It’s been a while. I’ve been wondering how I’d do this again. As some of you may know my sister died by suicide on the first day of this year. I loved her dearly.

In the trenches of grief I have known how dark and difficult life can be and also how real light and hope are. I have been lifted up by an enormous amount of love from friends, family, clients and strangers near and far. I have felt the light and experienced the many gifts of living in community.

The last nine months have been indescribable and yet life still happens regardless of how I’m feeling or how significant it seems my world is changed. This has helped me.  Putting one foot in front of the other on days I could have easily remained curled up in fetal position has helped me tremendously. I’m helping my clients design and navigate their renovation, rethinking dated floor plans, creating amazing kitchens and masterful bathrooms, coordinating contractors and herding job crews. Now, with more certainty, I tell my clients what I always have: Life happens. No matter what plans you’ve made, no matter how many Pinterest boards you’ve created, no matter how much time you spent goal-setting, you cannot know what direction life will take. Family issues can come to a head. Storms can change direction. Bewildering tragedy may follow wild success. Your trim carpenter’s daughter may break her arm at softball practice. Your electrician may decide to get his old band back together and go on tour. In addition to new hardwoods we might also discover you need new sub flooring and a few floor joists.

Having endured my sister’s death and finding my way “through the valley of the shadow,” I’m more devoted than ever to helping my clients understand that there is no such thing as a simple renovation. It’s not just the kitchen/bathroom/living room/whatever. You have to consider whether or not your plans are going to work with your partner or spouse, your kids, your pets, as well as the rest of the house. Budget is not the only deciding factor. You should consider how you plan to use the space and your long-term values. A state-of-the-art chef’s kitchen may be overkill if your family lives off cereal and sandwiches. You can have your exact match of that magazine Master Bath, but what if it comes at the expense of travel or paying college tuition? A significant home renovation will involve a group of people quite a bit larger than your immediate family. All those contractors have lives, too (see above).

A successful renovation has to start from within. You need to get clear with yourself about expectations. I strive to help people discern what they want, what they need and what they realistically can have in order to arrive at an intentional renovation. You might have unrealistic expectations. The timing might be terrible. Your family might be in conflict about their projected result. You might not be ready to renovate.  I’ll probably tell you that, because I’m crazy honest. I’ll also tell you it’s okay that you’re not ready. Why? Because rebirth is a bitch. Rebuilding is often hard, slow, complicated work. You’ll have to make compromises. You’ll have to accept delays. You’ll need to know that some days will hardly seem worth the effort. Those days will pass. Life will keep happening and in a few more months, because we’ve endured, together we’ll have made something beautiful.

Learn more about how we converted part of this bungalow’s original front porch into a master bathroom in my Design Blog Fall in love with Ms & Ms Masterful Bathroom.

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