Before I became a kitchen and bath designer, I watched the Home & Garden Television channel all the time. It was on my remote control favorites list. I still catch an occasional House Hunters International episode and will confess to being a Design Star reality show fan. I just no longer spend hours on end watching redesign and remodeling shows.
This is not true for many of my clients, especially when I was starting out my career at the Home Depot. Dreamy-eyed women would quote HGTV details to me all the time, some applicable to their kitchen or bath, most not.
Kitchen designed by Candice Olson, one of HGTV's most popular and talented designer-hosts as seen on HGTV.com.
You see, the actual process of completing those projects is so fundamentally different than what you see on television, which can only show a sliver of the project. Making a complete room redesign or remodel fit into a compelling 30-minute show has to gut the perception or no one would watch! This truncated vision conveys a ridiculously simplistic and distorted impression of the complexities of these projects. I salute those designer-hosts who make it look quick and easy. It's not, even in the best cases.
After several seasons of disastrous Design Star kitchen competition botch-ups, the show producers wisely went to a catalog shoot challenge this season.As a designer who works strictly in the off-screen realm right now, I feel compelled to share some of the contrasts between real life and HGTV that are essential to consider if you're planning a kitchen or bath remodel.
A full-scale kitchen or bath remodel is completed in 30 minutes, often timed perfectly to accommodate a huge family Christmas dinner or other special occasion shown in the final moments of the show.
A full-scale, full-service kitchen or bath remodel is typically completed in 30 days or longer. Much longer, in many cases. Yes, I know there are one-week bath firms out there, but their scope is limited.
The few seconds of demolition, construction and installation shown on remodeling shows, often in fast-forward motion, can be days or weeks of work in your home, in your life, in your face.
And here's something I tell all of my clients on every single project: Never, never, never plan a major event around a remodel or new construction project. Murphy (of Murphy's Law fame) will most likely Kick Your Butt if you fail to heed this advice.
The happy homeowners see their remodeled room for the first time at the 25th minute of the show.
In most remodeling projects, the homeowners are living on the job site the entire time and see their room at all phases of the project. These include the scary "there's no sink or floor in here" phase, the dust-everywhere construction phase, and the touch-ups at the end phase long before my personal favorite "everybody hugs each other" phase.
A brilliant designer magically appears when you need one and knows all of your wants and needs after a five-minute meeting. You heed his or her every word, even those gleaned by reading your mind because you just get that they're all-knowing.
You spend significant amounts of your free time looking for a designer and interviewing designers. If you're fortunate enough to find a real pro, (and using the National Kitchen & Bath Association Find a Pro search can help greatly in this regard), you're going to spend hours sharing your preferences and needs with an experienced designer who will factor them into your plans. He or she will also check in with you on ideas they have as questions arise, and on the sometimes-shifting dynamics of a project. There's no mind-reading involved in this process.
Budgets are rarely discussed. When they are, they typically don't include the dollars that cover labor, as the host's team is doing the work. Occasionally, the narrator will say that the budget was increased to include x, y or z that didn't get factored in from the start, or that the client paid for a, b, or c out of their own pockets, a favorite of the house-selling shows.
You're dealing in real dollars -- your hard-earned dollars -- and the professionals you hire need to respect your budget and advise you if a product choice you make impacts it. My pro colleagues and I ask about your preferred investment level at our first appointment, as it impacts the cabinetry, appliance, countertop, fixture, faucet, hardware and flooring options that we will recommend for your project.
We also factor in labor charged by the contractors, installers, plumbers, electricians and other qualified trades who will turn your dream kitchen or bath into a wonderful reality for you.
Otherwise, you're in for one of those nightmare remodels that have made Holmes on Homes a household name.
And that's just reality, not TV.