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Patti Cowger

I had a roommate in college who thrived under pressure. She was brilliant; the type of person who would cram for a final the night before and get an A.

I thrive under order, organization and preparedness. True, my roommate sounds like a more exciting friend to have, but not if she’s helping you remodel or rebuild your home. This takes thoughtful consideration and planning. I know, sounds boring and tedious, but worth the effort if it results in creative ideas, beautiful aesthetics, and a smooth-flowing project.

For more than a year, I’ve been emphasizing to clients, especially those rebuilding after the wildfires, the importance of staying one step ahead of their architects and contractors. This approach not only reduces stress but minimizes mistakes. When I’d review my clients’ new architectural plans, I’d ask them about nuisances and undesirable quirks in their old homes. If those problems had not been resolved in the new plans, we’d submit revisions to the architect — before any construction began.

In all cases, the new homes are better designed than the old. Why? Because we planned for improvements and prepared materials, specifications and instructions for contractors to implement. Most contractors appreciate such preparedness. They not only don’t want to make decisions on their own but this slows down the project. They also don’t have a vision for the overall design or how to keep it cohesive.

In the spirit of planning and preparing, here are a few points to consider for any remodel or rebuild project:

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  • Keep your furniture placement in mind when determining window placement and size. Optimize outdoor views and natural light. Think about putting windows in closets, pantries and garages. Sometimes, it’s a good idea. If windows will flank your bed, leave enough space below them for nightstands.
  • If you plan to carpet a room, check its size. Most carpets are 12 feet wide. If your room measures a tad more than that, reduce it to 12 feet by making an adjacent room, closet or hallway wider. Otherwise, you’ll not only have a troublesome seam in your carpet but may also double your carpet costs.
  • There’s been a trend to have master bedroom and bathrooms opened to each other. That is, there is no door to separate the two. I’m not crazy about this idea but if you are, then place the opening so that it’s at one end of the bedroom. I changed one drawing that had the opening in the center of the bedroom wall. The bed could only be placed opposite this opening and it would face the commode. Because we were still in planning mode, I reconfigured the bathroom to add an entry wall (which would face the bed) and which would eventually be covered with a new wallpaper one of my manufacturer’s representative had just sent to me.
  • If you’re including any built-in cabinets or niches, make sure they’re at least 12 inches deep. I’ve seen plans specifying 11 inches, which would not accommodate larger hardback books.
  • Take a look at the “reflected ceiling plan.” This shows you the locations of recessed canned lights. These locations should form a pattern and not be haphazardly scattered. Request four-inch cans because your contractor might default to six-inch. The smaller cans are less obtrusive. Also note the locations of chandeliers and pendants. Ensure that they make sense with your furniture. Don’t assume that your dining room chandelier will be centered over your table. Chances are that it won’t be.

I’m a stickler for plumbing and electrical locations. They determine the size, location and configuration of cabinets and furniture placement. Planning ahead will give you more options and choices. Not planning will limit them. Also match the color of any electrical receptacles that will be embedded in tile or cabinets to the color of that tile or cabinet.

I’m also a stickler when it comes to tile. Scale matters. Think about the size you’re planning to use in relation to the area it will be installed. Choose your grout color carefully and ask that the lines be as narrow as possible. I usually specify one-eighth inch.

There are many more decisions to make along the way but if you plan and prepare, you won’t panic.

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Patti L Cowger is an award-winning Napa-based interior designer and owner of PLC Interiors. For more information about her design services, visit her website at plcinteriors.com call (707) 322-6522; or email plcinteriors@sbcglobal.net.