Patti Lorenzi Cowger.jpg

Patti Cowger

How many times have couples said to me, “We have the same taste, the same ideas, the same goals, the same priorities, and the same budget in mind”?

Never. So a few years ago, I created an exercise that addresses potential conflicts before they arise. It not only heads off conflicts at the pass, but organizes and clarifies what each person wants to achieve with any home improvement project. I ask couples to do this exercise individually and independently. It looks like this:

1. Write your reasons for wanting to do your project. What improvements do you want to make? For instance, in the case of a bathroom remodel, your reasons may be that you want to update the space to suit your aesthetics and increase your home’s future resale value.

You want to improve the functionality of the space, create more storage, allow for more natural light. You want to begin and end your day in a less hectic way and do so in surroundings that you feel are beautiful.

2. Note any hesitations and fears you may have. This usually includes costs, inconvenience and disappointment with the end result. Or, you may fear that your other half, dare I say, has obstinate and outdated views.

3. Create three columns titled “must have”, “would like to have”, and “bonus if the budget allows.” Fill in the columns. For example, you must have an enlarged shower, would like a slab countertop, and if the budget allows, programmable warm floors would be a bonus.

4. Rate each item according to importance from one to three. There’s no right or wrong answer but you will see how this rating becomes an important piece of the puzzle in step 6.

5. Enter a realistic budget. I emphasize “realistic” so that you can get the best result for the amount you are willing to invest. This is especially important if you work with a designer who can then guide you in making the best return-on-investment choices. Be honest about your budget. If you purposefully lowball it, you will get less than what you really wanted and will be disappointed with the results.

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6. List ways to handle your differences once the project is under way. Knowing how you will deal with them before they occur gives you a head start on the solutions. One strategy could be to agree that one person has the final say on tile, for instance, and the other has the final say on paint color.

Another strategy could be to look at your itemized rankings in step 4 above to assess its level of importance. The ranking scores come in handy when facing a budget conflict as well. That is, if the cost of enlarging a window blows the budget and was ranked a low 1, then leaving the window as is resolves the problem.

7. Wait a day or two and then compare lists. Make any initial agreeable adjustments and then make a new, combined list.

This exercise can apply to any project from new construction and remodeling to selecting furnishings and defining your interior style. So, sharpen your pencils and start planning to make your design wishes come true.

Note: Abbey Carpet and Tile will be hosting a free tile seminar in the upcoming weeks. Send me an email if you’d like to receive updates about this event.

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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 or follow @plcinteriors.