Lead a Stress Free Remodel

Stress-free is a BIG promise. 

Of course, there will be some stress in a remodel.  You can worry about labor and material costs. You will feel the pressure of timing. You might rack yourself over design details. 

But you can cut stress out of the remodeling process in as many places as possible!

Today we’re talking about the value of the (often overlooked) pre-design phases to help you avoid the stress of remodeler’s regret.  Ask yourself the right questions at the start of the design process to get the right answers … for you.  

In Today’s Episode You’ll Hear:

  • What I mean by “remodeler’s regret.”
  • How to identify your remodel leadership style.
  • And how to lead any and all the folks involved through your remodel unscathed – including you!

Listen Now On 

Apple | Google |  Spotify | Stitcher


And you can always…

We’re looking for an mcm obsessed designer to join the Mid Mod Remodel Team.
Apply at midmod-midwest.com/careers/

Read the Full Episode Transcript

Three ways to lead a stress-free remodel. Really stress-free. That’s saying a lot. Well, let’s define our terms. There’s a lot of parts of a remodel that can stress you out. You can worry about costs, you can feel the pressure of timing. You can feel strife within your household unit as you remodel. This is super common. 

And if it’s happening to you already, don’t blame yourself. Just listen in. You can really help to remove or reduce the struggle within yourself and your household about planning a home update. So when I say lead a stress-free remodel, I’m really talking here about the leadership today, which is no joke. Let me tell you today I’m gonna share three strategies for making decisions within your household about what you want to do to improve your house. Because getting everyone on the same page about something as important to you as home improvement can be a real challenge.

If you’re all on your own, that can come with its own stressors too. This is where I often find myself when I’m thinking about choices for my own home. So I’ll have advice for you if that’s you as well. Stay tuned. 

Hey there. Welcome back to Mid Mod Remodel. This is the show about updating MCM Homes, helping you match a mid-century home to your modern life. I’m your host, Della Hansman architect and mid-century Ranch enthusiast. You’re listening to season 10, episode three or in this new system 10 0 3…going on from here to eternity. So what’s new? If you’ve been following my social media this week, you’ll know that I have been all about the exterior update. I’ve been talking about this on Instagram, I’ve been answering questions about it, and I did a live with Sarah Yearout of Mid-Century Homes and Boise about it on Wednesday because this weekend I use the power of the Midwestern phenomenon, the potentially last nice weekend to do outside work this year, to encourage myself to get out and paint my garage door to match the siding.

Now, hopefully, this is not actually the nice last nice weekend to do things outside, but that idea kicked me into gear, and I know it motivated a lot of you as well because you sent me messages about it in Instagram dms. What I did was to paint my garage door and the trim around it from factory finish white to the dark gray color of my house. I also painted the trim around my front door from white to gray and the back door to the garage, but I didn’t even snap those for social. Still on my list, which I didn’t have time to get into, was to paint the downspouts, to match the siding and the window trim – at least the outer thicker portion of it – to match the house.

This is really a process of me putting my money where my mouth is and meeting my own standards. What I recommend to all of my clients is that for a sleek, modern, mid-century house, you actually don’t want that high contrast, cute, white cottage style trim around your windows, doors, and garage. You want a more minimalist, effective monochromatic look. I think about this all the time because I meant to do this at the beginning of my remodel process way back when I bought my house six years ago, and instead, I let the pressure of oncoming winter limit my scope and left all the trim white because it seemed simpler. I’ve been regretting it for six years.

And never more than when my neighbor down the block copied my exact house colors and also chose to paint their trim white. I thought, Oh, now I’m going to see this on two houses in the neighborhood and know that perhaps if I had gotten my rear in gear, we would all be seeing sleek gray trim on gray houses. Nevertheless, if you’ve got questions about updating the exterior of your house, then I wanna point you towards the highlight that has all the commentary and questions I’ve answered this week that’s on my Instagram page. And also you can go to the free resource I’ve made a long time ago about updating your front door. Get that and read the in in-depth blog post about exterior updates at three different levels at midmod-midwest.com/front door. If you’re looking for a little bit more help, I’m gonna offer a paid resource today, and that is to schedule one of my design consult calls.

I use these for two purposes to help people get started with the big picture on their house and break through the momentum, the inertia of not knowing where to begin. And also, I use these one hour consults for SOS design details. I wanna be talking about this in more detail in a later podcast episode. So stay tuned. One last item of business. We are still looking for just the right designer to join the Mid Mod Midwest team. We’re still hiring, so if you know that person or you are that person, come and say hello. Drop your details into the form on our website at midmod-midwest.com/careers. Find all of the information above. Plus get the transcript for this podcast episode@mimo-midwest.com/1003. All right, so today we’re talking about three ways to lead the predesigned process of a stress free remodel. Choosing the right leadership style for you and your family will lower your stress, but another essential step of a stress-free remodel and also a regret proof remodel is not to skip out on the predesign process.

For longtime listeners to the show, you know this means the first three steps in a master plan, method, process, dream, discover, and distill. Here’s a question. When you see a beautiful house photographed well in a magazine spread, do you ever ask yourself, did the owners of that home like it? I do, and I’ll tell you why. Having worked in the design industry, I have immersed myself in residential design for more than two decades now, and I’ve worked in the industry yes industry for 15 years, and I happen to know very well that not every dollar spent in home construction and remodeling gives equal value of satisfaction to the people that live in that home ending up with remodelers.

Regret can occur in several ways, even on the most beautiful magazine worthy of projects. This first one happens all too often with clients of mine. They come to me because they move into a house that they regret someone else has remodeled. This is true to a certain extent in my own home. While I appreciate many of the long term update solutions the previous owner made right before he sold it to me, those gutter guards, I will never regret those, but I sort of wish he hadn’t replaced the windows. I might have decided to replace them or not, but I would’ve made a different choice for what to put in. And I have often regretted the replacement of the original charming garage door with cute little windows in it, but that’s neither here nor there.

Many of my clients come to me with a potentially charming ranch that the previous owner or flipper just HGTV-ed the heck out of, and now they want to roll back those, in our opinion, mistakes. In other cases, you might end up regretting choices you make yourself, you might rush through the process and only after the remodel is done, learn a few new things about mid-century style, about how you live in your home and how you might have done it differently. Or as you live with the choices you make, you just realize that you didn’t go as far into the remodel process as you could have while drywall dust was still in the air.

There’s a third way you can run into the fact that you work with someone, a pushy contractor, with a simple vision for how to do the work most efficiently that doesn’t listen. Or even a designer who’s not a good enough listener to what you wanted for your home and ends up steering you in what for you is the wrong direction. Now, I never want to be the designer or the advisor who points my mid-century home clients in the wrong direction for themselves and their homes. That’s why I’ve come up with a master plan method. And today we’re gonna talk about the things that you can do in a remodel that do not show up on HGTV and don’t really get discussed in magazines or remodeling advice, books that show you only beautiful outcomes, finished homes that look great in a photo without ever commenting on how much they do or don’t suit the family that lives there or have improved the lifestyle of those people.

That phase is pre-design and it has three important components. Dream, discover, and distill. Discovery is largely a process that you can do on your own. You don’t necessarily need your children or your partner or your neighbor’s buy-in to find out what’s necessary to know about your house. Although doing that as a team project can be really fun. But those first two, the first and third dream and distill, these are places where it may be very important to get your whole family’s opinion on board as you lead this pre-design process. Now I’m speaking to you, the person who’s listening to this podcast, because I assume there’s probably one person who is most invested in this process. If I’m speaking to a couple who are listening out loud to this podcast right now, um, hi, I’m delighted you’re doing this. I think it’s fantastic. And would you please send me an Instagram DM so that I can congratulate you on your excellent life choices?

But if I not, if I’m listening to, if I’m talking to just one person right now, then I’m gonna talk about three different methods to lead this part for the best result for your family. Now, I think that there’s not really one of these that is better or worse. It’s gonna be what works for you and your family, and you’re gonna need to identify that. So here’s the first one. For a stress-free remodel process, you can start your pre-designed process perhaps by leading by fiat, you can become the designated decider or the benevolent dictator of your remodel. This works well when one member of the household cares more about design, and it’s certainly a convenient way for me as an architect to work for a design client. Having a single point person to decide on what will be most important to the update is the easiest way to get answers.

But beware, it’s not easy being green. It can be hard to be the sole decider and have to make choices for everyone. This process done well requires empathy, and sometimes it requires you to think more about what the other people in your household might want than even you do for yourself. The worst case scenario is this, when this results in objections after the fact, uh, the worst, worst version of that is you finish the remodel and then you start to hear, uh, disagreement, rumblings complaints about how the whole process turned out. But it’s also frustrating and expensive and time consuming when you get through the entire decision making process, thinking you’ve got everything locked in. Tell a few people in the family what you’ve got planned, and then just before you’re about to pull the trigger, just as people are on site, just as a contractor has already demoed a wall, you hear that, Oh, there are objections and people didn’t really like that, so this is what you wanna avoid.

Um, the biggest problem here can come from assumptions. You wanna make sure that the non deciders in the family really don’t care if they come at the end and change everything. It’s both frustrating for you and inefficient for the whole process. All right, so if you’re afraid that perhaps a benevolent dictator approach is not the right choice for a stress-free remodel for you, then I wanna suggest the team meeting style to brainstorm with your partner and or your whole family. This works best at the start of the project. You don’t need to maintain full attendance or even a quorum for the selection of each tiny detail. Each outlet cover each faucet, but getting everyone to plug in with the foundational goals of the project is great. Schedule a weekend morning with your partner, make it happen on date night. Or if you’ve got kids, teenagers or other house partners, uh, in-laws parents, extended family, make it a great group activity to set the priorities and plans for the house before you dig in on design.

If this feels contentious, make sure you are de emotionalizing the process. Here’s a great suggestion. Take it outta the house. If you find that you and your partner tend to get into this when you’re tired and get to snippy about it, make a policy of planning only in a neighborhood coffee shop at a restaurant in the evening or in the dog park on strolls through the neighborhood so that you’re required to use your inside voices with each other…even when things start to get a little tense. Do make sure that everyone’s voice is heard in this process. Most people don’t think about how their kids are gonna plug into a remodel process. And to be fair, your kids may or may not be living in the house much longer after you finish remodeling, but it can be really fun to get their buy-in, and it’s a great educational process. Frankly, Getting your kids to help help you with the discovery process of your house can be both fun, less work for you because you don’t have to crawl around on the floor with a tape measure and a great sort of, um, educational enrichment project could be really nice. And I have had clients who’ve had a lot of fun getting their whole family’s buy-in on this part of the process.

The third method, rather than have everyone sit together and make every decision out loud together, is to aggregate your work. This is one of my favorite ways to do the dream process. We have several exercises that we share with our clients and that I teach inside of the ready to remodel program to allow people to dig a little deeper into what the meaning of home is for them, what activities they wanna shelter inside their house, how they want to pull from great experiences from their past and make their new home contain everything or as many of the essential elements of their past beloved homes as they can. So one great way to make sure you’re catching everyone’s opinions is to have everyone do their own homework separately on their own time, and then exchange answers. This can be a really helpful exercise for couples planning and it can basically be replacement for a session of couples therapy.

Um, this works as kind of a hybrid of the above. Let people each answer their own priorities separately and then come up with a group result. The answers people give may surprise you. This can save stress and money. It’s really essential to make sure that you have heard the voices of everyone or if you least considered the needs of everyone that’s gonna live in the house before you start making those essential decisions. And it’s really important both in the dream phase when you’re thinking about what you want the essence of your home to be. And in the distill phase when you’re thinking about you want the essence of your home’s style to be making sure that you are at least nodding to the style preferences of everyone in the house is essential to make sure that they are going to love it and that you can have that stress-free remodel experience that you are looking for.

All right, What if you’re a fourth case? That’s three ways to get group work done, either all by yourself, uh, in full team meetings or as a hybrid, getting everyone to submit their opinions and then have someone aggregate them or, uh, in a group meeting aggregating them. What if you’re alone in the process and you have no one to bounce your ideas off? This is where I live in my remodel process, and sometimes it results in a lot of going around in circles, but I also have learned over time to phone a friend. And for that, I mean, most specifically my mom and my sister, they are my echo chamber, my bounce backboard whenever I’m wondering about what color vintage lights from true tone light bulbs to order for my Christmas lights this year. When I’m wondering, should I go ahead? Is this the weekend I should paint my garage door?

I’ll send them a text and just ask the question. Sometimes I honestly don’t even care what their response is, Hi, mom and kj. Um, and sometimes I really value their feedback. But having someone else to say your ideas out loud to is really helpful. For those of you in the first category of those three different leadership styles, if you’re trying to be a benevolent dictator, know that it still helps to have someone to bounce your ideas off. And if you’re a PO partner or spouse does not care what’s gonna happen in the remodel, then you might wanna seek out another remodeling buddy. Finding a remodeling buddy can be a friend of yours who just cares about what’s going on in your life. But if they are not a remodeler themselves, they might not be quite the right person to give you accurate feedback. One of the reasons my sister makes such an excellent remodeling consult person is that she’s also in the process of making updates to her own mid-century home.

I provide her with architect advice and she gives me little sister sassiness. And we both benefit from the relationship of having someone to reign in the craziness and also encourage fun design concepts. If you’re looking for a good remodeling buddy, the best person to be your friend for making choices for remodeling a mid-century house is another person remodeling a mid-century house. You might find people like that inside our mid model remodel Facebook group, or even more intensely, you will find people who want to share your decision making process inside the ready to remodel program. So get yourself on the waitlist for our next opportunity to join that program. If that’s you, and if you really just need someone else to tell you what to do or to listen to you and tell you back what it sounds like you really need to hear, then call up Mid Mod Midwest.

There are three ways to work with Mid Mod Midwest. My best recommendation for a really successful stress-free remodel is a master plan. Let us create a master plan for your home. We will help you explore the house you have and what you want for it. Then we’ll solve your problems, the ones you bring us and ones you didn’t even know you had with design options that exceed your expectations. We’ll put it all together into a document to record everything you want to achieve in your home, which you can use to explain to a contractor what’s on your mind and get everything done as efficiently and inexpensively as possible or or to keep yourself on track through number of phases or years to tweak your home as it becomes ever more perfectly aligned with your vision of how to live well in your home and improve its mid-century style.

The second way for Mid Mod Midwest to help you is if you want to DIY your own master plan. Join the Ready to remodel program. I will walk you through the five steps of a perfect master plan process, get guidance, advice, and ongoing support for your own planning process. In the past, this program has been only available to discrete cohorts which launch at the same time and go through as teams of remodeling buddies together. But stay tuned because soon ready to remodel is going to be ready to meet you whenever you are. For now, get on the waitlist, midmod-midwest.com/waitlist because later this year we’ll be announcing that you can sign up for ready to remodel and take it at your own pace. Whenever you’re ready.

Or again, if you just need an injection of decisiveness into your process, sign up for an hour long consult with me. You can sign up today. I love going deep and constructing a big picture master plan. That type of hour consult is meant to break up the roadblocks and frame out your whole remodel. And the other kind of our consult we offer is the SOS design decision, where we work out the key decisions for one small area. On one Call, I once detailed every single element of a complicated replacement front door selection. I’ve also helped people plan the entire look for the update of the front of their mid-century home. This is a great opportunity to get that advice you need, that you’re not fighting in other places, and to get it from a professional who spends all day every day thinking about the best way to improve mid-century homes.

So let’s summarize what we just talked about. The best way to ensure a stress-free remodel to ensure that your remodel fits your life, fits your budget, and preserves or improves the mid-century character of your home, is to start with a solid pre-design phase. That way you’ll end up with something that’s not only magazine quality, beautiful, but actually suits the life that you and your family wanna live in your home.

And for the leadership part of that stress-free remodel, there are three different ways you can go about leading. You can lead by fiat and make the decisions for everyone knowing that they are relying on you to take care of it. You can lead by committee and make sure that everyone comes together to brainstorm at each of the key design phases, or you can have everyone put in their own design thinking and then pull it all together to make sure that everyone’s thoughts have been heard as you move forward. And if you’re working alone making all the decisions by yourself, then the best way to cut down on your stress as you remodel is to get a little bit of outside help as you make your decisions.

Remember, if you’re looking for advice on how to update the front of your house, start by just going to mid mod midwest.com/front door to get a great overview on three different levels on which you can make improvements to the front of your house and make it ever more mid-century charming. Grab the show notes for the whole episode midmod-midwest.com/1003.

Whether you’re suffering from too much input from your friends and family, or not enough advice getting outside of your own head, I hope I’ve given you some helpful tips on how to lead a stress-free remodel today. I’d love to hear about how your remodeling stress plays out. Send me a DM on Instagram with what’s bugging you the most or pop into the mid model model Facebook group and tell us what’s been working well for you and what’s been causing you some remodeling stress. Whatever happens, we want to make sure that your mid model turns out as stress free and regret proof as possible.