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The 6 Biggest Lessons On How To Be Your Own Project Manager + Some VERY Real Life Mistakes And Successes

When one of our readers, Lisa (remember this DIY project?), reached out to us after remodeling her home on a budget, we knew this would be a story all our readers would want to hear. She managed to save thousands of dollars during a large gut remodel while also added an additional 500 square feet. Today, she’s sharing all the mistakes and money-saving tips and tricks she learned. Take it away, Lisa

If you asked me ten years ago what my life would look like today, I would’ve never imagined I’d be a working mom/Interior Stylist/Instagrammer and sharing remodeling tips on EHD! I’ve been a long time fan for over a decade and have always found the articles extremely resourceful and I refer to them time and time again.

After remodeling our first home, I found a new passion and decided to share my experience with others and start my own interior design business. I’m hoping to inspire people to always see the potential in a space and create a home they love. Hopefully the tips I share with you today can help you plan for a reno, avoid any unnecessary mistakes, and give you the confidence to tackle your own remodel.

I would like to preface by saying it was an incredible experience being my own project manager and building our dream home. However, taking on this role and a large remodel is not for the faint of heart. You never realize there are hundreds of measurements to think about until you try to be your own project manager/designer. There were many sleepless nights when I wanted to drive to our house with a measuring tape and double-check for the fifth time if the sconce in the bathroom was the correct height from the floor. Was it too high? Too low? Was the distance from the mirror far enough? Was it too close? Will this look goofy??!! What am I doooooiiiing??!! The million questions and doubts that ran through my mind likely contributed to all the new grey hairs that have sprouted on my head over the past year.  

All that said, I wanted to share all the tools, tips, and tricks that helped me through this process. Even though it was the most stressful time of my life – building a home during a pandemic, with my spouse – while trying to be my own project manager – we managed to stay married and 1000% I’d do it all over again.

Helpful Apps And Software Programs

Let’s begin with the first stages of our remodel – the floor plan and 3D renderings. In the beginning, I hired someone on Fiverr app to make two 3D renderings for $550. While this is definitely cheaper than hiring an architect to do a rendering, I realized this wasn’t going to work for me since I was only given 1-2 revisions, before they began to charge for each change. I’m the type of person who likes to see multiple, multiple, different designs, and layouts. This helps me feel confident about my final decision once I feel like I’ve exhausted all my options. So going this route was definitely cost-prohibitive. 

Later, I discovered two different apps that helped me tremendously. I can honestly say I couldn’t have done my project without them. ArcSite is a free app I used for all my floor plans, cabinet layouts, and measurements. Planner 5d helped me save hundreds of dollars making my own 3D renderings. Once I taught myself how to use these programs, I was able to make an unlimited amount of designs for FREE! They’re pretty user-friendly too since I’m not the most tech-savvy and was able to navigate them.  

Another trick I like to use to visualize a space was to use painter’s tape and flooring paper. Since our kitchen and dining area are one open floor plan, we were having difficulty visualizing how wide to make each designated area.  Using the brown paper helped immensely with figuring out the scale of the space. I was finally able to decide on the width of the cabinets and measurements for the dining and kitchen. So when in doubt – tape it out!

Here are a few examples of mistakes and cost savings I made:

Always buy samples of materials before making your final purchase. For tile selections, do not make your decision based on the one or two samples they give you from the store. To really get a sense of the design/color, it’s imperative you look at a large amount of the material all laid out. This method not only works for tile, but also wood floors and paint. 

the custom tile…

I wanted this really unique design in our entryway and I chose an Italian porcelain tile with a lot of variation. I ordered 4 pieces and thought I liked the design so I placed the final order for the entire room. Low and behold, when they began to lay the tile, I soon realized the variation looked like someone had smeared feces on top of the tile and I literally wanted to cry! Since this was imported from Italy, it was a custom order and non-returnable. I ended up wasting about $1,400.  

For our wood flooring, we ran into the same issue. I learned my lesson from the tile incident and ordered one box of flooring material. I wasn’t happy with the selection and was able to return it with a small restocking fee. Even though the sample boards for wood floors can be large, wood has so much variation that you’re only seeing a tiny sample of the entire lot. You can’t get the true visual effect unless you lay 6-8 full-length boards – which will definitely help you finalize your decision. When processing a return you may lose a bit of money in restocking fees, but that’s significantly less than paying restocking fees on thousands of dollars worth of material. 

Paint samples: When I painted swatches to choose the color for our interior walls, I used several 11”x17” pieces of paper. Even though this is significantly bigger than the tiny swatches you get from the store, I still had difficulty visualizing the color on the walls. I thought of the idea to paint a HUGE swatch on a piece of drywall. Since paint colors can reflect light differently from room to room, I moved the drywall around the house to help make my final decision. 

How To Save Money On Cabinets

The majority of our kitchen is white oak and I allowed my contractor to select all the wood for my cabinets. After he finished building everything and installed the boxes, we came to realize the wood ended up looking like tiger stripes EVERYWHERE! I discovered he mixed red oak and white oak which have two completely different grain patterns and color! I realized this after I took a sample of wood to a lumber yard since I couldn’t figure out why the grains looked so different from one another. This also made sense why none of the twenty different stains I bought looked the same on each piece of wood – that was a fun day I’ll never forget! 

As a result, my contractor repurposed ALL the wood for another project and I ended up picking every.single.piece of wood in my entire house during the height of the pandemic. The inventory was so low that I had to make six trips to the lumber yard over a two-week period. In the end, I spent about $5000 more dollars for a higher quality wood – all wood is not created equal! However, it was SO worth it! The kitchen is the heart of the home and it was worth the splurge! I LOVE how it turned out – aaaaaand it made for a fun story to tell.  

the cabinet wood i wanted!

Since the majority of the cabinets in our home are white oak, I was able to save thousands of dollars on custom cabinetry by mixing wood species (intentionally this time). I used hardwood white oak on the rails/stiles of the door and white oak plywood for the panels. On the outside, the cabinets have this beautiful harmonious grain movement and look like oak cabinets through and through. However, on the inside, I used maple plywood which helped keep the cost lower. Custom cabinetry can be SO expensive but by applying these tips I was able to achieve a high end look for less and no one’s the wiser – except for everyone reading this article now.

Since we had so many built-ins throughout our home, I also mixed inset and overlay cabinets between the various rooms. I used inset cabinets for the kitchen and dining – which are the main areas of our home. But for less traffic areas, such as our walk-in pantry and laundry room, I used overlay cabinets and saved around $1800 since the labor involved with making inset cabinets is significantly more difficult than making overlay cabinets. 

Look For Dupes Or Knock-Offs

Always try to find a dupe for an expensive item. You never know when you’ll find an amazing deal! I found the dupe of a lifetime with my laundry room steel barn door. I was fixated on having a glass steel door until my dreams were crushed when I was quoted $2500 for one 36” door! I found this insanely gorgeous door at Home Depot for $349. It’s actually made of steel but for a fraction of the cost. I also wanted steel windows throughout our home, but this was WAY out of our budget. Who knew steel windows cost a fortune!! Instead, we saved $50,000 installing aluminum-clad windows with thicker grids – 7/8” wide – and I love them! We’ve even had people ask if we have steel windows because they look so similar.  

Hardware can get quite costly especially when you have a large kitchen. I fell in love with these knurled cabinet pulls from Restoration Hardware until I saw the price – $52 for one 6” pull – ONE! I found an almost identical dupe on build.com for $14!!! They have a heavy weight to them, look expensive, and are the prettiest honey lacquered brass color.

Be Clear With Your Contractor On Where You Want Outlets

some of the outlet placements

ALWAYS review your electrical plan with your contractor. The majority of the time, contractors are not thinking about aesthetics and slap those suckers anywhere without consulting you. It’s all about the little details that really make a home look custom and well thought out. Place outlets and lights strategically and always discuss in great detail, exactly where they will be placed – everywhere! Here are some examples of mistakes and stellar placements I made:  

I have a bit of an obsession with concealing electric outlets and switches. This was the first time I ever made a lighting and electrical plan and I accidentally ended up installing a light switch behind a door because I neglected to factor the direction the door swung. It was an easy fix to open up the drywall again, but it ended up costing me $400. However, I learned a very important lesson: regardless of the mistakes you make – inevitably there will be some – everything is fixable! Sure you’ll have to pay for a change order, but make all the changes while you’re still in construction, as opposed to kicking yourself after you finish your entire remodel because the thing that bothered you before, still bothers you – but now you can’t change it!  

I designed a small appliance cabinet that houses all my small appliances. I installed electric outlets inside the cabinets and used my appliances in there so my countertops are clutter-free. On our porcelain waterfall island, I installed the outlets on the underside of the overhang as opposed to the side of the island which is the traditional placement. If I hadn’t discussed this with my contractor beforehand, I can only imagine him installing it into my stone and I would have to stare at it every day for the rest of my life. On the kitchen counters, I installed the outlets low and close to the countertop. I also turned them horizontally which allows the outlets to blend in better with the stone backsplash. Since my sink is in the island, I installed a garbage disposal switch under the sink cabinets. Traditionally a disposal button is installed on top of the countertop, but over time, the button can become a collection area for dirt and grime so I love the fact that it’s a simple switch inside my cabinet.    

Task lighting: Don’t forget about task lighting. I installed open shelves in my kitchen and initially thought about installing task lights under the shelves. However, when I had upper cabinets in the past, I never used the lighting underneath, so I assumed they weren’t necessary. After they installed the shelves and turned on the lights, I realized I should have installed the lighting. $800 later, we changed the shelves and hard wired the lights. I can happily say they add such a nice ambiance to the kitchen and I use them daily. 

Tips For Tile Installation: 

Do a walk-through of the space and convey your exact vision of how you want the space to look. I made extensive notes using “Keynote” of how I wanted the tile to be installed in the bathrooms and taped them to the wall. This was helpful for the installer to reference during the installation. It also helps with any type of miscommunication that could possibly occur. If something is installed incorrectly, you can always reference your paper to see who, why, and where the mistake occurred. This can definitely help save you money in the long run since a lot of mistakes occur due to miscommunication. This may seem a bit obsessive to be this detail-oriented, but if you don’t give exact instructions, they’ll tend to fill in the blanks themselves and things like electrical sockets and light fixtures, tiles can end up in the worst/random places. I’ve learned from past experiences that for some reason the ugliest tile always ends up at eye level! So when I have a complicated install, or I want the pattern to look a certain way, I’ll label the tiles and tell the installer exactly where I want each piece laid out so I could hand-select all the pieces I want or hide the ugly ones in inconspicuous areas. 

Choosing Grout Colors: 

Never pick a grout color when the mix is still wet. I made this mistake in my son’s bathroom when they applied the grout. I forgot to test the color first and by the time I realized I disliked it, they had already spread too much on the wall and it was too late to change it. This actually ended up being a happy accident because when I came back the next day, the color dried significantly lighter and I loved it! Now before any grout application, I have my installer make 1/8” wide and deep cuts on top of an extra piece of tile and he smears several different grout colors on top. This allows me to see all the colors side by side and I can take my time making a decision as opposed to deciding minutes before he covers the entire area and you’re stuck with your choice forever. 

During our home remodel, we also decided to remodel our backyard. We ended up hiring the cheapest contractor and quickly regretted our decision. He ended up doing a horrible job on our deck and he had to demo the concrete THREE times in several areas because the finish didn’t match in various areas. Note to self: be wary of hiring the cheapest contractor – especially if their bid is way under others. Always get at least three bids when you’re doing a remodel and compare costs. 

In the end, needless to say, I learned an endless amount of valuable lessons. Throughout the entire build process, I doubted myself so many times and literally thought I was building the goofiest house of all time! But, my best advice is: always trust your gut! Everything turned out beautifully and I’m so happy we went this route. Now I’m suffering from withdrawal and need another home to remodel!

Design and Photos by Lisa Kanegae

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Nina
4 months ago

If anyone is looking for some down to earth, thrifty and FUN renovation videos, go check out Ariel Besset’s youtube ! She’s patching up an old house in Nova Scotia, doing all of the work herself (with some family help), and slowly turning each room into a happy and colorful space full of personality (not a white box in sight!). Watching her content makes me so happy AND it makes me think maybe I can actually take on renovation projects myself one day! win-win.

Nina
4 months ago
Reply to  Nina

oh god I made a terrible mistake, Ariel Bissett’s youtube!!!! mistyping my own recommendations *facepalm

Lisa
4 months ago
Reply to  Nina

Yes, yes, yes!!!! I loooove watching her videos, they are so fun and give me so much hope for potentially also being able to own and renovate my own place someday <3 But also huge probs to Lisa that house turned out beauuuutiful and I am in absolute awe of that kitchen-dining-room-living-room-layout, just gorgeous and so many useful tips – Thank you, Lisa!!

4 months ago
Reply to  Lisa

Aw thank you so much for your kind words Lisa! Love your name by the way 😂

Sahaja
4 months ago
Reply to  Nina

Ooh, also XoMacKenna. Shes redoing a 108 year old farmhouse and doing a lot of the work herself. Also, she salvaged all she could and has been trying to things as sustainable as possible. And sheetrock just went up so makeovers galore incoming!

the kitchen is obviously beautiful, but after reading that they discarded all the wood after installing the kitchen cabinets because of not liking the wood grain, i had to stop reading. that made me sad.

Sarah
4 months ago

Same. And it sounds like a nightmare project for the cabinet maker.

Lisa
4 months ago

Oh my gosh thank you for catching that! I meant discarded as in we didn’t use end up using it but my carpenter repurposed it for another project. I should have prefaced that. Thanks

Reply to  Lisa

Thanks for explaining that. The idea of that much waste was disturbing 🙂

Christa
4 months ago

The cabinet maker screwed up, should never have mixed woods, that wasn’t the spec and I can’t imagine how a cabinet builder made such a huge mistake. That’s just lazy incompetence / trying to do the work on the cheap and hoping the homeowner won’t notice. Good for her for standing up for herself.

Lane
4 months ago

It wasn’t about the wood grain, it was about using two different species of wood. And you can tell the contractor did it knowingly if he alternated the boards. It wasn’t a mistake. He just hoped no one would notice it It’s sad when people make so much effort to do the wrong thing instead of connecting with a client, communicating, and collaboratively solving the problems. I wouldn’t want to pay thousands for something that I don’t like and stare at it every time I’m using a kitchen.

Lisa
4 months ago

She CLEARLY stated the wood was repurposed not discarded.

Reply to  Lisa

@Lisa. She changed the wording after my comment. I read this early this morning and it CLEARLY stated in exact words that she discarded all of the wood.

🥰 Rusty
4 months ago

Yup.

Miriam
4 months ago

This sounds like a massive undertaking so bravo!
It would be helpful to get a sense of the scale of money saved. $10k on an $800,000 project is somewhat minimal especially when factoring in time. Were the contracts re-written to account for the GC work the client was providing, or we’re her hours on top? Was this a full-time job or did she fit this in around other undertakings?
It’s great to see details from different homes, and this new one is gorgeous!

Jennifer
4 months ago
Reply to  Miriam

Plus one to this comment. I’m really curious to know what her starting budget was, and how much she managed to save by being her own GC. And if she had a full-time job while being the GC, how did she manage her time? I have considered being a GC for two bathrooms we want to renovate (so much less scope than a full-house renovation plus backyard), but realistically, it’s not possible bc I work around 50 hours a week and am often on Zoom calls, which would make it nearly impossible to constantly step away to handle questions from tradespeople and make real-time decisions/adjustments.

Lane
4 months ago
Reply to  Miriam

If the project took a year, she’d have to pay GC’s yearly salary. I don’t know how much, but I expect at least 70-80k as no one experienced would want to earn less. Am architect and designer would charge quite a lot too. I think managing and designing is a full time job. You have to choose what you prefer doing. Sometimes it’s easier to earn money in a way that’s aligned with your expertise than to try learn everything there is about design and construction to save a little bit. Learning and doing it yourself usually takes more time.

janelle
4 months ago
Reply to  Lane

That’s not necessarily true. Most GC charge a percentage/commission on top of total budget or major deliverables. And most GOOD GCs will have multiple projects going on rather for consistent cash flow than relying on one project to pay their salary or fees of their trades.

Most designers and architects charge an hourly fee or a flat fee for all deliverables. It’s not quite the amounts that you are thinking.

Lane
4 months ago
Reply to  janelle

If it’s less, it will still add at least 15-30% to the cost when you hand over the design and management to a firm. House & Home did a cost brake down on three different kitchens (on yt) recently. It’s crazy how fast the total cost increases when you start asking for extra details or up the quality. It’s not just the percentage, but it seems there are multiple fees stacked. There’s also a fee for procurement of the materials and overage. And if changes happen the homeowners pay restocking fees too. So one could actually save a lot by managing this on their own. Everyone has to make money, so it’s not necessarily bad that it happens. But those upgrades and details end up being very expensive and GC and designer fees are proportional to the quality of work and material cost. I’m not opposed to paying others because it takes effort and time to do this well. I’m just saying that this remodel looks great so there were potentially big savings.

Emma
3 months ago
Reply to  Lane

What? lol. No clients are cutting checks for a contractor’s or architect’s salary. Clients pay according to the fee structure agreed upon in the contract, which might be hourly, lump sum, GMP, etc. An individual’s salary is based on their billing rate, which will be laid out in the fee proposal. Individual paychecks will come out of the overall revenue, and they’re actually a surprisingly small percentage within the overhead and construction expenses. People also generally don’t work for only one client at a time. It’s also worth reiterating that project management is an entire specialty requiring specific knowledge and skills, and leaving that to a professional can help the project move faster and improve the end result.

4 months ago

The interior of the kitchen is beautiful, nice thanks for sharing this article.

4 months ago
Reply to  Guild

Thanks so much

Julie
4 months ago

With a description like that, how can you possibly NOT include a picture of the offending Italian tile??

4 months ago
Reply to  Julie

We added the tile photo to the article 😊

Kate
4 months ago

I hate the look of outlets and switches but just an FYI to everyone reading this that some of her solutions for hiding them are not to code everywhere. I wanted to do our outlets mounted on the bottom of the cabinets but that wasn’t allowed, nor was it to code to have them low as she’s describing within a certain number of feet of the sink (which covered most of the kitchen).

Sarah
4 months ago
Reply to  Kate

I’m also super curious about the garbage disposal switch. At first she says under the cabinet and then says hidden in the cabinet. For the life of me, I can’t figure out what this might look like and would love to see a photo of this and her other electrical design blueprints

Christa
4 months ago
Reply to  Sarah

I think she meant she installed the switch inside the cabinet below the sink. I did this for an island sink. I mounted the switch at the top right corner just inside the door, so when needed, just open cabinet, reach down and flip switch.

4 months ago
Reply to  Sarah

Hi. It is located on the side of the interior of the cabinet below the sink. It is a regular electric switch

Eleanor
4 months ago
Reply to  Kate

I’m also not convinced that the island outlets are to code. Here is the 2020 NEC
Summary of the New Code Requirements in the 2020 NEC 
In the 2020 Code cycle, when determining the minimum number of receptacle outlets required for an island or peninsular countertop or work surface, you must adhere to the following:  

  • One receptacle outlet is required for (up to) the first 9 square feet of countertop. This means from over zero to nine square feet of countertop you must provide one receptacle outlet. 
  • An additional receptacle outlet must be installed for each additional 18 square foot section (or fraction thereof) of countertop. This means from anything greater than 9 square feet up to 27 square feet of countertop, you must provide a second receptacle outlet. Beyond 27 square feet up to 45 square feet, you must provide a third receptacle outlet, and so on. 

 The NEC says that placement of the receptacle outlets is up to the installer, designer, or owner, as long as one of the outlets is installed within two feet of the outer end. 
The new Code also indicates that the location of all receptacle outlets must comply with Section 210.52(C)(3), which tells us the outlets shall: 

  • Be no higher than 20 inches above the countertop surface. comment imageReceptacles are NOT allowed below a countertop extending more than 6 inches beyond its base.
  • Be permitted to be installed within the surface of the countertop or work surface if the outlet is listed for such an installation. 
  • Be no lower than 12 inches below the surface of the countertop if the outlet is installed in the base cabinet. 
  • Not be installed in a base cabinet below the countertop or work surface where that surface extends more than 6 inches beyond its support base.

Given that the counter overhang is more than 6 inches from the support base, outlets should not have been under the overhang.

DeniseGK
4 months ago
Reply to  Eleanor

Eleanor,
You may be right about everything, but I just wanted to mention that different places use different code versions. For example, my state only recently updated their regulations and now require that everything be up to code according to the 2006 IBC. There’s plenty in the 2020 version that I wouldn’t have to legally do. It may well be that the house in this article *is* legally up to code for where it is. My state isn’t even unusual in being behind, just in how *far* behind they are.

DeniseGK
4 months ago
Reply to  DeniseGK

But I do think outlets under that overhang are a mistake – bc of cord issues. With how deep the overhang is, they could easily run into issues with cords being too short for an appliance/gadget to be used on the kitchen-side of the island where they want it. They’ll either have to add cord length to their purchase criteria, re-wire purchases, or use appliances on the bar-side of the island. None of those is terrible, but they each come with cons that could easily have been avoided.

Erin
4 months ago

This looks amazing – what a gorgeous Reno! We are currently building a house and so many of the same lessons apply – assume NOTHING, double-check EVERYTHING, totally overcommunicate, etc etc. The time invested will save sooo much money in helping to catch mistakes early.

4 months ago
Reply to  Erin

So true!! Over communicate to the point of exhaustion! 😂 Congrats on your build

Caitlin
4 months ago

We used a GC for our extensive remodel, but I was very involved because I love design and I have specific ideas about how I want things to turn out. He did a bulk of the work himself with his employee, and hired a team to do demo, a tile guy, an electrician, and painters. Overall the house turned out beautifully and we are really pleased. The painters were not well managed by the GC and that made for some uncomfortable exchanges (what painters don’t wash the outside of a house as part of prep?!?). When you have someone working in your house for 6 months you don’t want to sour the relationship midway through so navigating this kind of thing is hard. We recently renovated our fireplace and it felt so good to have the contact info for a fantastic tile guy and to hire him directly. If we need paint in the future, either we will do it ourselves, or I will ask neighbors and do research online to find the best game in town. The person who really went above and beyond was the cabinet salesman at Home Depot. They use rendering software at most cabinet stores.… Read more »

Shannon
4 months ago
Reply to  Caitlin

Why not just ask him who his manager is and email him? I’m sure your cabinet guy would greatly appreciate your efforts.

A
4 months ago
Reply to  Caitlin

You could write a letter & drop it off at the store: address it to the store manager, but say in the letter that you’ll hope they’ll share your praise with the district manager, too! If you can describe the physical appearance of whoever helped you that should be enough, if you don’t recall his name. I’ve worked enough retail in the past to think this approach probably would work! 🙂

Kristi
4 months ago

This is very beautiful. Thank you for sharing!
Her advice was so practical and down to earth. I felt like the distance between our perspectives was not as great because of her newness….and yet her work: Breath taking. Inspiring! Bravo! I am all about sustainability. The greatest challenge these days is the youtube, tik tok, instagram quiet undercurrent of consume, consume all day, every day that fuels these platforms. ‘Others’ create one time sustainability errors (like her cabinets), significant yes, but ‘we all’ are guilty of consuming so much because of large (visual) cravings for more beauty.

4 months ago
Reply to  Kristi

Thanks so much

4 months ago

I am pretty amazed by her willingness and confidence to take charge in her home reno. However, she is not a GC. She is a project manager. That is a HUGE difference as she does not have the education or background a GC is required to have to be licensed. As someone mentioned about the outlets not being to code in many places, a GC will know the proper codes and standards that the inspector will be looking for. Also, if moving walls or dealing with anything structural or load bearing, the drawings MUST be signed off on by a structural engineer or architect. It is thrilling and commendable that she taught herself the programs and was able to produce drawings and renderings since these were for kitchen cabinets, and likely not structural, but people should be encouraged to take charge of the management of people and being secure in their choices and their voice with the GC. They should not be encouraged to be their own GC or not to have one. Unfortunately, the contractor she worked with made style choices she did not like, but they were not dangerous or illegal, as a homeowner might do if choosing… Read more »

🥰 Rusty
4 months ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

Good points Elizabeth, I hadn’t thought of it in that way.

4 months ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

Sorry! You’re right, project manager would be the correct term. Thanks for clarifying

Erin
4 months ago

Wow, self-contracting is no joke. Thanks for sharing such a candid take of your mistakes-and your successes! The results of all your hard work and planning turned out beautiful.

4 months ago
Reply to  Erin

Thanks! Hopefully all my headaches will provide less stress for others

BeckyB
4 months ago

“To really get a sense of the design/color, it’s imperative you look at a large amount of the material all laid out.” I think this is generally good advice, but it’s not always possible when sourcing custom materials. I’m in the middle of a kitchen+ reno, and I’m selecting between two hand painted custom tiles for the backsplash. I can’t place place a returnable order. So, we’re talking the 8×8 sample, and mocking it up in renderings. I suppose I could print a few copies, and put them up on the wall…except there is no wall yet because everything is still down to the studs. I have to get the order in asap so I can’t wait for drywall to go in. Anyway, all this to say…good for her, not for me. Even though I love design, and I have relative confidence in my eye, hiring a designer and a GC was the only way forward.

DeniseGK
4 months ago
Reply to  BeckyB

Also, there are lots of materials and items that naturally have very little variation. I do not need to purchase and lay out an entire box of solid colored subway tile to find the ugly tiles or make sure that I like the overall effect. There are also woods that have little variation and less noticeable grain that you wouldn’t need to order a box of. For things like the tile she originally chose, sure, yeah, it’s got a lot of handmade character and variation but not all things do, not even all custom/handmade stuff.

🥰 Rusty
4 months ago

Lisa! 😃 That’s a big undertaking! Kudos! I especially love your advice on “looking for dupes”! I do this constantly. You can use your phone to search an item as an image and find the exact thjng cgeaper and/or extremely similar for less. Saves me heaps of $! Ypur description of your tile “looked like someone had smeared feces on top of the tile” cracked me up!🤣🤣 Wish we could’ve seen it. I project managed the restoration of my ol’ girl, nearly 100 yr old little cottage years ago, while I was unwell. I managed to slam-dunk it in 3 months (it’s ony 2 bedrooms though) and I only renovated the bathroom, leaving the 1950 kitchen as was – Oof! I was only working part-time, so I had time to be physically present and was living in another property on the same street at the time, which helped enormously. I chose my tradies (Aussie for tradespeople) verrry carefully and only had a bodgy plumber, that I watched like a hawk! A hawk, I tell ya! 😳 💥 I treated my tradies super-well, which hasn’t been mentioned in this post and I consider to be PIVOTAL to a good working relationship… Read more »

4 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

Haha love your attitude and thanks for your kind words! Best of luck on your project

4 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

Also meant to let you know we attached the photo so you can see the offensive tile in question 😊

Rachael
4 months ago

Any chance of getting some source links? Those island pendants! Really everything is so beautiful and her write up is inspiring. My husband and I were just talking last night about experimenting with rendering programs ourselves for our bathroom remodel!

Kj
4 months ago
Reply to  Rachael

Maybe it’s Rejuvenation Haleigh Dome (use Google Lens to find it).

4 months ago
Reply to  Rachael

Everything is linked in my shop on the free Like to know it app. All the sources for my home are in there. Happy shopping!

Christa
4 months ago

Wow, congratulations! Your house is beautiful, and you gained so much knowledge. Well done!

4 months ago
Reply to  Christa

Thanks so much

Annie K.
4 months ago

This is so beautiful, Lisa! Great work.
I found it interesting that the comments aren’t as universally positive and adoring as they sometimes are when a guest shares their renovation stories. My hypothesis is that this house LOOKS SO GOOD, like Emily Henderson good, and a little more upscale than we’re used to seeing with the more “MOTO”-style, within-reach kind of makeovers. Few of us expect to achieve Emily Henderson homes, given our demographics, and yours is that level. I think it looks amazing, your hard work is obvious. I hope you find some way to show us befores and afters!

Shannon
4 months ago
Reply to  Annie K.

I noticed the same thing! Not sure what the reason is, but I like your theory.

MKP
4 months ago
Reply to  Annie K.

First I just have to say W O W! Your home is absolutely STUNNING. It is so inspiring that you took this project on, saved some substantial $ and are now sharing your hard earned lessons with us. I truly appreciate the wisdom and experience you gained. And your design choices and execution are just BEYOND. You are a huge talent! I love every single thing you did and can’t wait to see more. And yes, sources would be fantastic. I agree with this commenter that the feedback seems way more critical than I would expect. I understand that there are some important points abt the difference between a GC and a project manager and that the GC’s training/expertise/license is definitely worth a lot. Pointing out that code needs to be considered and understood with some of these electrical decisions is useful. But it also feels like some territorial “stay in your lane” kind of feedback that I find a bit troubling. Would ppl react this way if a man did the same thing? If a man feels confident enough to try something new and learns some important lessons along the way, would he get the same response? I also… Read more »

4 months ago
Reply to  MKP

Hi! Thank you so much for your kind words. I am just grateful to be able to share with Emily’s fantastic readers and hopefully my experience helped someone in their renovation journey. If you’d like to see more of my work you can click my name in the first paragraph and it will take you to my instagram account. Also I have sources for my entire home on there as well. Thanks again for your kindness.

4 months ago
Reply to  Annie K.

Hi! Thank you so much for your kind words. I have a ton of before and after pictures and videos on my instagram account if you’re interested. My handle is live.laugh.love.decorate or click my name in the first paragraph 😊

Janelle
4 months ago

It sounds like a lot of the errors can be chalked up to knowledge and experience. This is where hiring a designer/architect may have come in handy, especially as they have a history of using multiple materials and the ability to visualize end results. Things like details and mixing woods could have been prevented with an experienced person running interference. Not a censure, but something other people can maybe note. The costs in hiring a designer at the beginning will be offset by the lack of headaches and mistakes/errors in communication down the line, when things are harder to change or restock

Michelle
4 months ago

So many great ideas and lessons! Thank you for sharing your story and beautiful home with us!

Lisa
4 months ago
Reply to  Michelle

Thx so much!

CB
4 months ago

This is so fun! I would love to learn more about her backyard update. Is that faux grass on top of the concrete in the last shot, or actual sod between the pavers? Love the look!

4 months ago
Reply to  CB

Hi! It is artificial grass in between the concrete pavers. You can find more information on my instagram account if you click on the link in my name on the first paragraph.

jamie
4 months ago

What a beautiful home. You shared some very sound advice and great tips. I am grateful for that. We are about to build our dream home and will act as owner/builder. We will contract out the big stuff. I know mistakes will be made but it’s very helpful to read posts like this and make notes. Thank you!

4 months ago
Reply to  jamie

I’m so glad the information was helpful! Congrats on your build – how exciting!!

4 months ago

Lisa, you’ve created a beautiful home for your family! There are so many details that are absolutely fabulous! Your lessons learned are so valuable especially as I’m taking on the larger reno projects around our home this year. So glad you wrote this blog post and that I was introduced to your work today – just followed you on Insta!

4 months ago
Reply to  Rohini

Aw thanks so much for your kind words! Really means so much! Good luck with all your Reno’s! Fun fun!

Ellie
4 months ago

Loved this post! Super inspired by both the impeccable aesthetic and the awesome “can-do” attitude! Would love to see more of Lisa’s posts in the future!

4 months ago
Reply to  Ellie

Aw thank yooooou

G
4 months ago

Wow! Amazing job with the design. Thanks for sharing your process and being so open about mistakes. It was especially helpful to be reminded to fix things in the moment (if you can!), even if the fix is a total headache and costs more in the moment.

4 months ago
Reply to  G

Yes absolutely!! Biggest lesson learned! Thank you

Bridget Moore
4 months ago

Thank you for sharing this process! Just beautiful!

Lisa
4 months ago
Reply to  Bridget Moore

Thx so much!!

Jo
4 months ago

Sad to see that Arcsite doesn’t appear to have a free option anymore ☹

Addie
4 months ago
Reply to  Jo

I would love to hear about other free design apps/ sites that people have experience with.

4 months ago

Great article, the most useful information about interior design applications and cheaper copies of original but expensive products 🙂

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