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Truths you may not like about bathroom remodeling

Photo by Brooke Cagle

My design studio specializes in remodels. What can I say? I love the dramatic transformation, the jaw-dropping reveal, the unrecognizable before-and-after.

The room I'm asked to re-imagine most often is the bathroom, and, over the years, I’ve realized some truths about renovating bathrooms. You might not like some of what you’re about to read. I wish that were not the case, but I won’t lie to you. Remodeling is hard, and bathroom remodels can be brutal. Why? Because you have to pack a lot into a small space, it all has to function flawlessly, and the work itself - tearing out and rebuilding - is not cheap.

Truth #1: Wanting it to be simple doesn’t make it so.

Television and the internet have led us to believe that renovating is simple. Blog posts promise a new bathroom in “5 Easy Steps.” Home-improvement shows deliver completely remodeled rooms in 30 minutes - every time. That’s not reality. (Why do they call it reality TV?) All of those beautiful rooms you see in the media are the result of hours of upfront design work and the labor of a small army of contractors.

Most homeowners don't have the knowledge or skills to create a comprehensive bathroom remodel plan, and they don’t hire a professional to help them. Sadly, the consequences of not getting the plan right are catastrophic to their bank accounts, their time, and their peace of mind.

Truth #2: Remodeling without a detailed, coordinated plan will cost you time and money.

The number of things you will need to purchase for a bathroom might surprise you. I specify 50 to 70 items for every bathroom I design. That includes all of the different tile pieces, plumbing parts, accessories, cabinets, lighting, millwork, and window coverings that I choose, purchase, and have delivered to the job site. You'll need to find and buy all of those items for your new bathroom.

After you purchase everything, you have to tell your contractor how and where to install each item you purchased. If you don't give her clear instructions, she will stop working until you do. Or, she will decide how and where to install it for you. Either way, you lose. Your project is delayed, and you continue to pay her when she stops work and calls you for directions. If she decides for you, you live with her choices or pay, in time and money, for the work to be torn out and redone.

Truth #3: Following others will not lead to a beautiful bathroom.

You see a beautiful bathroom in a magazine and think, “That’s what I want.” Consider this. A designer created that room to address another family's desires and wishes. It's unlikely that the room is the same size as yours. And, that room is part of a house that probably isn't located in the same area as yours. Details like personal needs, room size, and location matter in interior design. You won’t design a successful bathroom by copying. Instead of copying, develop your own vision and use the rooms you see online, in print, and on TV for inspiration only.

To recap, bathroom remodels are not simple, you need a plan, and copying someone else's design isn't going to work. 

She didn't know it, but Jackie Lopey's days as an advertising executive were numbered when she bought and renovated a 1950's bungalow. She soon went back to school and started her own design studio. Jackie is an award-winning, certified interior designer and the founder of Wide Canvas.

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