Design Matters

Five tips for navigating a successful renovation project

by Val Nehez
Posted 2/16/23

In last week’s By Design column, Patricia Cove gave wise advice about the value of certain renovation decisions. This week, I thought I’d add to that discussion.

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Design Matters

Five tips for navigating a successful renovation project


In last week’s By Design column, Patricia Cove gave wise advice about the value of making certain renovation decisions. I loved what she shared about adding crown molding. This detail really does elevate any room. So true!  

This week, I thought I’d add to that discussion with some of our top five tips to ensure that your redesign project is a success.


Like online dating, it’s best to be upfront. Get the not so fun stuff out of the way first. Be clear and straightforward about your budget and timeline and what you might fear could go wrong. Be transparent about how you actually live vs. how'd you like to live. I’d like to be able to wear high heels and tight pants, but I accept this is not realistic for my lifestyle. 

A designer needs to understand you and your project holistically. You will be working together for many months or years so it will all come up eventually anyway. You might as well be transparent at the beginning whether you’re a control freak or a hot mess. 


Share yourself and your inspiration: A picture is worth a 1000 words. Seeing what you don't like is just as helpful as what you do like.  To explain in words what or why you like something leaves too much room for misinterpretation. What do the words “contemporary" or “traditional” mean to you?  A great designer is a sieve. They are able to sift through all kinds of information and find gold.  

Hit the ball back 

A proactive client will always get the best result. Be prompt and responsive. 

Studio IQL provides meeting minutes after each client presentation. We ask that clients respond to the accuracy of those notes, so that we can be sure that everyone is on the same page regarding important decisions. After 20 years, in this business, we have learned that the clients who respond to the meeting minutes in a timely manner are the ones who will have projects that come in on time and on budget. They are also the clients who are most likely to be thrilled with their results. 

Question authority

Ask questions – particularly about the process. Make sure you understand what the design team is responsible for and what you are responsible for. Do you know who will be coordinating the contractors and trades people? Or who will be ordering all the materials? Who will be home when the deliveries arrive? And who is going to be the person who arranges all your books on your new shelves, once they are finished? 

There are a lot of logistics involved in any design project. The more ownership you take of your own part in the process, the more you can make the most of your designer’s expertise and talent. Knowing these answers puts you in control of both the process and the design fees. 

Too many cooks

Did we say trust? Second opinions are great, except in the relationship with your designer. The more opinions you get, the more watered down the concept – and your result will have less impact. 

Ask 20 people if they like the color yellow, or your new boyfriend, and you are likely to get 20 different answers - and be no closer to your own. When it comes to making design choices for your own home, no one else can give you the right answers. Your choices are yours. They’re best if they come from your own feelings – not someone else’s idea of what seems logical. 

Trust yourself. Don’t second guess yourself and pull the figurative rug out from under the design team. Making changes near the end of the process undermines everything. In a great design, each detail has an impact on the next. Imagine if your designer was a chef and you ordered paella. If you switch from rice to quinoa, they are more than likely going to want to make a very different dish.   

Val Nehez is the owner and principal designer at Studio IQL in East Falls, which you can find at and on Instagram at studio_iql or for smaller projects quickandlovely_design.