To quote the uber-intelligent Ron burgundy in Anchor Man above, this process is quite the emotional journey… and we haven’t even broken ground yet!
It’s interesting to be on the client side of things. I’m not sure I like it. I mean, I like having my own project to make my own, but I’m so used to DIY in the past where we had complete control that this scale of a project using architects, engineers, and a contractor is totally out of my control. I collaborate with these people all of the time, but now I depend on them.
I tend to describe my job as 1 part designer and 1 part marital counselor. Usually, I am talking my clients off the ledge when they are tired of delays, expenses, not having a working kitchen for 3 months, or just helping a husband and wife compromise on decisions. I actually like that part of the job. I definitely have empathy and the ability to relate with them during the stressful process that remodeling is. No one ever said it was easy to beautify you home (except HGTV). But the process of restoration and redemption is always hard, dirty, vulnerable, exposed, raw, and destructive work before it becomes neat, tidy, orderly, awe-inspiring, rejuvenating, and peacefully joyful in carefully designed spaces. This is not a surprise to me. I can handle the dirt and grime. But right now there is no one to talk me off of my cliff. I am that person. And I cannot talk myself down very well.
Now that it’s MY money, MY time(line), MY family, MY aesthetic preferences, and MY expectations, which will always fight with one another, clearly I will be going on some emotional rollercoaster rides for a while. I usually tell clients that these things will always be at odds with one another:
- Scope (how much you want to do)
Usually, it takes a bit of mental processing time for people to sift through their wants and needs before they can figure out which ones are most important to them, because you can’t have them all. Period.
You can have high quality work, at a fast speed, for a large project, SURE, if you sacrifice lots of $$$. You can have a quick turn-around on a tight budget, but usually sacrifice some quality. Especially, when really talented tradesmen are in high demand and have their own schedules you have to work around. Sometimes you might need to use a bit lower “attention-to-detail” trades. Or in my case, I do not want to sacrifice quality or design detail, and I have a very limited budget, so I have to cut back on my scope and time-frame.
We started cutting back on things we could add later, parts we can DIY in the future, choosing some less expensive materials/products, and having to nix some ideas we really loved, but just didn’t fit in the budget. A few of those things being: a concrete-encased master closet as a tornado shelter, the bar, high triangular angled windows under the roof eave that would’ve required metal structure, not replacing all of the windows now, using a typical water tank rather than tankless, leaving a powder bath unfinished that we can finish later on our own, etc…
I’m totally fine with these decisions. They just don’t happen quickly or instinctively. They come as you talk through pros and cons, as you try to imagine yourself living in the space in the future and wonder “what will I regret most?” They are an up and down emotional process that is unavoidable, and a bit unpleasant.
To be honest, the biggest emotional hit for me hasn’t been that process of cutting back for sake of budget so far. The biggest wave was holding on too tight to a time frame. It’s probably not a good choice to buy a house that needs work done everywhere before you can move in (while living with your parent’s for over 8 months). I do not recommend that. It’s much better to live in a space for a while and update it later in pieces, after you’ve stared at it, lived daily life through it, and slowly pondered the possibilities. That’s when you learn where the sun hits through a window at just the wrong time of day, how air moves through the space inefficiently, or how a certain path you take through an exterior door and again through a screened-in porch door to get to the grill drives you crazy. We do not have this option.
I longingly wanted the architectural process to be quick, the structural drawings to be fast, and the city to approve our permit in record time so we could get our little family out of my parent’s house and into our own before our Annual Oktoberfest party this year. But instead, drawings take time and revisions, engineers go on vacations, multiple vacations, and the city doesn’t care how fast you want to start just the order of when your application hits the pile.
Don’t ever plan a finish date for a holiday or party. I repeat: DON’T EVER PLAN A FINISH DATE FOR A HOLIDAY OR PARTY!
I’ve had so many clients do this and we try our best to accommodate, but it’s not always possible. Many have wanted to be done to host Thanksgiving, to be done for graduation parties, Christmas, or even pregnant bellies about to pop before baby arrives. Ok that one, you can’t really do anything about, but it seems to happen often.
I regained happiness and got rid of stress and emotional lows when I finally gave up the idea of Oktoberfest in my brain. When I let go of trying to hold onto the timeline myself, when I just let go of control! That’s a hard thing for a designer to do, but I had to. And now I am joyful, relaxed, and excited for this construction process to happen…
Until the next bump in the road when I go through the wave of emotions all over again!