Laurie March was recently named as resident "House Counselor" for HGTVRemodels.com, a website dedicated to helping people through their home renovation. She keeps homeowners from freaking out after getting in over their heads with remodel projects. We spoke with her to learn the secret for surviving a home improvement project (while still maintaining your inner zen).
Coming from a family with three generations of construction workers and roofers, Laurie has home improvement in her blood. "I grew up doing things around the house that maybe were a little more nontraditional. I refinished floors with my mom. We repainted and redesigned our rooms all the time... we just did weird stuff like that, and it never occurred to me until later that it was different." Like over Christmas a couple of years ago, she retiled her mom's backsplash.
Realizing that not everyone has a similar remodeling background to hers, Laurie noticed that people would get what she calls "analysis paralysis" where they were inspired by great design photos on the internet or in magazines, but were unsure how to recreate the look for themselves. Laurie's entrepreneurial drive kicked in, and she decided to launch a business to help people through their remodeling projects.
Here are Laurie's tips for surviving a successful remodel project:
"The bigger the expenditures, the more the stress," Laurie says. Spending big bucks on a project can raise the stakes and add more pressure. Other than money, the biggest stressor can be a lack of information and feeling overwhelmed. "Almost anything can cause stress if you don't have the information you need going into a project."
"People want to strangle each other over kitchen and bathrooms," Laurie admits. "These are the most intimate spaces where you are totally yourself and when you bring a contractor into these spaces it can be overwhelming." If renovating either of these spaces, have a game plan established so you don't get overwhelmed. Set up a temporary mini kitchen elsewhere in the house or designate an alternative bathroom and set up a schedule so your family doesn't fight over who gets to take a hot shower.
With the internet these days we fortunately have instant access to finding remodeling tips online. Laurie says that the DIY Network is great for those who are looking to tackle projects on their own.
If it's something bigger and you are looking to hire someone or even just know how to speak the same language as a contractor, Laurie recommends checking out the HGTV Remodel site. It's a resource to help people figure out where to start the remodeling process and get the tools they need to stay sane during a home improvement project. If you're stumped on a project, you can also submit a question to her on the House Counselor blog.
You want to paint the living room, replace the bathroom tiles, and update your master bedroom, but where do you begin? "Start with anything that will make your life better," Laurie answers. Spaces that are falling apart or are damaged are good starting points. "When you walk through your home, if it stresses you out or is kind of depressing, these are great places to start." Shared spaces are priorities to update if the whole family uses it because "you'll all feel the impact of it."
Paint and artwork are two easy ways to update your space. According to Laurie, "Paint is a superhero." It can easily change the look of a room on a small budget. There are also so many ways to create custom artwork these days by blowing up your own photography. Laurie says a lot of people are blowing up the pictures they take on Instagram and creating a gallery wall. And, if you can hang your own pictures, you can totally change the look yourself.
"I think there is a lot of debate about what's 'worth it' to invest in your home," Laurie tells us. "People live a certain way today that they didn't live 10, 30, 100 years ago and if you make updates in your home that solves problems — makes it more efficient — you're never going to be sorry you did it."
One of the most popular updates she gets asked about is the mudroom. Today we use a lot more gadgets in our day-to-day lives and need a space to stash our laptops, smartphones, bags and shoes. Upgrades that make a room more functional and efficient are things that will make your home better. "If you have to put your house on the market and describe an upgrade you made, if it solves a problem then it's probably going to solve the next person's problem as well."
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