As co-founder of Colorado- and California-based interior design firm Studio Mesa, Cameron Shepherd has created spaces for high-profile Hollywood executives and movie producers. But he recently remodeled an early 1980s Evergreen home for his most challenging client yet: himself. To help you survive your own home makeover, we asked Shepherd about what he learned being his own boss.

1. Practice patience.

Instead of immediately drawing up plans after buying the house, Shepherd followed a piece of advice he gives clients: Live in the space first. “It’s important to see how you interact with a room before you tear into it,” he says. For example, even though his home’s primary bathroom needed the most TLC, he left that project for later in the renovation. “By the time we started working on it,” he says, “I had really strong opinions about what I wanted it to be.”

Living room
The revamped living room. Photo by David Lauer

2. Phone a friend.

Throughout the two-year-long renovation, Shepherd leaned on his husband, Peter Sloterdyk, and his business partner, Jill Norman. “I can make decisions for my clients very quickly, but when I’m my own client, that decisiveness goes out the window,” he says. To avoid analysis paralysis, Shepherd suggests narrowing your choices down to two or three options and presenting them to your partner, friend, or style-savvy relative for a fresh perspective.

3. Simmer down.

“There are going to be moments where you’re at your wit’s end,” Shepherd says. “The expense of it all, having people in your house every day, making decisions constantly…it’s going to be exciting, but it’s also going to be exhausting.” To avoid burnout, Shepherd recommends establishing a safe haven. “Find a place that feels calm—whether it’s a library, a park, a coffeeshop, or an off-site office—and make a point of spending time there,” he says.

The Zen primary bathroom. Photo by David Lauer

4. Choose your battles.

Unless you have an infinite budget, you’ll have to make some sacrifices to stay within your means, whether it’s extending your timeline or opting for quick cosmetic fixes rather than significant structural changes. To save cash, Shepherd painted his existing kitchen cabinets and added a modern light fixture, new hardware, and fresh backsplash tiles instead of overhauling the entire space. “Is it the kitchen I would design if I were starting from scratch? No. But I’m proud of how it turned out, especially for as little as we invested in it.”