saying? Call them to find out!
I hope you won’t be lured by companies that offer (or guarantee) the lowest rates or fees! Only you can decide what’s best for you now, and for years to come. Benjamin Franklin said it best:
“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”
Questions For Remodeling Professionals
After you get the names of contractors and designers, your next step is to call them and ask questions that will help you decide if they’re the right person or company to help you achieve your home remodeling project. I’ve developed a list of qualifying questions that you can use in phone or in- person interviews with construction professionals. If you ask the same questions, it will help you make informed decisions. The qualifying questions are a guideline, an aid to help you stay on track with your remodeling goals. Of course, they’re free!
Amazing Home Remodeling Success: It’s All About Love!
Remodeling (or building) your home is one of the most important things you’ll do in your life. It falls in line with choosing a life partner, having children, and buying a home. All of these life experiences revolve around love. You bought the home you’re in because you fell in love with it. It was perfect for you at that time. But things have changed. Change is inevitable. It’s the personification of life. Every decision we make – as many as 35,000 a day! – involves change.
Remember why you fell in love with your home. Do you want to fall in love with it again? You wouldn’t be thinking about remodeling your home if you didn’t want it to fulfill your current and future needs. This is why I’m here to help you with “Today’s Home” podcasts and my blog, because I care.
“Change” Quotations and Final Words
“Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by discomforts.” (Arnold Bennett)
“Change is inevitable – except from a vending machine.” (Robert C. Gallagher)
In conclusion, I want to share an observation. Everyone who embraces change seems to struggle with life (and decisions) less. I’ve personally experienced the difference that embracing change has made in my life. The homeowners who embrace change and prepare for home remodeling enjoy their projects, and get better results. Remember to take a deep breath and remind yourself that change can be good!
Next week’s program is going to be about a subject that we love or hate, but cannot live without: Technology.
Here is the “Today’s Home” podcast: How To Prepare for Home Remodeling
I can (and will!) help you navigate the often-confusing road to remodeling your home or building a new home. Contact me to talk about your project! Follow me on Facebook (D. P. Design and “Today’s Home”), Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. Thank you for recommending the “Today’s Home” podcasts to everyone you know!
While working with a young couple, a serious issue arose about code compliance.
During our first meeting, I was told that the entire extended family enjoys working in the kitchen together. As a designer, I immediately consider what this means when safety, functionality, and overall concept is included. So, in my reply, I cited the aisleway clearances recommended by the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA):
The minimum for a one-person access between countertops is 42”;
Access increases to a minimum of 48” if multiple people are working in the kitchen simultaneously.
These guidelines allow safe usage of appliances, and unlimited access to everything stored in cabinets.
The homeowners requested a four-foot wide by eight-foot long island. Their kitchen is narrow – only 13′-11” wide, with no room for an addition. Fortunately, the length of the kitchen is generous.
Important Calculation For Island Function & Safety
Back in my office, the first thing I did was to calculate the kitchen island size that would be safe and functional as well as beautiful. Here is my math:
167” (width of the total available space in inches)
– 51” (cabinets and countertops on both sides)
116” (space available in the center of the room)
-84” (two 42” wide aisleways)
32” (2′-8” available space for the island)
I sent an email with these unfortunate results of my calculations. They were not happy, and repeated the desire for a four-foot wide island. I shared information about the appliances which would be on both sides of the kitchen. Each appliance needs space for accessibility, which I took into consideration as I worked out the numbers above. This is actually one of the many aspects where my years of education and design experience comes in handy. In an NKBA seminar, I learned from Ellen Cheever to show all appliance doors open in my plans. Homeowners can see how much clearance they have between objects. Oven and dishwasher doors can take 24” or more from an aisleway. Refrigerator doors vary from as little as 18” to over 36”, depending on the manufacturer and model.
Although my clients wanted the larger island, we were able to proceed through the logical design steps. With careful planning, I was able to give the homeowners 42” aisleways on both sides of the island. I reduced one partial wall of cabinetry to 12” deep for a wine bar and pantry. The double ovens were placed adjacent to the end of the island. Someone can now access the oven door head-on, which is normal and safe. It is especially important to provide this head-on access so that a homeowner can cook and access something heavy, like a Thanksgiving turkey, or something awkward, like a casserole or a large sheet of cookies. I allowed an aisleway of 4′-10” along the cooktop wall, from the oven to the main sink on the opposite wall. This area could become seriously congested with multiple users.
NKBA Guidelines for Kitchen Aisleways
I use the guidelines developed by the NKBA as a standard practice in every kitchen (or bathroom) design. I learned them over 25 years ago when preparing for my certification tests. And I still use them because they verify industry standards for safety and function. I have discussed this in articles I’ve written in the past. In “The Kitchen Triangle: A Guideline,” I state that Function and Safety have to be designed into a project from the get-go. Appearance should be determined after everything is deemed to be functional and safe. I later wrote another article, “Kitchen Islands May Not Be Appropriate For Every Home,” in which I share the guidelines for walkways and island design.
Recently, this client requested that I move the island closer to the cooktop, which would eliminate frontal access to the oven. This would require her and other family members to access the oven from the side, tweaking their backs while using the oven. Now, no matter how young and healthy or agile one feels, others using the kitchen (parents, aunts, uncles, etc.) may not have the strength to use the oven without injury if there is no head-on access. Additionally, changing access to the oven can affect the resalability of the home. The kitchen is a huge selling point in any home. So, I was unable to acquiesce to this request. I shared the NKBA Guideline #6 which has graphics to show the intent of the guideline. Here’s the text of this guideline and the code:
Citation: Guidelines and Code
Work Aisle – Recommended: The width of a work aisle should be at least 42” for one cook and at least 48” for multiple cooks. Measure between the counter frontage, tall cabinets, and/or appliances.
Access Standard – Recommended: Kitchen Guideline recommendation meets Access Standard recommendation. See Code References for specific applications.
Code Reference: A clear floor space of at least 30” x 48” should be provided at each kitchen appliance. Clear floor spaces can overlap. (ANSI A 117.1 305.3, 804.6.1)
As a Certified Master Kitchen-Bath Designer, I consider myself an extension of the Building Department, to protect the health, safety, and welfare of homeowners. It’s my duty and responsibility to be familiar with and to comply with all codes. I cannot, and will not, turn my back on these duties and responsibilities for any client. But first, I try to help them understand that I’m not a stubborn bureaucrat, that I have their best interests in my mind and heart. Theodore Roosevelt said it best:
“Nobody cares howmuch you know, until they know how much you care.”
Yes, I care — a lot! That’s why I am sharing this story to help you understand that professional designers have to balance creativity and code knowledge, while trying to give their clients what the clients want, often within a limited budget. It sure isn’t an easy career path, but I still love it!
You’ve hired a professional designer to help you. Listen to them, and take their recommendations seriously, because they have your best interest as a goal.
If the design professional gives a recommendation without a valid reason, ask for the reason. A valid reason IS NOT: “This is the way we always do it.” A valid reason IS: “This is the code,” or “This is based on the NKBA Guidelines for function and safety.”
Remember that Function and Safety are the #1 priority in all remodeling, especially bathrooms and kitchens. Appearance can be any color or style after function and safety are verified.
If you’re thinking about remodeling your kitchen (or bathroom), please call me! I care about your health, safety, and welfare, and I want to help you achieve your remodeling goals!
Homeowners, who are grandparents, love to entertain their family and friends. They especially love to take care of their grandchildren. Although the kitchen had an upscale remodeling by previous owners, many things about the kitchen didn’t fit my clients’ needs. Main problem: It was very dark. We created a bright new kitchen for the grandparents! I was pleased to use virtual-reality renderings to help the couple make important decisions, to create an ideal space for family and friends.
Lighting was insufficient, and the dark cherry cabinets and granite countertops soaked up most of the light.
A pantry closet dictated the placement of appliances and limited available countertop space for food preparation.
The only place for the cooktop was in the island; it was a downdraft with a pot rack above, which created an ongoing cleaning problem from grease that escaped the surface-mount downdraft.
There was no place in the kitchen for sorting mail or charging phones and pads.
There were very few storage accessories inside the existing cabinets.
Dimmable LED strip lighting was added below and above the wall cabinets to provide great task and indirect light. Dimmable LED recessed fixtures were placed in a 4′ grid, providing aisleway lighting. The same fixtures were installed above the new island.
Turning the closet pantry 900 gave more space for the ovens and cooktop, and freed up the island countertop for food preparation.
Custom alder cabinets with storage accessories provided what the homeowners needed for storage. A new pantry cabinet with chrome wire pullout shelves provided more storage than the previous closet pantry had. Other cabinet accessories included:
Rollouts for small appliances and pots and pans
Tray dividers above the ovens
Dual-level utensil drawer
Deep drawers, as requested by the homeowners for special needs
A custom cubbyhole niche for sorting mail and charging electronic devices
A wine rack and bookshelf in the back of the island
Cabinets around the perimeter were natural alder; the island was stained darker for visual interest.
Stain the crown molding at the top of the cabinets and the light baffle below the wall cabinets to be stained the same color as the island to tie everything together. I showed them two alternatives in virtual-reality renderings. The homeowners chose not to follow my advice, even after I showed them the difference.
Install a prep. sink in the island. During the value engineering by the contractor, we discovered that this feature was more than the homeowners wanted to pay, but they were able to make an informed decision without any regrets.
I give advice to show clients the possibilities and to make informed decisions. I listen to their needs and work with them to achieve what they want within a reasonable budget. I honor all of my clients’ decisions. It’s their home, and their budget. The kitchen was transformed and we created a bright new kitchen for the grandparents!
If you know what you want in and for your new kitchen, but don’t know how to pull it together, I can help you select the right products and offer alternatives, so you won’t have any regrets down the road about your decisions. Call me today, so we can talk about your kitchen!
A family of six lived in a 1970s home that needed major remodeling, Here are the challenges and solutions that would transform the home totally:
Challenges and Solutions
#1: The youngest son has muscular dystrophy and cannot get to the large basement playroom without being carried by the father.
A residential elevator would allow the son to travel easily to and from the main floor to the basement. The best location for the elevator shaft was at the rear of the home, with entries to the elevator in the living room and the play room.
#2: The front had an uninviting stone wall that hid the entry door.
Removing the wall and changing the front of the house would make the home more inviting for guests.
#3: The existing kitchen was too small, especially for entertaining.
The kitchen would be moved to the existing family room, so the existing kitchen could become the dining room, allowing the homeowners to entertain more frequently.
#4: The existing master suite was typical for a 1970s home, with a small shower and a one-person lavatory. Closets were small, with limited storage. The only linen storage was a small closet in the main hallway.
An addition solved all of the problems. The master bedroom is bigger, and there are two large closets with lots of storage. The new bathroom has a two-person shower, a separate toilet room, and large separate lavatories. There’s also a 6-foot wide linen closet.
BONUS: The addition also created a great bedroom for the oldest daughter in the basement area that gave her the privacy she needed; it has a wonderful view of the garden.
#5: The youngest son’s bedroom and the guest bathroom needed to be remodeled to be accessible. The bathroom also needed to look nice for guests.
Transforming a 30” door into a 36” door required borrowing space from the existing small linen closet. The bathroom remodel became part of the master suite addition, making room for a 5-foot wheelchair turnaround, and easy access to the tub/shower and the toilet.
*DESIGN TIP: A “handicap” bathroom doesn’t need to look or feel like a hospital! There are many beautiful products available that blend with a home’s style and the family’s preferences.
The Design And Value Engineering
I worked with the family for about three months to develop the preliminary plans and prepare virtual-reality renderings to show them what their remodeled home could look like. They loved it! Before we got involved with choosing products, I recommended a contractor who could provide a detailed estimate. We call this “value engineering.” This would help the couple know what their investment would be. Estimates this early in the process helps homeowners make important decisions about the scope of their project before they get too excited about their project.
The preliminary estimate, with allowances for products and finishes, approached $500,000. Talking with the couple honestly, we all agreed that if they remodeled this home, it would most likely be their final home. The reason: they wouldn’t be able to get any return of their investment when comparing their home to neighboring properties. They admitted that it was important to go through the initial process like we did, although it involved an investment of about $3,000. But it helped them make the important decision to look for a home that had all of the amenities they needed and wanted. Fortunately, they found a new home in a neighboring community that had everything, including a residential elevator! Their investment in the new home was more than their total investment of the existing remodeled home would have been. But considering the disruption of their lives during a major remodel, they decided it was worth selling their home and moving to the new home.
A Special Bonus For The Homeowners
What we didn’t realize was that the proposed plans and virtual-reality renderings that I had put into a binder for them would help to sell their home in three days for the full asking price! This was confirmation that it’s hard for most people to visualize the possibilities and see past the existing reality. I’m so grateful to have a career, where my ability to see the possibilities helps people to move forward.
Design Tips From This Project
It’s best to get a contractor involved early in the process, to provide value engineering for the project, and verify that what you want is within your budget. Most contractors charge a fee for this service, but many apply all or part of the fee towards construction of your project. There will be tradeoffs involved, but tit’s important for you to:
* Establish a realistic, reasonable budget. * Make informed decisions about the scope of your project and all products. * Be flexible, and be open to the possibilities.
If you’re thinking about remodeling your home. if your family has special needs, but you’re confused about the possibilities, call me today! With virtual-reality renderings, I can show you what your home can look like!
My clients were a couple who bought a new home in the location they wanted. They knew the whole house needed remodeling. Their blended family includes six adult children. They wanted to achieve a large addition for a dining room and to enlarge the kitchen, and possibly enlarge the master suite above the kitchen. Very shortly after they bought the home, they called me to help them design their whole-house remodeling project with major additions.
Homeowners’ Wish List:
A smart home, controlled by phones and pads
A dining room that would easily seat 16-18 people;
A larger kitchen with a dedicated coffee bar and more storage, and more usable countertop space
A larger deck for entertaining and a hot tub for the family
An updated living room with stacking doors
A home office for the wife
An updated master bathroom with a two-person shower and a separate makeup area
A multi-purpose guest bedroom and bathroom
A laundry room that’s accessible by everyone
A dedicated play room with a large projector TV and theater seats
A storage area above the husband’s workshop in the garage
Challenges to Prevent The Whole-House Remodeling
I learned years ago to check with the building and planning departments before starting to design an addition. The planning official said that this home was close to a floodplain, and he’d need to see two things before giving us the go-ahead with the major additions:
◊ Preliminary plans of the proposed addition and deck;
◊ A positive report from a soils engineer that the proposed addition was okay.
It’s human to just go ahead and assume that everything will be okay. But in this case, it wasn’t. The 760 square-foot addition came too close to the floodplain. The planning official said that he definitely needed to see a soils report. The homeowners weren’t happy with the situation, but they hired a soils engineer. The engineer drilled several holes down to 50 feet in the area of the proposed addition, and discovered that the “soil” was mostly sand. The homeowners were devastated. They had bought a home thinking it would be everything they always wanted. They had two choices: To resell the home and find another home, or stay in this home and make the best of it.
The Whole-House Remodeling Project Forged Ahead!
They took several weeks to talk about their alternatives and make a decision. I received an email telling me that they wanted to proceed, but scale back their whole-house remodeling project severely. The first part of the meeting after getting that message was uncomfortable for all of us, like trying to speak and understand a foreign language to build a strong bridge of communication. I felt the anguish they had experienced, and listened to their story to gather information about our direction moving forward. By the end of the meeting, we had achieved a new level of understanding and compassion.
I went back to work to see how we could achieve what they wanted, using the original wish list we had compiled. The smart home and the workshop with a storage mezzanine above wasn’t a problem, but the rest of the list was a challenge.
Whole-House Remodeling Project Details Room By Room:
DINING ROOM: There was no way that the existing dining room would comfortably seat 16-18 people, because it was landlocked. When I asked the homeowners if they would ever seat that many friends at the dining table, they responded that the only reason for needing a large dining room was for family gatherings. I widened the doorway between the adjacent entry hall. If two tables were placed next to each other and extended to the maximum possible into the entry hall, it would seat 18 people. A custom cantilevered cabinet is a beautiful display hutch with a granite countertop.
LARGER KITCHEN: The kitchen was expanded to be in the same plane as the garage, approximately five feet. We achieved this by cantilevering the floor joists and creatively framing a new roof over the kitchen, so the ceiling could be extended at the same height. This additional space gave the homeowners what they wanted. They chose custom gray cabinets, granite countertops, and porcelain tile with glass tile accents. A bonus in the kitchen is the heated countertop where they can sit for casual meals.
LARGER DECK: The planning department didn’t balk when we submitted the plans that included a new deck that was three times larger than the original deck, because a structural engineer designed it for stability on unstable soil. The new deck has two sets of stairs: The large main stairway leads to the rear garden, and a side stairway leads to a concrete pad for the family hot tub.
LIVING ROOM: The homeowners found a manufacturer of stacking patio doors that met their requirements. They selected a new fireplace, and we designed the surround, mantel, and recessed AV controls that would be hidden by the flat-screen TV mounted on a heavy-duty swing-arm support.
WIFE’S OFFICE: The original den, adjacent to the entry hall, became the wife’s office. She requested a larger side window so she could see the floodplain and the wildlife.
MASTER BATHROOM: New cabinets, countertops, plumbing and lighting was designed to replace the existing double lavatories. A two-person shower replaced the existing 6-foot whirlpool tub. We replaced the double doors with a single 3-foot wide door that allowed the master shower to be amply deep. The existing window remained, and a new window was installed adjacent to the wife’s new generous makeup area.
WASTED SPACE CONVERTED TO A GUEST BEDROOM AND BATHROOM: This home had a large open area on the second floor, about 170 square feet, that was useless wasted space. The laundry room was adjacent to this room. I designed a wall along the upstairs hallway to enclose the room, and converted the laundry room to a bathroom with a neo-angle shower.
LAUNDRY ROOM: Borrowing about 10 feet from the large room allowed enough space for a laundry room that was accessible from the hallway. It has storage cabinets, a large single sink, a built-in ironing center, and pull-down rods for air drying clothes.
PLAY ROOM: The perfect location for this was a large corner bedroom separated from other bedrooms. A state-of-the-art ceiling projector and built-in speakers are the heart of the environment. We added a platform for two levels of comfy theater seats to watch TV, movies, and play video games on the humongous screen.
MORE STORAGE: One storage area is a cabinet that’s cantilevered into the garage, for bulk purchases. It’s high enough so no one will bump their head. Another storage area was achieved by redesigning the upstairs hallway to allow the addition of two deep closets. The loft above the husband’s garage workshop will also provide a lot of storage for seasonal accessories, luggage, and more.
We worked on this whole-house remodeling project for 15 months. The plans I prepared totaled 26 pages on 24” x 36” paper. The plans included 40 interior elevations, four exterior elevations, and eight virtual-reality perspectives. The general contractor called me the day he went to the building department. He said with excitement, “The plans were approved with no comments and no red marks!” He told me this is the first time in over 40 years that plans were approved so quickly without requiring additional information or revisions. I was happy to hear this, but this has happened with my plans many times. Details are important!
It was a joy to attend the housewarming party, to see the homeowners enjoying their new home and witness the guests’ reaction to the transformation. One of the guests was the agent who helped the couple find this home. He told us he couldn’t believe that it was the same home. It was a major transformation that the couple will love and enjoy for years. This is what makes me happy, when I know we’ve achieved my clients’ goals.
If you have an existing or new home that you’d like to transform, I can help you! I listen, and give honest feedback. I prepare detailed plans to help everyone involved in your project help you achieve your goals. Call me today to chat about your home remodeling desires!
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