If possible, live in your house for a while before making any plans to overhaul. “Learn its flow, where the groceries land, where the laundry wants to go, how the sun hits it, where the choke points are, which way the rain slants, even get a sense of its soul.
Most jobs will cost more and take longer than you expect, so always add 20 percent to what you think a project will total when budgeting “If you don’t have the funds.
Work on older buildings can yield a lot of unforeseen events. Who knows what’s behind that wall you’re opening up? New construction is more controlled, but that doesn’t always mean smooth sailing. Be prepared for the unexpected. “It’s a human failing,” says Irving. “We all hope and pray everything goes according to plan.” Trust us: Nothing will.
“You are about to spend more than you ever thought possible,” says Irving. “It might as well be for a correctly-designed thing.” Interiors designers and architects typically either charge by the hour or take a percentage of the overall job (say, 10 percent)—a small sum compared your total payout.
“Good professional help is worth the money,” says Irving. “That means design as well as construction.” Be willing to pay for a good contractor, and be wary of the one who’s cheap and available right away.
Just because someone is a good designer doesn’t mean she’ll be a good fit for you. Do you have the same aesthetic? Priorities? “If he or she doesn’t ask you a lot of questions about your needs, desires, and the way you live, find someone else,” says Irving. “Listening skills and curiosity are crucial.”
Irving recommends contacting the previous three clients of anyone you plan to hire. “These people will have experienced the person at his or her current level of achievement and staffing,” he points out. Reach out to general contractors for an architect’s references, and vice-versa. “And visit your candidates’ job sites to find out if you like what you see in terms of cleanliness and vibe.”
Ask a contractor to look at plans in the schematic stage, rather than at detailed finished plans. “This way you can find out if your project is in the right budget ballpark before falling in love with a plan—and paying for a complete set of biddable drawings. It’s also a good way to meet potential contractors, get their input, and not misuse their time.”
Fact: Most people can’t read blueprints. Instead of eyeballing it, lay out a room or building or garden for real. “Painters tape can be a girl’s best friend. Taping out a space works better than any sketch or design app for understanding how things will fit.
“Ask lots of questions. “There’s no such thing as a dumb one, and besides, it’s your money you’re spending. You should know why and on what.”
Changes that seem simple to you may require a lot of work on the back end, so be sure you check with your designer or builder on even slight adjustments.
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