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Home remodel

Do you have home improvement plans for 2017? Currently, my family room furniture is in disarray, paint cans clutter my counter top, and a ladder is supine on my floor.

I’m replacing my enormous television in my enormous wall niche with a shorter one, which means there will now be a lot of empty space above it. So at the moment, we’re in the midst of framing inside the niche to allow for an earthquake-proof (fingers crossed) mounted television and a shelf above. It will be fantastic and long overdue.

Although this is a tiny project, I’m still following my personal rules of remodeling: Plan. Pause. Proceed.

The objective is to save time, save money, avoid mistakes, and get to the finish line with the intended outcome.

In my case, the plan was straightforward and I only needed to decide where to place the shelf. That’s because, for aesthetic reasons, it will be a fixed (permanent) shelf. It will also have a thick face frame to give it a custom, built-in look. I only had to pause long enough to choose exactly what I’d put on it. Once sure, I proceeded to mark the shelf’s location so that the empty space above my accessory would be in proportion to the rest of the niche.

If only all home improvement projects were so simple. Usually, no matter how well you plan, something unexpected emerges. But if you follow my rules, things will go more smoothly. They’ll also produce a cohesive design with optimal function and interesting materials. And, my rules will help you stay on budget and improve the value of your home to boot.

Planning is the most difficult of the three rules. It takes patience. When homeowners eagerly dive in without doing their homework, they make knee-jerk decisions and impulse purchases. Mistakes can be costly with restock fees, design revisions and contractor delays.

Planning takes soul-searching. Why do you want to remodel? What do you hope to achieve? What financial and personal value do you expect the outcome to bring? What words convey the look, feel and function you’re aiming for? Show your designer and/or contractor pictures so that your words are interpreted as intended.

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Devise a realistic and comfortable budget. Be honest about it no matter how big or small. This allows your professional team to guide you wisely and affordably.

Once you’ve completed your plan, pause and step away from it. Let it brew. Then look anew to see if you want to tweak here or there.

If working with a designer, don’t reject ideas outright even if they are a bit outside your comfort zone. A designer’s job is to bring the creative factor to the project, to think outside the box, to enhance all ideas, and to deliver results more spectacular than you originally imagined. Some of my clients’ favorite outcomes began with a little resistance.

Surround yourself with professionals with whom you can trust and communicate. Don’t be overly influenced by the opinions of family and friends who are not immediately affected by the project. Too much input may confuse you, derail the project, and prevent you from following my third rule – proceed.

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Patti L Cowger is a Napa-based interior designer and owner of PLC Interiors. For more information about her design services, visit her website at call (707) 322-6522; or email Demystifying Design appears every other Saturday