Remodel Series: Part 4 | Design

This is the fourth in a series of posts meant to shed light on the mysterious (and seldom exposed) process of remodeling. I hope these posts are useful to anyone considering a remodel of similar scale and will lend insight into the challenges and decisions we’ve faced during our project.


We started this project thinking we had a strong sense of the direction our design decisions would take. But designing a home is much more about solving problems than going shopping, so we hired a designer (our architect’s wife) on an hourly basis to help us out. We were worried about choosing trendy finishes that would look dated a few years down the road or would be impractical for our active household.

For a reasonable hourly fee, our designer reviewed our ideas about kitchen and bathroom finishes, helped us choose finishes, and solved dozens of unanticipated problems throughout the process.

To save money, we started with a list of ideas and Pinterest boards and asked our designer to help us finalize our choices. By not starting from scratch, we saved some money and gave our designer ideas about our taste. After that, she knew exactly the direction we were headed. All in, we spent under $500 and it was some of the best money we spent! If you’re doing a remodel of any scale, find a designer who understands your taste and enlist her help!

Initial design / materials mock-up

Initial design / materials mock-up

We wanted a modern home that didn’t take itself too seriously. With the help of our designer, we chose white walls, maple cabinets and oak hardwood floors (original to the home). No accent walls, no ornate fixtures. We had some fun with trendy light fixtures from Schoolhouse Electric and colored inset laminate in the cabinets, but we kept most of the difficult-to-change elements of the house nice and simple.

Our designer helped us solve a bunch of problems, including technical issues like how to handle a structural post in our kitchen in a way that wouldn’t spoil the design of the room. She helped us take a bird’s eye view of the home and imagine different ways to live in the space (we ended up moving our dining room as a result). She also helped select materials and found us a dirt cheap tile from Home Depot that saved us hundreds of dollars!


Remodeling a home involves making a ton of decisions. Choosing all of the smaller items is where I started to lose my mind. I was pretty overwhelmed with the number of decisions we had to make, so one night I got out of bed and made a list. If we ever do another remodel, it’s the first thing I’ll do.

Screenshot of Google Sheet with list of materials

Screenshot of Google Sheet with list of materials

We kept the big, expensive things simple and saved the fun, personalized decisions for parts of the house that will be easy and/or cheap to change (e.g. light fixtures, furniture, art). Hiring a designer to keep us on the straight and narrow was the best decision we could have made when it came to design. We were able to use our google spreadsheet to collaborate with our designer and contractor on all of the minutia.

If you would like any resources from our remodel–designer, architect, spreadsheets–just drop me a note! Here’s my vendor list, which I am constantly updating. If you’re considering a remodel, I’d love to help you consider how it might impact your home’s resale value. I’d also love to write about it on the blog!