Preparing for Success

Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure. – Confucius

Today the rain is falling and the leaves are blowing off the trees. Everyone is bundling up and bemoaning the fact that life is going to happen more indoor than out of doors for the next several months. But some are not complaining. They know this downshift from summers high energy to the slower pace of fall and winter is the time to dream, plan and prepare until spring revs us up for action once again.

Being indoors in the fall and winter months provides a great opportunity to access whether or not your home is meeting most of your needs. If you get that dreadful feeling when pondering the question, then it’s probably time to make some changes. But starting the process of determining where your problems lie can be overwhelming. Whether it’s a whole house or one room, start by asking the following questions: Is it dated? Does it have enough storage? Does it have good flow? Is it big enough? Is it in the right location? Make notes when you see the things that you don’t like or that don’t work. Be specific. Having a detailed written record allows better focus on pinpointing problems and more accountability for finding solutions.


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Having a fully formed sense of what you want the end product to look or feel like is critical BEFORE entering the overwhelming world of options and choices out there. Ignoring this step and hoping the plan or vision will come together when you see “what’s out there” is folly. Unarmed with a cohesive vision you are more likely to wind up with a jumbled, disjointed mess. Trust me, it is not fun to have to tell a homeowner they have wasted money buying the wrong things. If you are navigating this process without professional assistance you will be less likely to make costly mistakes if you do your homework ahead of time.

Sometimes a space just needs to be shaken up and re-awakened. Most of the time these issues can be improved with adjustments like de-cluttering, re-arranging furniture layout, freshening furnishings or carpet and paint. Whether the process is big or small, be sure to refer back to those helpful notes. They will refresh the memory and provide a reminder of what to avoid and what you are looking to incorporate. For example, if new paint and carpet are the fix then be sure to consider the furnishings that are staying in the space to guide you to the best choice. Bearing in mind how a space is used may steer you towards, or away from, certain options . For instance, a gorgeous ivory rug is probably not the best choice for a much used family room with kids and dogs (and even most adults). And choosing a trendy paint color may do more harm than good if nothing else in the room works with it.

Many of us live in homes inhabited by previous owners and if your home is older there are probably things that don’t work for today’s lifestyles. It wasn’t all that long ago that cooking, dining and formal entertaining were relegated to separate spaces. Shared hall baths were the norm and closet space seemed and afterthought. If you find yourself living in a time warp then a shake and re-design of existing space might be the fix. But the bigger the fix, the bigger the preparation needs to be. Again, start by noticing the pros and cons to current space, storage or layout. It’s advisable to work with a skilled professional when tackling projects of this scope. But being able to refer to the observations and notes you made before enlisting help will make conveying your thoughts much easier. Being clear on what you would like to change makes it easier for the professional to figure out how to do so. It also ensures that you will wind up with an end product that looks and feels close to (or even better) than what you imagined.

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There are some issues in a home that can’t be fixed by re-freshing and re-designing. If your family has outgrown a home, or your lifestyle has changed, or you simply want to explore a new architectural style or geographic location, it may simply make more sense to re-invent an altogether new home. Building from scratch provides the opportunity to integrate all of your needs and aesthetics in a cohesive form, free from the constraints of working with existing space.

With this option the process of preparation is most critical. With one shot to get it right, more thought has to go into the questions and answers that will ultimately shape the form and function of the home. I am currently helping clients with the design of a home they will be building. Before we involve an architect we are asking lots of questions to create a loose vision that we will continue to hone. Among them, we are looking at the ways they cook, they entertain, their storage needs, the relationship desired between inside and outside, and needs of their family now and in 5, 10 or 20 years. Asking and answering these questions in the beginning of the process makes it easier to make the myriad of decisions that happen as we fine tooth comb our way to the end product.

Like most things in life, the more intently you plan and prepare, the happier you are likely to be with the outcome. So enjoy the return of the fall and winter months. Consider them an opportunity to dream, plan, prepare, ask questions and research the best possible answers. Doing so will provide a detailed game plan, allowing you to proceed with a re-fresh, re-design or re-invent that will leave you happier in the end. Time well spent indeed!

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