Jasmine Sims looking at interior design magazines

Calm Amid Chaos: The Key to Surviving a Home Renovation

Calm Amid Chaos: The Key to Surviving a Home Renovation

Embarking on a home renovation project comes with its array of emotions. Whether you’re engaging in a complete home remodel or simply upgrading your spec home to create a custom build feel, creating the home of your dreams is an exciting experience. Additionally, the ability to invest in a home renovation often comes with a strong sense of accomplishment and pride. As a homeowner considering a renovation, you’ve likely spent years being disciplined with your dollars, saving, investing and doing research on what it would take to bring your home up to the standard you will love. Or, you’ve found a home with “good bones” and can’t wait to see all of your ideas come to fruition.

Meaningful home transformations present their fair share of challenges, though. Anticipation and uncertainty create increased stress. From the unexpected surprises uncovered about the home itself to exogenous factors delaying the timeline, the uncertainty can leave you feeling anxious and under pressure. It’s during these periods of heightened stress that our judgment becomes cloudy, leading us to make bad decisions or costly mistakes during the renovation.

So, how do you keep your cool during a home renovation? At Sims + Co. Design, we think the best way to manage your sanity during your renovation is through sound scenario planning. In this post, we provide some insight to help you practically plan for making your home renovation as seamless as possible.

Scenario planning for your home design

Having spent 10+ years in corporate environments, I bring my formal business experience into my interior design process. Planning for the knowns, unknowns, and the “maybes” in between is a critical part of being an executive in any major corporation. Notably, the principles of scenario planning apply quite nicely to home renovation. 

Here are the four steps to planning for your home renovation.

  1. Identify the goals and requirements of your home renovation
  2. Identify uncertainties and likely scenarios, and analyze their implications
  3. Decide and document your best path forward if things go awry
  4. Act (when necessary) and stick to your convictions

In some cases, you’ll need to make these decisions to change direction early in the process. Or, you won’t make the decision until the situation arises. And in other cases, the situation may never arise. Regardless, the key is to know what you would do before you need to do it and stick to your convictions once you need to act.

Let’s discuss each of these steps in greater detail. 

1. Identify the goals and requirements of your home renovation

Getting any home renovation off to a great start requires establishing your goals and outcomes for the project. Your goals should include your functional needs, aesthetic preferences, desired architectural features/changes, overall investment (inclusive of a contingency) and desired timeline. Through my discovery call and consultation, I work with clients to create a comprehensive list of their wants and needs. Once we have a comprehensive list, we prioritize your list of requirements in order of importance. If you’re doing this on your own, don’t forget to add your budget and timeline to this prioritized list. Although these requirements are less about the home design itself, it can help you understand where your constraints are and where you would draw the line. As an example, if your prioritized list looks like this…

Calm amid Chaos: The Key to Surviving a Home Renovation | Sims + Co Design

… you are deciding that hitting your budget is less important than your first four priorities, but more important than the outdoor patio and other priorities. It doesn’t mean that your first four should consume your complete budget, nor does it mean that you won’t be able to have your outdoor patio. It simply means that if the going gets tough, you know where you would draw the line.

Having well-established goals for your home design will help you understand where your hot buttons are as they relate to your renovation project. Once you know those hot spots, you can then identify the various scenarios that could arise. 

2. Identify uncertainties and likely scenarios, and analyze their implications

Calm amid Chaos: The Key to Surviving a Home Renovation | Sims + Co Design

Once you’ve created your list of wishes and needs, you should identify the uncertainties and likely scenarios in your project and the implications. I call this the “what could go wrong” phase of this process. It’s important to note that there are many things that may not go the way you expect with your renovation, but narrow your focus to those situations that would stress you the most. These are probably tied to your first 3-5 home renovation goals. 

For example, maybe the greatest worry is that your chef’s kitchen is going to cost wayyyy more than you anticipated, leaving little room to complete anything else in your project. If you feel like that would have a huge impact on your home design goals, this is a critical uncertainty/scenario with big implications. Alternatively, another (more) likely scenario is a delayed timeline that hinders your ability to host your annual summer party on your new outdoor patio. This may be a pain to deal with, but maybe you decide that the implications aren’t as dire. You can just plan to host the next year, and no one would bat an eye.

Once you have your list of likely scenarios and the implications, it’s time to move to the next step. 

3. Decide and document your best path forward if things go awry

So you’ve identified your renovation goals and some of the scenarios (i.e., challenges) you might encounter during your project. This next step is all about creating a plan of action to mitigate those risks, should they arise. With each of these scenarios, we recommend deciding in which direction you would act in the face of conflicting objectives.

Let’s continue with our example of the chef’s kitchen, since it is one of the most popular scenarios we see with any home renovation or custom build. If you think it’s truly plausible that your total budget could be blown just by the kitchen design, how do you mitigate this? How do you solve for the ability to invest in the kitchen of your dreams, while also maintaining a budget for the other things that are really important to you?

Maybe you decide that your best course of action, if faced with this challenge, is to identify where you’re willing to invest the most, and, consequently, where you’re willing to save in order to get more (or better) of something else you want.

Calm amid Chaos: The Key to Surviving a Home Renovation | Sims + Co Design

For those items that are top priority, I always recommend starting with the “best of the line” estimate and paring back from there. Knowing your “best of the line” list and your “willing to save” list will help you manage your budget and stick to the priorities you have for your home design. For example, you may prioritize the investment in items like a beautiful Wolf range or high quality kitchen cabinets. However, you may decide that, to do this, you will spend less money on the backsplash or light fixtures. You’re not foregoing these options in your kitchen renovation, you’re just willing to spend less on certain items to get what’s most important to you in the kitchen, while also making room for investing in the other areas of your home.

Once you’ve come up with the path forward across your scenarios, it is important to document the decision. Create a notebook or running list on your Notes app of these situations, what your path forward is in light of conflict, and why.

4. Act (when necessary) and stick to your convictions

If you’ve done all the pre-work above, then you’re ready to act during the process of your renovation when these situations arise. If the risk that budget doesn’t go very far after you’ve selected your Wolf range and marbled backsplash, go to your documented path forward decisions to see what you agreed to do and why you agreed to take that course of action. Stick to this action list like it’s a formal contract with yourself. The point of the documenting the decision in the previous step is to keep yourself in check when, inevitably,  those emotions in the moment convince you to make a decision that would be less than ideal.

Working with an interior designer

Because the first 3 phases in my 6-phase interior design process occur before we sign the contract, I always provide prospective clients with a ton of helpful advice (like the above) before we agree that my full-service design engagement is the best option for them. I will admit, when I talk my clients through this process, it can feel overwhelming for them to do this on their own. While it’s an incredibly thoughtful exercise, it can feel like a lot to do for the “chance” that things go wrong. But I am here to tell you: things frequently go wrong in a home renovation. If this level of preparation feels like an arduous task, you should consider working with an interior designer on your home renovation. 

When it comes to a home renovation project,  an interior designer owns the responsibility of scenario planning for our clients and sets the right expectations based on our years of experience. At Sims + Co. Design, we get to know our clients in great detail during our discovery process and create their prioritized wants and needs list. During the implementation phase, where we are problem solving with your general contractor based on the documented path forward and decisioning framework, we reduce our client’s decision making and stress burden, so that they can focus on other matters important to them. It’s never perfect, but we always strive to make it easy for the client.

Home Renovation Resources

What are some of the other ways we help? Check out our resources:

  • Home Design Investment Guide -  If you need help understanding how much you should invest on furnishings specifically, check out my Home Design Investment Guide with detailed good vs. better vs. best investment levels for over 100 home furnishings.
  • Remaining in your Reno - While we encourage clients to consider moving into a medium-term rental unit as their home is being renovated, you may decide to live in your home during your renovation. Check out our 8 tips for staying sane if you remain in your home as it’s being renovated.. 
  • When to hire an interior designer - If you’re moving and renovating around the same time, learn why it’s best to hire an interior designer before you move.

Hiring an interior designer to help with the process can help you stay grounded. But, regardless of the path you take, we encourage you to remain focused on the end goal: reaping the rewards of a well-designed and beautifully renovated home.

What our

Clients are saying

“I moved into a new house and had no idea how to decorate my bedroom. Jasmine was there to help me with every step of the process. She made sure to understand my preferences with color schemes and aesthetics, and she provided me with multiple options to choose from. Whenever I had questions, she was always communicative and I never felt uncomfortable reaching out to her.

Now I have an amazing space that I love. Thank you, Jasmine!”

Jessica, Charlotte NC

“Jasmine helped take out so much confusion and overwhelm in planning out a move into my new townhome. She is thorough, efficient and a pleasure to work with! It was my first time working with an interior designer, and I'm grateful I found Jasmine. Trust her process and you will not be disappointed!”

Frank, Durham, NC

“Working with Jasmine was amazing. Everything from design to implementation was spot on. My style as we discussed was brought to life.”

Donald, Charlotte NC

“I literally sleep better having beautiful design surrounding me. Thank you Jasmine for your amazing vision and deliberate execution!”

Ray, Washington DC

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