Inside Edition: Volume 2

Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 10:30am

We are 90% done with our interior demo, and now starting framing. When people said I would be so rewarded by having our own “blood, sweat, and tears” invested in this house, they weren’t kidding!

BLOOD COUNT: One ear sliced open by a piece of flying wood. One oil tank dropped on foot. Four nail punctures in hands. Countless splinters and slivers.

SWEAT COUNT: Nate leading the pack in this category by a mile. Thanks to amazing weather from beginning of August through the end of September, the house is like a little oven! Nathon and his Dad, Tom, have definitely done their part in adding their “sweat equity” in this house so far.

TEARS COUNT: Markie wins! OK – Not my fault. Seriously. Here is the scene: In the midst of Operation Demo, Dust, and Dismay… While up on our flat roof, admiring how nice the view would be if we were “only one storey higher”…  Nathon gets down on one knee, pulls out a giant ring, and asks Markie to spend the rest of her life with him. Herein lies the excessive crying from the happiest girl in the world! Back to renovations…

The typical amount of renovation tears has been sustantially reduced due to our connections, experience, and a whole lot of HELP! Not to mention, a shared vision of the finished product.

The idea of this blog is to give readers a true inside view on the renovation. I want this to be open, honest, and real. I do not want the blog to be another DIY couple renovation/new construction success story, showing you that it is so easy to do it yourself. The whole DIY renovation & new home construction thing is everywhere – glamorized on countless TV series and internet blogs. I want to be clear that we are not the average “DIY couple,” just breezing through the process. I don’t want people to read the blog and leave thinking  ”I want to do this!” or  ”that looks easy!” or  “that looks fun!”   I want to be clear that we are not doing this alone.  We have so much help, and we are not new to the business.

Renovations DO NOT LOOK LIKE THIS!!!

Renovations definitely DO NOT LOOK LIKE THIS either!!!

Don’t be fooled. It is not always easy!

The stress of renovations is HUGE!  And the bigger the reno, the more stress. I’m not talking about “freshening up your paint colour”, I’m talking about tearing your entire house apart. Fortunately, we have a lot going for us in the realm of reno’s. Nathon and I have similar tastes, interest and vision in the house. We are both willing to let things go if the other one has strong feelings about the way it should be done. For example, the interior posts and beams, that is all Nathon’s department. Don’t mess with him on this one! Finish details, those are Markie’s department.  Some areas, like windows, are shared departments. We do consult with each other, no matter who’s department it is in, just to be sure that we are in agreement. If he hates a finish I love, then I try to find something else to love, that he can live with as well. It’s a partnership.

I have been thinking about how people with very different ideas, tastes, and styles for design survive a renovation. They say that a renovation is the ultimate test for a marriage – so far so good since we have become engaged during the process! We have had a lot of clients come to DMI with differing ideas and I see how hard it is for them. I have watched Denise act as a marriage counselor for our own clients during the process on several occasions. It can be very challenging for a designer to manage and balance the visions of two clients for the same project. To be able to take the individual tastes and styles of each partner for the project and make them function and flow together in the space is an art. A fine art, in my mind.

Nate and I also have another big thing going for us: Experience. Although I am by no means an expert, I have several years of first-hand experience with renovations. I create budgets and project expenses. I track these expenses. I research, source, negotiate, order, and schedule materials. I know the sequence of a renovation, I know what things cost, what options are out there, and who to use (and not to use) for trade work. I help clients make cuts to budgets without sacrificing design integrity, I can make quick decisions, and I can find solutions and compromise on site when things are not going quite as planned. Of course, when it is your own project, you still have overly optimistic expectations for how quickly things should progress, the cuts to the budget are very painful, and the decisions are a lot more difficult to make when they are for yourself and not someone else. Overall, I am coming into the process with a pretty realistic perspective and that is a definite advantage. I also have my very own carpenter, who I trust wholeheartedly, as this is just as much his project as it is mine. And he happens to have a carpenter father, and an electrician brother.

On top of it all – we have Denise Mitchell Interiors, and Steve Hills of 2Hills Renovation as our mentors. We bounce ideas off of them daily, and their help in this project is invaluable. I cannot stress enough that we could not do it without them, and we would never have started a very complex total renovation of a house from the 50′s without this kind of expertise to back us up. We would literally be crazy to do this without help.

Without help, I can completely understand why it can “break marriages” and cause people to have mental breakdowns. You don’t believe me? I have seen it! Unless you have a lot of experience in the industry, I strongly recommend hiring a designer and a contractor. If you plan to do the construction work yourself, consider hiring professionals to do the parts you are the least comfortable with. It will be well worth it in the end. If you think you are going to do all of the design yourself, consider hiring a designer on a consulting basis. Bouncing ideas off of Denise and Sheri in the office is a lifesaver for me. A designer can also help you from making some costly mistakes. We have all of our house plans on paper, but we have also been able to view all of the plans at the office in 3-D. As the builder, Nate was blown away by the entire process. Being able to actually see your concept come to life and walk through your house before you start work is amazing. All that wondering about space planning, moving walls, kitchen layouts, adding windows, fireplace locations…you get to put it all to rest. You get to sleep at night – well, at least you get to sleep more often than not. You certainly have a lot less to stress about!

It is okay to not be the DIY couple. It is okay to get help from professionals when you are building or renovating. The end result is still going to be your own. The finished product is still going to be something that you can look at and be proud to say “I did this.” We all need some help and some guidance time to time. A collaboration of your ideas and your designer’s ideas is the best outcome.

The next “real” renovation blog is coming soon…and we can get back to what is actually happening at the house!