5 Lessons Homeowners Should Take Away From Design Shows

1. Set Aside a Contingency Fund

Unfortunately, with any major design project or renovation, you need to allocate additional funds for unforeseen expenses. Even TV design shows have homeowners set aside contingency budgets. While these “surprises” make for dramatic TV, you don’t want any drama in your renovation. I have witnessed “surprise” wall air vents that needed relocation, a leaky roof in need of repair before moving forward on interior work, and new design features become a priority that weren’t on the original project scope list. Setting the expectation that you will have unforeseen costs is a part of preparing yourself both financially and mentally for what lies ahead. This will allow you to enjoy the process… maybe even as much as sitting on the sofa and watching the transformation on HGTV!


2. Prioritize

Even in TV land, no project can meet every single design dream you have ever had. For example, the project scope in design shows typically include renovating either the bathroom or the kitchen as these are expensive spaces. Budgets are often focused on areas that will make the biggest impact. Determine what spaces, architectural features, furnishings, lighting, and design elements are most important to you and let your designer or architect know the order of prioritization at the start of the project. This will help define where time and money is spent and where to save. Being passionate about one particular design element likely means putting more funds toward it and then balancing your remaining budget with creative design solutions and more value-priced selections. In one episode that I worked on, kitchen cabinets were refinished as a cost-saving solution vs. replacing all the cabinets. If your heart is set on specialized custom windows, consider featuring them in the front of your home and using simpler windows in the back and side facades.

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3. Stage Your Reveal 

Why we do we all love the ‘Before’ and ‘After’? We may see our unfinished rooms in the “Before” and dream of having the seemingly instant “After” spaces. The transformed spaces we love are fresh, uncluttered, personal and most importantly, finished. Whether you are renovating or designing a single room, take the project to its full completion with all the finishing touches. A first step to getting this design show look is to declutter. This is a challenging and unglamorous project, yet essential to achieving a transformation. I suggest making donations of items you and your family are no longer using twice a year to local charities. Some of my favorites in Westchester (like Big Brothers Big Sisters) will come to pick it up for you. Second, keep the momentum and finish the space. Smaller furnishings like table lamps, side tables, and decorative items like pillows and shelf accessories create a finished look like you see in the design shows without a huge investment. These finishing touches add warmth, color and interest. While design shows like to fill spaces with accessories so no camera angle looks bare, a few well-placed decorative items can add personality to a space so it looks uniquely yours. Lastly, art is an intrinsic part of a well-designed space. In my work, art is as important as a chair as I consider it food for your eyes and soul. There’s nothing like an air-date to motivate, yet anyone can schedule a deadline date. Plan to have friends or family over for your own reveal, then break out your iPhone camera!


4. Reimagine Spaces 

The “wow” factor from design shows is in their implementing transformative designs. This gives the show license for reinvention. If you decide to renovate, allow yourself to reimagine your home completely. Don’t be wed to how your space has always been. Many homes in Westchester were built in the Twenties when technology, building materials, and living was very different. An interior designer can reconfigure your space for how you live today. Start with function, and the beauty of the design will follow. While design shows focus on exciting living spaces with open floor plans, remember to also reimagine the spaces that do not get camera time. Maybe there’s a radiator that you always bump into that needs recessing? Has your dream always been to have a laundry on the second floor? If you don’t use your dining room consider creating a study area, a lounge, or a children’s playroom. In one episode, an awkward narrow closed-in porch was re-designed as a functioning office by adding glass doors at each of its entrances. A reimagined space can give you long-lasting joy.


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5. Plan to be Flexible

Those funny moments that come off best on the design shows are often when everyone is unscripted. Design needs a dose of this flexibility as well. All the steps in design shows are meticulously planned as the timelines are fast and furious in comparison to real life. While all looks perfectly planned in the reveal, sometimes first choice design selections do not come in on time or the plan changes and new options must be found. As such, design selections need to be flexible because the show must literally go on. Any professional design project should have a plan and a clear process, but do not let timing be the only driver. Also, be open to new inspiration or additional ideas to perfect the space. The design process is a creative, artistic, and iterative one. This is sometimes when the magic happens. Luckily, there are a plethora of “right” choices that can work if your first choice does not come through. However, if something speaks to you, whether it is a custom-designed table or hand-crafted furnishing that is made to order, it is worth the wait. Don’t let the original plan be what restricts you to in stock items or furnishings with short lead times. Perhaps design shows contribute to a desire for instant transformations, yet a beautifully designed home takes time. The design of your home should not be on TV show timelines, as you will enjoy a well-designed home for years after its reveal. 

KAM Design LLC

RELATED: Calling All Home Professionals! Nominate Your Favorite Home Professional For a Chance to Wine The Best Home Professionals in the Fall Issue of Westchester Home. 

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