Before & After, Renovations
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7 Questions to Ask Before Renovating


Your best tool for success in any project – large or small scale – is equipping yourself with the answers to important questions as the first step.


We often get feedback on our renovation from interested parties – friends, family, observant neighbours, as well as this online world. Which is a natural part of any project as a way for others to feel involved as an intricate part of the exciting process.

Generally, it takes the form of admiration. Wow, you are surviving the disaster and workload yet still balancing day to day family life. While inevitably, a splash of the opposite is in the mix with disbelief that things are STILL not done or criticisms on stylistic choices. Solicited or not, large-scale reno down to the quick do-it-yourself project, comments are part of the process. And sometimes it can be difficult to keep that feedback at an appropriate distance.

Now, I’m not saying input is a bad thing. Not in any way. shape. or form. Quite the opposite actually. Being open to input and welcoming criticism can be an asset – taking a great plan to the next level by pushing you to see beyond your comfort zone and reassessing anything you may have accidentally overlooked. I wholeheartedly believe that. The problem, where things can get out of scope and the vision off track (quickly might I add), is when all that feedback comes rushing into a weak plan.

That may sound harsh, but hey, it is truth.



What do all quality renovations, beautifully executed designs, well-appointed organization, and easy do-it-yourself projects have in common? Intentional, pre-thought-out planning. That’s the key.


Your best tool for success in any project – large or small scale – is equipping yourself with the answers to important questions as the first step.

#writethatdown #wordstolivebyfriends


I remember walking through our home for the very first time – the dark layout, the dated tile floors that spanned the main level, the painted tissue wall treatment (you read that right, ‘ew’), and the entire basement of warm pine panelling. The dreaming, scheming, and planning started then and there. But it was an official sit down session months later asking ourselves direct questions that set the strong foundation for our ambitious renovation. To help us avoid losing sight of what we set out to do – on our timeline, within our budget, to our taste, equipped with the skills we had to offer.

I’d like to share those questions with you. If you need to substitute the word ‘renovation’ for project or room or space to suit your needs then by all means. No matter what the scope, the questions to ask yourself in the planning stage are the same.



What are my overall goals? The answer(s) to this question is what you will keep at the forefront of your mind throughout the entire process. With every decision, the answer you give to this question can help be the deciding factor.

For example. Say you’re tackling a DIY headboard. What are your goals? Answer: Comfort. Style (Insert your own here). Textural. Ok, great. As you design, source and build, this answer will be your guide (and will tie into the specific questions to follow).

Bigger scope, same process. Mudroom Refresh = Bright. Additional storage. Finishes can stand up to wear. Ok, so when you decide on colours, wall treatments, flooring, furniture items, closet systems, hooks… each and every decision can be decided upon linked back to the original goals set.

For us, in this house, our umbrella goals are; More natural light/bright living. Keep the shell neutral/natural. Livable (in the sense that nothing is too precious and space is well appointed). Harmonious (Stylistically). Quality.

The goals you set are unique to you. They can be extremely specific or general guidelines. But in the end, the result should be a harmonious project that suits your needs and style.



How will this function? Before sights and heartstrings turn toward the pretty elements, work out the functional details that your goals will require.

Back to that headboard. How tall should it be? Well, Rob is 6 foot, so it’ll need to span a minimum of 6-12″ beyond his height when sitting to maximize his comfort. Factor that number in with the bed dimensions and foam thickness – these functional details are key to the final design.

Mudroom? Same thing. Function before beauty. If you need the walls to handle daily wear of bumps and kicks balls and sticks, function is where you need to start. Drywall could be high maintenance, wallpaper, maybe wood… start your list and narrow down what suits you and your lifestyle (and budget – up next).

Again, for us and this house, our list was uniquely tailored to compliment our goals. Our list of functional elements related to flow from one space to the next, appointed ‘rooms‘ and how they’d be used, as well as finishes. *As the renovation has been broken down into individual projects we’ve narrowed each function relating back to the umbrella goals and functions.



What is my budget? I’ll be the first to admit that this number can be difficult to determine. Do not be discouraged or overwhelmed and don’t let that deter you from setting one, even as a general guideline.

Full home renovations, bathroom overhauls, hallway spruce ups, gallery wall hangings, front step seasonal decor – all of these cost money. Period. Each can range from low budget changes ($) to an exuberant amount of dollar bills ($$$).

Knowing upfront you have ‘X’ amount of money will help as you set your goals, narrow down your functional elements, achieve your style with all the pretty details, and check off the ‘must haves’ on your list (Foreshadowing – see what I did there?).  Otherwise, all that un/solicited input can send your head and budget for a spin.

Keep in mind that budget plays in to timeline for most projects/renovations. That’s the reality. And it can be a trade off. Most banks offer a mortgage program that you can build-in your renovation costs under certain conditions – one being timeline. Which often requires bringing tradespeople on board in order to complete a large portion of the work within that allotted time frame. Labour costs can be a HUGE portion of your renovation costs – I mean all the dollar bill signs. So if your budget doesn’t have much give, it can be a trade-off to extend the timeline and plan to do as much of the work as your own skills allow. That has been our approach. Rather than spending our money on wages, we’ve budgeted towards quality finishes.

#winwin #lesshavingnoendinsight


What is my style? Now we get to talk pretties! Always the favourite part.

*But, do note where this is on the planning list. People are always surprised when I sit down with them to design a space and we don’t start with fabric, but rather function.

At this point, it is good to make note of what your style is. It doesn’t have to be rigid, but a general sense to reference. How it plays into your home will help keep your vision on point and in harmony with the other details. Even a well-appointed gathered/ ‘eclectic’ style starts with a plan. I’m just saying.

Back to that headboard. Your goals intended it to be a textural feature. That, with your chosen style, will narrow down a seemingly endless sea of fabric.

The mudroom: Goals and function in mind, budget reality, and your chosen style can seriously narrow your options to help tailor the design.

For us personally, with this full home scope, we deemed our style ‘Transitional.’ We wanted to pay tribute to its traditional layout and curb appeal while incorporating that neutral shell and natural light that we desired for our overall goals.



Must haves? Be sure to be specific about what you absolutely must have to make it worth the effort, mess, and disruption of your renovation. There can be give-and-take as the project makes progress, with unexpected hiccups or budget changes. Being thorough with your list of functional elements and design details can help you determine your top ‘must-haves’ to prioritize in the case a trade-off has to take place.



Will this stand the test of time? Let me just be clear with this one – the answer won’t always be yes. And that is ok. Everyone is different and their approach to design and function can vary drastically. You may opt to make decisions that you know are on trend and may need to be redone sooner rather than later. Go for it! Just know that is the trade-off.

As a rule of thumb – for me personally, because I don’t have the desire to add any more re-do items to an already lengthy to-do list – keep your long-term, hard to change, elements on the neutral/timeless scale to avoid breaking the budget and your back.



Can I/We do this on our own? I throw this in, not as a business pitch for myself as a designer, but as a quick reality check before you dive into a project. Even equipped with the answers to the questions above, renovations are A LOT of work. A LOT.


Every single detail relates to the next. Each decision and small project feeds into the following, which adds up to the final product. The items you source, the quality, the application… everything. It can be overwhelming on that front alone. Add the mess. Because there will be chaos and dust. Even if you think you can do one thing at a time and finish up before moving on. Often times, one project relates to another and before know you it the ceilings and walls are all open down to the wires. Not always, but… it’s not as cut and dry as it logically seems it should be. I’ll leave it at that.

So be honest with yourself. Know your limitations. Assess your skills, and those that around you who are willing to help. Be careful not to take on more than you can handle.


With that my friends, I wish you the best of luck, whatever your endeavour. Equipped with the answers to these questions, you should come out on the other side of any project happy with the results that are unique to you and yours!







  1. Doris Fraser says

    Many factors to think of before starting. I am am guilty of doing without thinking that far ahead but I can see that in the end it pays at so many levels!

    Liked by 1 person

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