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tuesday tip: what comes first in redesign (besides prescription drugs)

Patience is a virtue I do not have. Even when I try to fake patience, I get impatient and quit. I like things to happen fast and now. I like to over complicate my days. I like to have too much on my plate. Then I like to stress about having too much on my plate. Then I get impatient when a good friend tells me I have too much on my plate. Then I like to call my sister and tell her what my friend said. Then I get impatient when my sister agrees with my friend. Then I remind my younger, laid-back sister who says, numerous times a day “It will be fine” to please for the love of all things happy in the world, send me the pictures of her new apartment in NYC so I can start designing it. And I remind my sister that she was supposed to send them to me DAYS ago.

Beck's new NYC pad - the before version.

And then a couple of "after"

And then I, yet again, wonder how in the world my sister manages her life without me. Then I reorganize the laundry room shelves to make myself feel better about nobody understanding me. And then I go to bed.

My laundry room. Just kidding. My pretend laundry room.

The thing is, when other people - for example, my friend and client Sara C. get overwhelmed and anxious and sleep deprived during a major renovation, I am a rock of sense and sensibility. I hear myself saying things like “The last thing you need to do three days before a family vacation is research attic insulation” and “It’s all going to get done. I promise! Remember to take care of yourself” is the number one priority.

Don’t I sound centered? Grounded? Zen?

Well, I’m not centered when it comes to my own life and home renovation projects. I blame this on the fact that my mother used to finally sit down at the end of the day, let out a long sigh, raise an icy glass of scotch and say “Wow! I got SO MUCH DONE TODAY.”

You understand why this isn’t my fault.

Whether you are tackling a big renovation or a little room refresh, there is an order to things. It’s easy to want to jump ahead especially to the fun stuff. Why waste time talking about fiberglass windows or carpet padding when you could be roaming the aisles at HomeGoods or obsessing over Pinterest? Figuring out if a wall is load bearing is just so boring.

But following certain steps will make any project easier. I swear. I know this from experience. And also, my husband has told me numerous times though I don’t appreciate his tone. So, I am doing a four-part series on what exactly should happen first when it comes to a major (or minor) renovation.

Here we go:

Determine Your Budget and Then Rob a Bank

You have an idea of how much you can spend on your project. I know how this goes, because I’ve done it. A lot. You’re thinking: Surely renovating the bathroom can’t cost more than booking private yacht ( around the world!? And once you’ve realized that everything in the world costs way more than it should go ahead and look at your kids ‘college funds. Determine which child is probably not going to need it (repeat to yourself they’ll get scholarships) and add in those figures. Research the value of your engagement ring and how much you could get for a semi-vital organ on the black market. Sell your hair. Having an idea of your budget is a good start. It’s a joke, of course, because you will probably never, ever EVER stay within that budget but it’s always good to try your best. That's what I tell my scholarship-bound children.

Schedule Designers and Contractors and Suppliers

Block out some time and schedule meetings with possible suppliers. Having back-to-back meetings with a handful of potential renovation partners will help keep the project moving forward and relieve you of that I can’t remember what the ex-con with the lazy eye said about moving this wall moment that happens when you have too many conversations with too many people over way too many weeks. Three is usually the magic number: get bids from three contractors (if your project is big a contractor and a large bottle of gin is your BFF as he will have his own suppliers for the project), three designers and/or three specific suppliers determined by the scope of your project (you don’t need a contractor if you are just refinishing your hardwood floors and you don’t need a designer if you are replacing your windows, etc.).

Apply for Necessary Permits

The phrase “get a permit” causes visceral reactions in many a client, but it’s sort of like flossing your teeth in between dentist appointments: it may be an annoyance now, but you will be in much less pain later. Here’s the good news: most permitting officers are pleasant to talk to over the phone; they are trying to avoid future code violations. So, use your best small talking skills ( and place a call if you are doing any of the following work:

  • Demolishing a load-bearing wall

  • Changing the house's roofline

  • Altering the footprint of your house

  • Installing new electrical wiring

  • Installing a fence over 6 feet high

  • Parking your roll-off dumpster on a public street

  • Installing a deck over 11 feet high

  • Doing anything with a sewer line

  • Moving major plumbing / installing new plumbing supply and working with drain lines

  • Adding new windows or doors

  • Cutting down a tree on your property

This, my friends, concludes part one of my little renovation series. Notice I did not mention paint colors or cabinet pulls or scanning neighborhood sidewalks for discarded treasures. Do your homework first to do your homework easier. See you next week!

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