Pivot With a Master Plan

17 min read A master plan will help you pivot when surprises and setbacks threaten to throw your remodel off track.

Every remodeling project gets stuck at some point. Life is chock-full of surprises, setback and unexpected twists – work or family obligations change, supply chain snags mean choosing different materials, shifts in the economy make scope or schedule changes a must.  

But setbacks will seem less bad (because, #realtalk, they always feel sort of bad) when you are prepared to pivot. 

Here’s the secret to a good Pivot

First, make a plan with a smaller chance of not working using the master plan method.

The goal of a master plan process is not to end up with a specific perfect view of your house. Instead, you develop the theme, the vision, the purpose of your remodel as you get to the point of finalizing each room.

It set a vision or a range of visions of a house that you will love living in.

A vision made up of components that work together – that you can mix and match, pick and choose … and pivot as needed in order to get to a house that you love regardless of the circumstances.

A master plan makes it easy

A master plan is designed to adapt to any situation that arises.

Whether it’s the realization that your home’s structure doesn’t align with your initial vision or a new family need (babies, aging, parents, boomerang adult kids) that shortens your schedule, a master plan empowers you to pivot effectively. 

Maybe your project needs to move fast.

Like, faster than the timelines your preferred GC is providing.

A recent client is facing this exact situation.

Time is a significant constraint on a project with a complex bathroom situation, a kitchen screaming for a remodel, and a need to carve out some space for semi-launched kids to land back home as needed.

We developed a strategy that focused on their immediate needs while allowing room for future enhancements. By prioritizing the kitchen and owner’s suite, they can move in and live comfortably while tackling other projects at their own pace.  

Maybe your budget (or the economy) has changed. You suddenly need to do more with less.

A master plan helps you to prioritize certain areas over others and to evaluate what truly matters to you and your family. Taking time to work through the five D’s (Dream, Discover, Distill, Draft & Develop) gets you clear on your priorities so that you can make the best decision for you about how to reduce cost. 

So … get your master plan in order and then get ready to pivot with poise!

In Today’s Episode You’ll Hear:

  • All about the ideal architect-lead home remodel…and why you (or I) probably won’t be doing that, tysm!
  • Why the best plans are the plans with a smaller chance of not working. 
  • How to plan a remodel that’s ready to pivot on a dime when something changes.  

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Resources to help you pivot…

And you can always…

Read the Full Episode Transcript

 Let’s talk about how being prepared to pivot can save your remodel and your sanity while you make it happen. Look, every single remodel has a few unexpected and unpleasant surprises. The material you set your heart on is on backorder The previous owners skimped on their remodel, so you have to fix hidden problems in yours. The economy this year isn’t what it was when you started dreaming up your plans.

Don’t panic, you can still end up with a home update you love. And you can even handle those surprises and setbacks with smooth cyber warfare. How do I know because a master plan prepares you to pivot as needed. That’s what it was designed to do. When you take a master plan approach to preparing for a remodel, you’ll be ready for any eventuality when it all comes together.

Hey there, welcome back to Mid Mod Remodel. This is a show about updating MCM homes helping you match mid-century home to your modern life. I’m your host Della Hansmann architect and mid-century ranch enthusiast, you’re listening to Episode 1302.

Now the need to pause and pivot comes up at every stage of your remodel plants, it might be the very first thing you do as you start to think about your home because the house you bought isn’t the one you were imagining. And sometimes it’s not even a surprise. It’s just the awareness that one of your priorities may overrule others and force you to change things up as you go.

Here’s an example of that, from a project I just finished and delivered to the client. So they had a somewhat complex bathroom situation, they’ve just purchased a home that has an owner’s bath that does not work layout wise hall bath that was personalized into an oddity by the previous owners in that it was turned into a main floor laundry room by just removing the tub and putting in laundry. And then a bonus bathroom a half level away from the main floor off the kitchen with a shower in it, and no bats in the basement where they do want to create a young adult living suite.

Their biggest pressure though is time. So they want a master plan right now that suits everything they will do for the house. But be prepared to pare down the Phase One parts of it to best fit their QuickStart plan. In the interest of moving quickly. They want to focus on getting the kitchen and their owners bedroom bathroom up and running so that they can move into the house and live in it and other projects can be taken on as they go for their bedroom.

Fortunately, they love a scheme that cuts down the overall square footage to from a relatively large space to build an area that pushes them towards their beautiful windows. And that can be either done in this first phase or added in relatively simply add another process. They’ve chosen the simplest, most pared down owner suite bath update. And they can leave the rest of the bathrooms as is for the moment. They’re going to spend the most energy money and disruption on their kitchen right away so that they don’t have to live with a half-finished kitchen further on.

But this sort of equation, how many things can we fit into our Phase One project? What fits into our phase one budget? What do we want to come back for knowing that it might not happen as quickly or as expeditiously as we want? It’s important to think about how you can be flexible with these plans in order to fit your overall goal into your budget and your actual life right now.

That’s what we’re going to talk about today. How you can use Master Plan thinking wherever you are in your remodel plans from still house hunting. Yes, you can pivot well house hunting to the final details in your house trying to fix down those last materials. Taking a pivot friendly approach to planning is going to set you up for success.

All right. Speaking of getting over hurdles and dealing with problems. I was going to make my helpful resource of the week talking to you about my plan to give away 10 free design consultation calls. These June jumpstart calls to members of the mid Monroe model audience who are feeling stuck on their remodel plans this summer. I plan to remind you on this episode to sign up and grab a spot. But I underestimated how much demand there would be for these. I put out a little note in my email and Instagram story last Thursday, and all 10 spots were booked by Friday morning, I opened up another 10 And they booked in a day, too.

This makes me happy and sad. I’m delighted to be talking with 20 Great mid-century homeowners. And I’m sad that so many people are feeling so blocked that they needed to jump at this opportunity. I can’t fit any more free calls into my calendar this month. So that’s not what I’m going to offer to you right now. But honestly, I think today’s episode is very well calibrated for anybody that’s feeling stuck. If you’re feeling thwarted in your plans like you just can’t have what you dream of take this as a mental state refresh away to be unbundled by remodel plans. And I do want to let you know all of you dedicated mid mile remodel listeners.

Here’s a little secret, you can still get a free call with me just about any time you want. If you’re thinking about working with Midwest, here’s how to make it happen. Head over to mid montage midwest.com/services and read a little bit about our masterplans service. If you think it might be a good fit for you, even if you’re not sure fill in An application to work with us. I’ll read it through hear what you have to say about yourself and your home. And if I think they might Midwest can help you out. I’ll set up a time for a 30 minute free zoom call to get your questions answered.

You don’t need to be sure you need our help. That’s what the call is for. And it doesn’t cost you anything to do it. So if you’re wondering if the masterplan approach is the right way to game out of remodel that you can pivot around with all the details you love and none of the stress you don’t need, hit that apply to work with us button and we’ll go figure it out. As always, you’ll find the show notes for this podcast episode, along with a transcript at the website at midmod-midwest.com/ 1302.

Okay, so we were just talking about this current project where we’re scaling up and down, dealing with timeline as our primary pressure. The other thing you might think about being your primary pressure, and remodel very often is budget, you dream up everything you want to do, you make a beautiful plan. And then when you start to put dollar values to that plan, some of your favorite parts end up going right out the window.

The best advice I have on that is to think about what matters most to you and be willing to prioritize spending a little bit more in the areas that are going to make you the happiest. This requires some soul searching, and then rolling back your budget on other parts of the house, perhaps even leaving them entirely alone.

Here’s the thing. Everyone struggles with this. Literally everyone feels the pressure of expense at some point in the process. And everyone feels like there is remodel is more expensive than they want it to be at every price point. It’s largely about expectations and how you react to those unmet expectations. And there will be expectations in this process, I’m sorry to tell you and if you’re hearing it here, first, remodeling is expensive. And it will cost more than you hoped.

But if you plan correctly, and if you plan to pivot properly, you can still end up with a project you love, even if it’s not your original comprehensive checklist of an ideal dream castle, everything you ever wanted. Part of knowing what you really desire is asking yourself the questions about what matters most to you, to your partner, to your kids, to everyone. And this is an essential part of the philosophy I bring to everything the Master Plan method, that first step, the very first thing to ask yourself is about your dreams about how you want to live your life in the building that you live it in. How does your home contain support and grow you?

And when you ask those questions first, that starts to become more important than the necessary or fancy or pretty or magazine, tear out ideas that you’re bringing along. You will balance what you really need, what the house really needs, what safety and society really need, and what you want, and get all of those things. Now, I’ve had a lot of experience with providing people with three solutions to each area of their house in a masterplan process. And I love to do that because it allows people to really tune their remodel up and down.

I choose those three schemes, not out of thin air, but in a bracketing relationship to where I think my clients are going based on what they’ve told me about their budget, their goals and their house, all of the things that they want to get done. So I try to give them a conservative, a mid-range and dream version of each area, then they can look at how those particular designs work for them and choose where they want to go over the top and where they want to be conservative.

Now why do I propose an over the top solution to my clients ever? Well, I do it mindfully and while framing their expectations. But I do love to be able to show people something that is more than they had imagined is more than I had asked for without showing them something that’s completely unbuildable every now and then someone feels like they just like all the top end solutions. And why can’t they have that.

But much more often, when we talk about this the right way, when we come into it from a pivot friendly perspective, it gives us the ability to say that’s the coolest idea I’d never thought of. And this actually is a simple solution that works just fine over here. So let’s put those two together. And it adds up to the exact same budget I thought I was going for when I wanted to more mid-range solution across the board. You want to be able to pivot because you have a pivotable plan.

And that’s why I love a master plan better than the traditional mode of an architectural design, which I haven’t talked about in a moment. But just to refresh your memory or if you’ve never worked with an architect in the classic mode of hiring an architect to design a residential remodel or a new build for you.

It goes like this. You meet with them to talk a little bit about your plans. Then they document the house you have to get the physical parameters. Sometimes they’re thinking about budget that’s more important. Sometimes budget is less important. You go through a phase known as schematic design, which is where they probably propose several sketched ideas, and you pick a favorite. Your role going from there forward is where more and more details are added. Everything is firmly fit to the dimensions of the house. tile electrical plumbing fixtures are specified and noted down, the whole thing gets pulled together into a document at the end of the design development process that is often called bid drawings.

And it is set out to contractors to bid on. That set of drawings is shared with ideally three different general contractors who look at it in detail tried to understand every element of what’s been requested and put a price on the entire project, you get a bottom line number and an itemized breakdown, which will tell you how much the electrician will subcontract and how much the HVAC guy will contract and what they think the built in allowance should be.

Now sometimes people go into this place, and they say, oh my gosh, all of these are major expenses, we need to cut some things out. Sometimes they’ll choose the low price bidder if they don’t have a good feeling about him. But most of the time when people are working with an architect, they’re working with a fairly large budget. In this ideal pathway, you find the ideal contractor, they agreed to do everything exactly as it was specified. And then the architect goes back and further develops another set of drawings, the construction documentation set known as the contract drawings, that includes every little detail to perfectly predict the way the house will be until the layout of every item for the general contractor is set.

So here’s the thing about this traditional mode of architecture and contractor, organized remodels. The contractor builds the house exactly as it was asked for the architect observes and manages the contractor to process making regular visits to the house to check that everything goes as planned. And it’s beautiful. And when money is no object, it is the ideal way to change a house. It’s the most perfect and predictable way for the homeowner to imagine exactly what they want get an expert to help them make it even better, perfectly predict and see what the House will look like before it’s done, and then have the entire thing executed and managed on their behalf. So that they get everything they asked for and have relatively little stress.

It’s also as an architect, a really fun way to pull together a house, it’s so satisfying to detail the house to this level and to see it come together exactly as you imagined it. And I imagine it’s very satisfying to the contractor to have that level of clarity about what they’re going to do and how happy their client will be when it’s done. The whole thing great symbiotic successful. So why isn’t that what I do? And why isn’t that what I’m telling you to do?

Well, maybe you caught that phrase I said a couple of times when money is no object. If that made you flinch, or even kind of tune out and stop listening for a moment and maybe focus on your next errand, or what direction you’re going to turn with the dog at the next neighborhood intersection, then maybe you’re a little more like me, hi, I think about the budget a lot. And what I want to do in my own home, most people do, and part of the reason that so few Americans work with an architect.

Less than 1% of residential remodels involve an architect to the detriment of our whole society, is because the model in which architects work is so dependent on that very high, our intensive budget intensive approach, it requires a huge number of hours, sometimes as much of a year of an architect’s time, and a great deal of skill. And it tends to be therefore directed towards very high end high budget projects. This really frustrates me. And I should say, even people who hire architects and full service general contractors, they still care about their bottom line.

They just don’t care about it more than the other things they want to do. They have a budget in line with what they can accomplish within the entirety of their full wish list, whatever that might be. There’s gaze scale, and regional price ranges differ. But if you’re more like me, and if you’re more like all of my master plan, and one to one clients and my ready to remodel students, then you probably care a little more about what it’s going to cost to make your dream house come true.

And you might even feel like it’s not possible to have your dream house for a budget you can manage. So what is even the point of doing anything? Well, that’s it exactly. You can’t have everything you’ve ever dreamed of for the budget you have. But the point is to get the house that matters, you can get a house that you love for the dollars you have on the way to making that happen, is using the Master Plan method, because I’m going to come back to this topic, which is how to plan so that you can pivot your changes, pivot your plans as needed and still get the outcome you’re like, master planning isn’t about designing the one correct dream solution for your house. It’s about setting a vision for the house and making that vision flexible enough that you can roll with the punches.

Look, I was recently listening to a favorite podcast of mind the lazy genius podcast and I’ve talked to you before about how the lazy genius kitchen is a book you absolutely should read. She has an amazing flexible framework to thinking about a kitchen reorganization, how you live in your kitchen, how you cook in your kitchen, everything and she was talking about how to plan a summer that won’t disappoint you.

She stared some of her past summer planning advice for as she put it, making plans that have a smaller chance of not working which I have to admit made me laugh right out loud. Yes. So our goal is to make plans that have a smaller chance of not working.

So actually, what I really want for you and what I think a master plan method will produce is to create a vision for your home that’s both comprehensive enough and flexible enough to have a good chance of working. And its meaning at the core. And what the details are more or less exactly as you imagine them in the first place shouldn’t matter as much as that what you end up with is something you really like, and are satisfied with and are proud of and happy with for years to come. If pricing for materials or labor go up, you can adjust your expectations and still get the most important thing to you. If you have to break the house apart in two phases, and tackle one now and then one. And again over the next 10 years.

Do you have a vision that will guide you through every step of that step by step process and keep the house looking consistent from start to finish. Even if you have to occasionally pivot your material choices or your team to meet your new plans, your hopes and dreams. I feel like the goal of a master plan process is not to end up with the specific perfect view of your house.

But the theme, the vision, the purpose, as you get to the point of finalizing each room. It gives you a vision of the house that you will love living in filled with components that work together such that you can mix and match, pick and choose and pivot as needed in order to get to a house that you love regardless of the circumstances.

Regardless of whether outside situations change, or inside the conditions of your own life might change. Suddenly, if you’re planning a big DIY remodel right now, and then suddenly surprise, you find yourself starting on the journey to begin a family or your job responsibilities shift and you find that your budget has gone up or down and so is your free time, then, this is your ability to pivot and choose to do something less DIY and more hired out or put your plans on pause but do the most essential things that are going to keep you feeling happy during the whole period.

Let’s talk about the how to be practical. How do you pivot when suddenly something comes up, that means you need to change your plans. Take a deep breath and recognize what’s happening. Acknowledge it, go ahead, get frustrated. But then try to find the more flexible side of yourself. And pivot. This is where having your master plan recorded is going to help you.

This is the place where you get down to you come back and you realize you’ve got a new level of difficulty or an expense for some part of the house. This might be where you just had your dream for an extra space at the bottom of your wish list needs to be pushed down. This might be the place where you rearrange your plans to do a smaller project first, and then start the process of saving up for a bigger project later. But it’s all there in your master plan. You’re not accessing it; you’re delaying it or you’re reprioritizing remembering that you have possibilities.

That’s step two, step three is starting to explore them find pricing for an alternate solution, look back at your style guide to say that materials not available or turned out to be wildly expensive. Well, okay, how can I achieve the same visual result with another material with a vintage source or something simpler, or just get the same color or field or pattern. Having that kind of flexibility in your style guide is inherent, it’s based on having a master plan.

And having that kind of flexibility, even in your scope of work can happen when you return back to you’ve been in the Develop phase for a while and all of a sudden you realize you need to do a smaller bathroom project than you had in mind. You come back to your drafting thinking to the record, you have all the various things you considered and realize that your number two plan actually works pretty darn well. Hmm, pun not intended. Sorry, that’s gross.

Masterplans in the end, are about having a vision you could confidently proceed to and yet relatively easily change your mind about without changing everything. It’s the pivot process. Hopefully this has left you feeling like you’re a little bit more prepared to roll with the punches.

And if you’ve already started a process of Master Plan thinking pat yourself on the back, you’re actually getting something that people who have really thoroughly fixed architect developed, contractor led house plans don’t have they don’t have the ability to change horses in midstream. They have a much more expensive process of changing their mind as they go because everything has been so thoroughly set in stone and it all is designed to meld together, and one replaced thing will kind of destabilize the entire project.

When you have a master plan approach you’re planning for flexibility, you’re planning to roll with the punches and it’s really going to allow you to make your changes and feel satisfied about them from start to finish. And hopefully sleep a little better every night of your remodel along the way. Remember, you can find the transcript of this this happy pep talk you can come back and listen to this again anytime you want to at midmod-midwest.com/ 1302.

And if you are curious about letting Mid Mod Midwest put together a master plan for you, then I hope you’ll reach out and apply to work with us. We’ve got spots available to work on a couple of masterplans This summer, and I would be delighted to make one of those yours. This is absolutely the best approach, by the way to a tricky spot and the economy we’re in right now, it’s very hard to get a contractor to call you back.

Again, the example of the clients I gave you at the start of the call, they are working on a very tight timeline. And they were able to find only one contractor, and Madison, who’s willing to start some work with them this summer, they’re probably going to go with that person, but maybe collect some pricing from a few other longer term contractors to think about what their Phase Two project might look like.

And this is part of the flexibility that having a master plan gives them if you are thinking how you are going to be flexible and pivot with this current economy with the cost of width how hard it is to move out of a house, maybe you’re thinking you’re going to put more energy into the house you have right now.

If you’re feeling like budget is tight, a master plan allows you to tune your project up and down the budget scale up and down the timeline, break it into multiple sections, collapse it back into one big project in a way that allows you to handle any changing situation. The best way to make that work is to have your master plan in place. So if you’re curious about pulling together a master plan by yourself, then you want to learn a little bit more about the ready to remodel program where I walk homeowners through the process of making their own great master plan.

And if you’d like to get more help directly from Mid Mod Midwest, then apply to work with us at our midmod-midwest.com/services page where we talk all about the Master Plan package. And stay tuned for next week where we’re going to talk about how if you’re trying to get started if you’re thinking about working on your house and you just haven’t pulled the trigger, that the perfect project to kick off a bigger remodel is a small bathroom update. I’m going to tell you why that is and what you might think about doing in a small bathroom update of your phone. So catch you next week, Mid Mod remodelers.