Guys, we have been undergoing our remodel for 2 years!!! There have definitely been some ups & downs, and overall I feel incredibly lucky to be able to create my dream space, but I’m READY to be done. If you guys remember, in my last house we dabbled a bit in construction, but on a very surface cosmetic level. It was a good way to ease into something of this magnitude to really understand the process, the [realistic] timelines, the costs, and the importance of finding quality workmanship.
Since my dad is in construction I always have him double checking quotes and work quality for me, but even without an expert available to you, it is crucial to understand that you get what you pay for!
I am in no way saying the more you pay the better the quality, but you’ll know when someone is bringing value and charges that way. I’ve tried negotiating with people who straight up walked away because they are not willing to take less when they KNOW they are worth it. And let me tell you, I’ve learned the hard way. If your budget permits, always take the quality route. It will save you from the headache you will inevitably get from working with inexperienced people, or even worse, people who just don’t care.
Not to mention, a lot of times taking a shortcut could result in you just needing to fix or replace the work eventually, which no one wants to deal with since that essentially means more time and more money…
For our San Diego house, we interviewed multiple different contractors to ensure we were not only on the same page about expectations / aesthetics / quality, we also wanted to make sure we got along since you’re pretty much entering a relationship with this person. Luckily I’ve loved all the people we have worked with and haven’t had any bad experiences on a personal level. You will also need to feel comfortable communication with this person, as there are bound to be issues where you’ll be put on the spot and need to make tough decisions. When unexpected issues arise and we are told more time & money (yay!), a lot of times we ask to be presented with all options so we can weigh which option makes the most sense financially and long term.
Being able to articulate your EXACT desires and expectations is also very important. I often change my mind from the original concept, and while this is very frustrating to contractors, at the end of the day they are there to execute your vision so don’t be afraid to speak up. Oh, and if you don’t feel like you’re cut out for that job, you can always work with a designer.
Because of our circumstance when we lived in LA (aka not being able to oversee the project daily in SD), we hired a designer to help source materials, oversee the project, and communicate directly with our contractor to ensure everything visually was being done the way I wanted. This relieved us of a lot of stress and time, which was a luxury I am grateful we were able to have. Just know that if you are not working with a designer, you will have A LOT of decisions to make and most of them suck (IMO)! We’re talking where to put light switches, electrical stuff, how big you want doors, direction windows should open, how things should line up, etc. etc. etc. I literally want nothing to do with that stuff – just the aesthetics, please!
Okay, so a lot of people always want to know where I would recommend putting your hard earned dollars, and where to be more conservative. Aside from a quality contractor, here’s my opinion on materials based off experience. Also, I already have documented a lot of our SD house on the blog, so stalk my Interiors page for details.
+ Floors – I would do engineered wood. They are more durable and honestly so many great affordable options. I don’t think a house needs “real” wood to be pretty or high end.
+ Cabinetry – I wanted a lot of oak in our house (specifically in that raw blonde shade) and it’s been very hard to maintain since I didn’t use a traditional sealer to prevent it from changing colors. Paint grade is muuuuch cheaper and you can pick literally any color. The areas that I did paint grade cabinetry are some of my favorite areas of the house.
+ Hardware – I would splurge on nice cabinet hardware. It completes the look and can really make your cabinets looks expensive.
+ Countertops – This is preference of course, but some of the prettiest slabs I loved where considered a “cheaper” material. I honestly don’t care, as long as it looks good to me and isn’t a piece of shit that will get ruined easy or something. Be open mined with countertops.
+ Mirrors – I love a statement mirror in a powder bathroom, but on a larger scale mirrors can get super pricey. Unless it’s something really unique and special, I prefer to stick to simple framed mirrors that can be found online.
+ Lighting – The actual bane of my existence! I can’t ever seem to find anything I love, and when I do it’s vintage / $$$$$$. In certain spaces I feel a light fixture really gives a WoW factor, so my advice would be to be selective about where to spend big money on lighting. For me, I would splurge on a nice fixture in places like the kitchen, living room, and maybe primary bathroom if it’s a space you love. The rest of my house has less expensive fixtures since they get less visibility in the house.
+ Plumbing – Not just saying this because I’m a plumber’s daughter, but quality plumbing is essential. No shade to Amazon, but once I ordered a $90 black faucet and it squirted water everywhere every time you turned it on. While I adore Water Works, you don’t need to spend THAT much for the look we all love. I used Newport Brass throughout my entire house and feel like the unpolished brass achieved that beautiful vintage, worn-in, effortless look I was going for, and their pricing is a lot more reasonable. Oh, and the quality is great.
+ Tile – Like countertops, it comes down to preference. If I like what I see I don’t care about the brand name, what it’s made out of, or how much it costs. I did a mixture of highs and lows in my house. Depending on the space I needed tile for, I either opted for something more economical and simple or went a little higher end for my bathroom, for example. Sometimes the less expensive route just works and that’s totally okay.
+ Specialty Items – I don’t know what to call this category, but essentially there are certain things I wanted to splurge on for this house that I personally felt made an impact. To list a few random things that come to mind, changing our windows out was a big undertaking but so worth it. They completely transformed the house. Custom railing really elevated the house. An integrated sink in our powder bathroom gave the space more character. Adding an archway where space permits is such a vibe.
Speaking of character, though, I did want to mention that to me a home is special when it has some character. While I do love the feeling of a brand-new house, sometimes it’s nice to leave some funky stuff since those are the parts that give a home character. For example, we have this step down into our big living room, and Paul was trying everything in his power to level out the space and make it one simple level. We ended up keeping the step and I personally feel that ONE detail gives the room so much more character. I’m not big on symmetry; I like things somewhat off-balanced. Just feels more effortless and lived-in.
Okay, that’s all. Hope all of my opinions are taken with a grain of salt because at the end of the day, DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY!
P.S. I’ve already documented most of our projects in this section of the blog.