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Everyone says that a remodeling project will cost double what you think in both $ and time.  I said, “not our project” and am now taking it back.  In April, we bought a two bedroom condo in a 1914, full of character, building in what I like to call “Nobtown” in San Francisco.  It’s on the border of Nob Hill and Chinatown and doesn’t feel quite like it fits entirely into either micro-hood.  I’ll admit, saying you live in Nob Hill seems a bit hoity toity (which is not us) and Chinatown paints the picture of pink produce bags abound.  So, somewhere in the middle seems just right to me.  What’s most important is that we LOVE our place, we like the diverse setting (which includes, people, restaurants, dives, resources at our fingertips, public transportation) and we’ll be smack dab in the middle of it all.  And did I say, we LOVE our place!?!

Back to “not our project.”  We’re updating the 1950’s kitchen and one and a half baths and putting in new floors.  We’re not at double the budget yet, but we’re also not done.  I’d say we’re at 50% more than projected at this point.  As for time, our two month project has turned into three and could still be going (but the cap is three and a half – promise!).

How does this happen, you say?  Well, in our experience, it hits in a few sneaky ways.  First, there are the oodles of hidden costs to the inexperienced remodeler that doesn’t even cross one’s mind.  Fixtures for bathrooms are expensive!  Pulls for kitchen cabinets add up.  Lighting with the SF environmental ordinances are rather ridiculous.  These were all things we missed when starting our project and unfortunately, I could go on.

Second, when you have a placed ripped up (and especially when the place was built in 1914) we find ourselves saying too often, “let’s do this one more thing while we are at it.”  These one more things hit hard.  For example, we were told that our hard wood floors had one more sanding in them, so instead of refinishing the floors, we are redoing them entirely.  Bam!  That’s three times the $$, please.  With the floors ripped up, it’s an excellent opportunity to wire the place for all kinds of things.  We’re talking HDMI, coax and CAT 5 cables galore which equals thousands of dollars (materials, time and labor) when all is said and done.  Here too, we could go on.

Lastly, when it comes to buying things for the place whether it be appliances, fixtures or furniture, you can’t cheap out or your hard work is watered down.  We also happen to have very good taste and by that I mean we, without trying, can pick the most expensive thing from a lineup and fall in love with it.

That’s how we’ve landed on DIY interior design.  Our budget had a mere few cents, in relation to the total project cost, available for creative talent and creative talent has even more expensive taste than we have (by a long shot).  We found that out the expensive way.  While we got some good advice from the interior designer (hired on a consultative basis), we found that the investment only paid off at the beginning of the project.  Help with things like designing a lighting plan, commenting on the kitchen plan that we created, guidance on how to fit all rooms and design elements together, manufacturers to check out and finally where to buy things, were quite beneficial.

As the project continued and our piggy bank ran dry, it was time to apply the lessons learned from the creative professional to the rest of our project.  Thankfully, everyone you talk to has helpful hints and so we talked and listened often (tile purveyor, realtor, retail shop owner, online blogs, and so on).  We’ve come across slews of great online shops for modern furniture.  We often reference houzz.com for ideas, product suggestions and photos.  However, the breakthrough for DIY interior design came from our lovely Design Within Reach sales associate, Tommy.  Tommy is much more than a sales associate and has worked with us on some overall design ideas for free.  Yep, it’s the first time I’ve used “free” in this story and the word has a certain ring to it, don’t you think?  Anyway, Tommy introduced us to mydeco.com and I’m still mesmerized  with this wonderful tool!

Mydeco.com allows you to clip photos on websites with a click of your mouse.  You can create a moodboard with the photos you’ve collected, organized by folder for various rooms or projects that you have going on.  You can upload your floorplan or build a custom 3D room in which you can place furniture and colors to see how it will look all together.  Good news – that’s not all it does and I find new ways to use it on a daily basis.  It’s an amazing DIY tool that I would highly recommend if you are short on change and tall on design expectations.

There’s a bright light at the end of the tunnel.  We can see it!  We LOVE our place, we have fantastic vendors working on our side (I’m happy to give recommendations on this should you be interested), we’ve started purchasing some great pieces of furniture, and our interior design plan – DIY style – is coming together with the help of online tools, people like Tommy and lots of research.  And did I say, we LOVE our place?!?!