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Is DIY-ing Your Design Project Really For You?

Of all the interior designers in the world, I may be one of the few who loves to support homeowners who want to DIY their projects. In fact, I have several DIY-friendly service options to help guide them in the process.

bar cart styled with vintage books
Vignette Designed By Veronica Solomon

If you are considering doing a DIY design or decorating project in your home, the first question to ask yourself is, why go the DIY route? Is it for the love of it, is it because you have access to great resources, or is it just to save money?

There is no right or wrong answer, but it is important to understand what your motivation is for taking on a project that you may not have experience in or knowledge about.

I find that it is usually to save money for a lot of homeowners. And often times it is the only thing guiding that decision. Most homeowners aren't aware that DIY-ing an interior design project may not be as easy as it seems on television. They realize that it takes a lot more time than they initially thought, or actually end up costing more money than was planned.

I think anyone considering a DIY project should first consider the level of complexity of the project. From there you can decide if you will need the help of a professional interior designer. If it is something as simple as styling a bookcase (which may still need professional help with, if it's not your thing), it may be a project you can tackle with the help of Youtube videos. But if we are talking a kitchen or bath remodel, I strongly recommend that you call in a professional to at least guide you into making some good decisions.

Pink tulips as a dining room centerpiece
Designed By Veronica Solomon

Before you start swinging that hammer, really think about it, and look for the clues that a DIY project may or may not be for you. Here are some things to keep in mind.

If You actually dread the idea of taking on a DIY project, then pay attention to that emotion.

The thought of it may bring you anxiety. You realize that you don't know where to start. You have no resources and no room in the budget to make mistakes. You are really only doing it because your best friend and her husband did some work on their home and saved a ton of money. So why not you?

Well, I really believe that it is not impossible to successfully complete a DIY project perhaps like that best friend and husband did. They may have saved some money, but did they really? They may have saved on some products, but did they mention how much time it took? Time is money, and I often ask clients how much time they are willing to commit to a DIY project. Here's a good way to look at how saving some money doing it yourself, means spending a considerable amount of time.

Let's pretend that you were a business offering these services to clients. Assign an hourly fee to this service. You can base it on your actual salary as an hourly fee or assign whatever number you think you are worth. Then add up all the hours that the project took to complete. Include all the research time - Pinterest boards, Youtube videos, trips to Home Depot, time spent undoing and redoing something, time spent scouring the internet for great deals on products, and time spent actually doing it right. It may be much more time than you realize. I am all for sweat equity, but if that time is taking you away from more meaningful activities with family, or maybe even increasing your earnings in some other activity, is it truly worth it.

If you work hard during the week and look forward to enjoying the weekend, a DIY project may take many weekends to complete - especially if you are only working on it on weekends.

Most homeowners are unprepared for that. Or they don't think about how disruptive it will be to their lives. If you are working with subcontractors, they will need access to your home to get the work done. Are you available to give them access everyday? Will you give each sub a key to your home? Are they available on weekends? Are the good ones available on the weekends, or at all? Who will pick up the materials that the project needs? What about the dumpster? Will you have a functioning kitchen and bathrooms during this time? How will you make sure that your home is not taken over by dust?

These are the things that will matter once you start the project, and as a DIY-er, you may not have the knowledge and resources to plan for these things.

Not to mention the actual design work. That is the part that maybe sounded like fun in the beginning. Homeowners love the first few minutes of demo day. Haha. It's fun to knock the walls down, but the fun will quickly turn into the real task of bringing the space back together again.

A kitchen and bathroom remodel requires attention to the tiniest of detail. In fact, I recommend that you do not take them on without at least consulting with a designer. There are all kinds of things to consider. For a kitchen the layout matters a lot, but also how to make decisions that won't cost you more money in the end. Things like HVAC, plumbing locations can be costly if not planned properly. The appliances specs is also a very important part that needs to be carefully examined as you plan cabinetry. Without the right knowledge, you will be guessing at best, and you subs won't be able to help. Planning for material delivery is important. Theft might not be a factor if the work is happening inside of your home, but having materials that you are not quite ready for laying around can be a hazard. Careful planning has to happen before demo day, and someone needs to manage all these activities. As a DIY-er, that someone will be you.

As designers, we have an extensive project calendar to ensure that our subs are where they should be when, and they have the materials they need to get the job done. We also ensure that the sub before them did their part to make sure they can do their work. It's a little dance that we do very well. And unless you do this everyday, you will not be prepared. Sure, you may eventually muddle through it, but wouldn't it be much better with a solid plan?

Observing DIY projects in the past, I have seen some of the things that can derail a project and cause delays. Design elements that were not planned for, like where do you stop the tile backsplash? What material is best for the countertops? Which direction to run the floor tile? More often than not, these questions come up at the last minute when the sub is onsite and ready to install. If you understand how these subs work, you will understand that these delays may be expensive. Once a sub moves on, they may be scheduled out for many projects behind your project. They may not be available again for a long time, or charge a premium to return to work for you.

I also see that homeowners can get very emotional during the process, and often don't stop to analyze and think objectively. After all, it is your home and your investment. The emotions can range from anger when things aren't going right to anxiety and stress. The truth is that there are bound to be at least one challenge in every project. But handling it in an emotional way usually doesn't help. Subs don't ever like being talked down to, even when they mess up. I have seen subs walk off a job that's not finished. That is usually when a designer gets called in. When we may have to undo a few things, which will end up costing the homeowner. Interior designers are problem-solvers at the core, and we have the skills, resources and knowledge to find solutions quickly. We leave the emotions out of it and get down to business.

kitchen with graphic cement tile backsplash, porcelain countertops and white cabinetry
Kitchen Designed By Veronica Solomon

Ok, it is starting to sound like I am dissuading you from DIY-ing your project. I promise I am not, but I see it all too often where homeowners don't do enough research upfront to see just what's involved in their project. I just want you to understand what you are getting into

I have a solution for you if you are set on going the DIY route, especially if it is to save money:

Call in an interior designer from the very beginning. Just a two hour consultation can set you on a better path to finishing your project successfully. Ask your designer if they have flexible services. Here at Casa Vilora Interiors we do. We break out our kitchen and bath services into phases. Our clients have the option to hire us for just what they need. For example, you may only want to have us create your layouts and conceptual design plans. While we prefer to oversee any project we design, we understand that you may want to save where ever you can.

Most clients choose the design phase and the materials selection phase to have us help with. Those two services together start at only $4094. Isn't that worth your peace of mind? These are the things that are included.

Measure space

2D Floor plan - conceptual

2D Elevations - conceptual

Mechanical Plan

Review plans

Tile backsplash layout (no question where the backsplash starts and stops)

Cabinetry selection

Flooring selection

Countertop selection (slab yard meeting included)

Lighting, fixtures and hardware selection

Backsplash selection

Appliances Selection

Color palette

Detailed spec sheet

14 less things that you have to worry about

If DIY-ing your project still sounds like the right fit for you, I hope I have given you some things to think about. The process can be stressful, but you can help help where you need it most.

Subscribe to the blog if you aren't already, as I will be sharing more about how to successfully remodel your home. I will also be creating some cheatsheets and downloads with helpful resources just for you. Join our member forum and start a conversation about your own project, share pictures and ask questions.

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