By HESTIA Design Collective

Do you ever find yourself looking around your home, knowing you want it to be different but not exactly sure where you should start? When you get online to look for inspiration or do research, do you end up feeling overwhelmed by too much information or too many ideas?

At HESTIA Design Collective, we understand that initiating a new home improvement project can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are five manageable steps we would recommend taking as you ease into the planning process.


1. Understand Your Why

No matter how small or large your design project will be, the first and most important step is to identify your goals. Understanding the “why” behind your desire to improve your space will help you determine how to proceed. Ask yourself what works for you in your current space and what doesn’t. Now, envision how you want your home to function in the future.

Write your design goals down as you think of them and as you encounter challenges in your space day-to-day. The list might be messy, and it might take several stops and starts, but just getting your design goals written down is a huge and important first step.

Once the list is complete, prioritize. Reorganize your goals in order of most important to least. Determine your “must haves,” your “wants,” and, if your list is very long, identify your “nice to have” elements, too. It’s rare for anyone to be able to afford or have time to pursue every single one of their design goals at once. Prioritizing will be helpful when difficult decisions and time constraints pop up.

Dive into Design

2. Identify a Budget

Most people have an idea of what they can afford to spend, or what they want to spend, at the start of a project. To figure out whether that target budget is realistic, we recommend consulting a design professional. But if you want to get a ballpark figure in mind first, using a cost per square foot multiplier can be a good way to go.

According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the average construction cost of a typical single-family home in 2019 was about $114 per square foot. Keep in mind that is a national average, based on analysis from a wide range of rural, urban and suburban locations. Also, it’s important to note that there is typically a price difference between new construction and renovation prices — renovations can be costly because of the complexity that comes with modifying an existing structure. If you live in an area with a high cost of living or if you’re interested in high-end finishes, don’t be surprised if construction costs turn out to be much higher than the national average. Here in Loudoun County and the Washington, D.C. area where HESTIA is based, construction costs can start closer to $350 per square foot and go up from there.

3. Determine a Schedule

Do you have a specific time frame in mind for your project? Or perhaps a date when you know you’d like for it to be totally complete? You most likely have some sort of timeline in mind, but it can be hard to be sure it’s achievable. Just like with setting a budget, consulting a design professional or builder at this stage of the game is also a wise choice, because they are aware of the realistic amount of time it takes to complete each aspect of a project.

Home renovation projects can take anywhere from a few months to a year or more to complete, depending on a variety of circumstances that may be out of your control. The design phase, potential permit review process, materials delivery and contractors’ schedule will all factor into the timetable, not to mention the amount of time spent in construction.

If you’re looking to get started soon, be aware that the effects of COVID-19 are causing supply and demand issues throughout the construction and manufacturing industries. Longer wait times for materials and furnishings are common right now, so you may need to adjust your schedule expectations in the short term to limit frustration down the road.

4. Find Your Style

To discover your design style, first look within. What styles speak to you and what do you want to see in your home? Whether you love classic, mid-century, or contemporary looks, there are a variety of choices out there. If you aren’t a purist when it comes to any individual design style, do not fear. In recent years, designers have embraced mixing styles to help achieve an eclectic look for their clients. While the industry has moved away from “matchy matchy” home interiors, keep in mind that even an eclectic aesthetic will still require an understanding of proportion, scale, and balance in order to work well.

If you aren’t quite sure where your tastes fall on the design spectrum, try creating an inspiration board and saving images you like. At HESTIA, we’re big fans of Pinterest, but you can also use Powerpoint, Google Slides, or go old school and cut pictures out of magazines to create your own physical version. As you select and collect images, you may start to see common themes arise — color palettes, finishes or features that show up over and over again. Recognizing what truly appeals to you will help you define what style is best for your project and drive design results that feel cohesive and complementary.

5. Dive into Design

Once you’ve homed in on the style (or styles) you love, you can turn your attention to planning the layout and making bigger furnishing choices. Then, you get to incorporate fun design details. We at HESTIA like to call this the “jewelry” of the project — the small conveniences and thoughtful touches that personalize a space and bring your dream home to life.

If you’ve chosen to work with a design professional, this is the step where they really shine. While it’s true that some homeowners don’t necessarily want or need outside guidance, we’ve found that most people will greatly benefit from collaborating with an architect or interior designer. Having built up a wealth of knowledge over the course of their careers, design professionals can provide expert insight into your home’s layout, potential problem areas, and the best materials to use for your lifestyle and budget. When you take into consideration the fact that your home is likely the biggest financial investment you’ll ever make, then it makes sense to bring a professional on board to help you enhance the value.

Dive into Design

6. Bringing Value to You and Your Home

A home improvement project can seem like a straightforward process, right up until you are drowning in too many choices and information overload. If you find yourself struggling to get excited or motivated, hiring a professional to help might be the ideal solution for you. Depending on the scale of your project, you can choose from a variety of options including decorators, interior designers, and architects. The best pros will do everything in their power to turn your ideas into reality. Look for a professional with whom you connect and respect. Let them guide you through the design process, and try to have fun!

While we know we’re biased, we also know that not every project has to have a designer to be successful.
Whether you enlist the services of a designer or not, working through these five steps at the outset of a home design project will yield a smoother, less stressful process to get you a wonderful final result — the home you’ll love for years to come.