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The Real Reality of Home Redesign

I love to snuggle up on the couch and watch a reality home show (and, hey, it's "research," right?), and even I can get sucked into the seemingly easy and beautiful renovations they display. But--spoiler alert!--they aren't actually real. We all love to see a designer swoop in and take a small chunk of change and create a Pinterest-worthy living room for a deserving couple in record-breaking time. There are things we aren't seeing, though: the family in question isn't paying for those design services, they have a crew of 100 people working around the clock, pieces were sourced and ordered months ago, and many of the finishes and furniture items were free because of product placement deals. In many cases, that room that they say took a week and cost $5,000 would actually be closer to 6+ months and $20,000. Yikes, I know.

I'm really not trying to burst your bubble and ruin your favorite shows to binge-watch on a Saturday night, but remember that they're entertainment rather than reality. I want you to be prepared for the time and cost associated when you go to take on a real-life project of your own without the producers and video-production team by your side. The reality is that a room redesign can be done on a wide range of budgets, but as the saying goes, "Everyone wants things to be good, fast, and cheap, but you can only have two of the three."

Before you begin your project, let's play a little Fact or Fiction game so you'll have all the information you need to make the best, most-informed decision.

"I can 'weekend-warrior' this whole room, no problem. Decorative trim, paint, furniture. The whole shebang!"

Fiction: Nope. I love a weekend-warrior, but you need to be realistic about your current skills, the (often-expensive) tools you will need to buy, and the time it'll take you to learn to do what a professional makes look easy. Half-finished projects will just serve to make you feel bad about yourself all week while you wait for the next weekend to roll around. Break up your project into bite-sized pieces and do your homework for the best chance at success.

"Professional services are just gouging me. Some of the quotes I've gotten from interior designers, GMs, and subcontractors are insane!"

Fiction: A professional is going to charge you accordingly. If you want a beautiful home then you need to hire reputable people with proper education and experience in the field. This is an investment in your home and in the long run, often saves you from making expensive mistakes. However, you should get multiple quotes whenever possible!

"I should be able to DIY most of my bathroom reno and just bring in a plumber as needed."

Fact and Fiction: This is a bit of a trick because you can indeed do some work yourself but this will depend on your existing skill level, how much time you have to allot to the project, and how intricate the renovation plan is. It's never a bad idea to get advice from a pro before digging in.

"Beautifully crafted, custom carpentry pieces are something any contractor can build."

Fiction: Many contractors can do carpentry work, but if you want custom built-ins or a hand-crafted stair railing you will most likely want to bring in a skilled carpenter.

"A contingency fund is a good idea no matter the size of the project."

Fact: They talk about this on some of the shows and it's a good idea. If you own a home you should really put aside money whether you're in the middle of a project or not. You never know when the furnace will die on you and no one wants to be without a hot shower. No one.

"If the Property Brothers can design a beautiful room, then so can I! It's just a matter of finding a paint color and matching decor pieces. Easy-peasy."

Fiction: There's actually a lot of hard work that goes into a well-designed room. Everything from selecting a color palette to creating good flow to double checking that the new sofa will fit through the doorway. Depending on your project scope it can be an easy DIY, but other times it's best left to a pro.

"It's better to save up for a piece that optimizes my space than to jump on this sale and purchase something I'll regret. Even if this means I have a half-finished room for a while"

Fact: This might seem obvious, but we're all guilty of impulse buys. This is fine for trendy decor pieces, but steer clear when selecting larger furniture pieces that need to really function for your family. Shop around, compare size, functionality, and quality, and then once you've made your selection wait for a sale holiday (hello Black Friday!) and buy then. Remember, these shows make it look like they bought everything in a day, but there was a team of designers sourcing pieces for weeks or months to create the final look.

"It'll be easy to reconfigure this area and knock down that wall. We'll just go from there."

Fiction: Always, always, always have a plan! The TV hosts make this all look simple but you never know what's hiding behind the sheetrock (hint: the TV show producers already know before they start filming; they just choose to keep you in suspense). This is a time to bring in a professional who can help you make a construction plan before you even begin to consider demo.

I hope you've found some of these tips to be helpful--and I hope I didn't burst your bubble too much! It is more than OK to enjoy a reality show and sit in anticipation of the grand reveal, but make sure you're not surprised when executing on your own home project list. If you're ever unsure where to begin I'm happy to schedule a free exploration phone call so we chat about your hopes and dreams for your space.


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Hi there! My name is Erin and I'm the owner of Erin Davis Design, a virtual interior design firm founded in 2017. Here on my blog I serve up tips for creating a home that's functional, beautiful, and right on budget. I hope you'll cozy up on your sofa and stay awhile! 

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