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Divorce-Proof Your Renovation

Remodeling is hard on relationships—so we asked Denver’s design pros to share their secrets for (almost) conflict-free home projects.

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Money, styles, timeline, communication: The renovation process raises myriad challenges for even the most simpatico of couples. Just about every designer has horror stories of clients arguing in their offices or tearful conversations in the tile store. While it’s probably impossible to smooth out all the bumps in a remodeling project, we asked Denver designers, contractors, and architects to share their best advice for maintaining peace and harmony during construction—just in time for our renovation-focused spring 2016 issue of 5280 Home (on newsstands now).

Budget Basics
Decide on a budget before making any design decisions. “Honestly, this is the biggest issue I’ve seen—getting the husband and wife on the same page financially,” says interior designer Jennifer DesJardin, principal of Motif Design Solutions. DesJardin suggests that clients decide on a budget prior to falling in love with any particular finishes or fixtures.

Reno Therapy
Simply don’t embark on a renovation if your marriage is already on the rocks. “The couple needs to have a strong relationship heading into the process,” says Sarah Sexton, partner of Sexton Lawton Architecture. “Construction will be a stressful experience, to some degree, no matter what. If a marriage is strained already, the couple shouldn’t think that changing the house will make it all better. That extra TV room, closet space, or beautiful new kitchen probably really won’t improve a relationship.”

Take A Vacation (Or Staycation)
Plan for a few weekends away, even if you don’t leave the city, during the project to give your relationship a break from the job site. “If you’ve hired a professional team, you should have confidence to leave for a few days,” says Paul Fread, design and operations manager at Classic Homeworks, a Denver-based design/build firm. “It’s hard living on a job site; it’s dirty and inconvenient. As long as your team has cell phone numbers to reach you, plan a few short breaks from the mess.”

Teamwork
Consider both attending all the big meetings but making one person the designated contact. “Our field team really likes having one person of the couple be the contact person,” Fread says. “That way you always know who to call with last-minute questions. It saves time and is less confusing.” But, when it comes to the initial decision-making meetings, DesJardin always asks both homeowners to be present. “Otherwise we end up having to go back and redo things,” she says. “Better to have everyone there for the discussion and make the decisions together.”

Q&A
Ask yourself the difficult questions before you start paying an hourly rate, suggests interior designer Shandele Gumucio, principal and founder of Boulder’s StudioVert. Gumucio says: “What I find most helpful is exploring these questions: Why are you doing this remodel? Is it for your own personal enjoyment? What parts of your project need a functional improvement, and what parts are purely aesthetic? How many years do you plan to live in this home? How important is the resale?

Style Council
Sure, some couples are on the same page when it comes to home style. But more often than not, there’s a chasm to be bridged. Just as in marriage, go into the project ready to compromise and prepared to pick your battles. You might be surprised by the outcome. “I’ve learned over the years that when couples disagree about their styles, it creates a huge opportunity for me; I actually get excited,” says DesJardin. “At that point I say, ‘Trust me, I’m going to marry what both of you want in one space, and you are going to love it.’”


Survivor Stories
Did you live through a home renovation? Do you have your own wisdom to share? Send your best advice and hilarious (or harrowing) stories to [email protected] and we’ll pick our favorites to feature in a 5280.com story later this spring.

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