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Home Remodeling Tips From an Interior Designer

“When the client ‘can’t wait’ to use their space or show it off, we know it was a success”.



In the second part of our insightful interview with Kristen Ongstad, we dive deeper into the intricacies of home remodeling. Kristen shares her approach to blending new construction techniques with interior design, discusses the importance of preserving certain aspects of a home while updating others, and reveals how she measures the success of a remodeling project.

Additionally, she offers invaluable advice for homeowners embarking on their first significant remodeling project and sheds light on the current trends shaping the industry. Join us as we explore the thoughtful strategies that make Kristen’s projects both functional and beautifully timeless.


Part II: Home Remodeling Tips From an Interior Designer.

INTERVIEWER: What have been some of your favorite projects?  Why did you like them so much?  

Kristen Ongstad: One of my favorite projects was renovating a casita.  This casita was used as a pool house with just one main room and a bathroom. The clients wanted to convert to a guest house so their son could live there while going to college. We were able to reconfigure the space to add a living room, dining nook, kitchen, bedroom, and closet while keeping the bathroom in the current location to save cost.  There were many challenges with electrical load and configuration, but we were able to maximize the space and create a beautiful home.

INTERVIEWER: What remodel advice do you have to add the most value to a home?

Kristen Ongstad: One way to add value to the home is fresh paint.  This is especially true when the colors are very dark and/or dated.  Bright, fresh walls do open up a space and oftentimes refresh a tired space.  This is a relatively inexpensive update that homeowners can do if they have the time.  However, a poorly done paint job will have the opposite result and will devalue the space.  It is best to know your limitations in both time and skill levels.

INTERVIEWER: What are the most profitable home improvements?

Kristen Ongstad: The most profitable home improvement is an addition.  Adding space to increase the livable square footage of a home will often have the greatest return on investment.  The layout of the addition and adding a bathroom or bedroom to a home that has fewer than the neighborhood will be especially valuable. The quality of the work does matter.  It should look as if it is part of the house originally and not merely an addition.

INTERVIEWER: What is the hardest part of remodeling?

Kristen Ongstad: The hardest part of remodeling is the actual construction.  Remodeling a space is extremely disruptive and can be quite messy.  Any time there is a demolition of a material or space, dust and debris are created.  This can be annoying to have construction debris to constantly clean up.  The second hardest part of remodeling is the time it takes.  Depending on the scope of the project, it may take weeks to up to a year for particular projects.  This is especially lengthy when the project requires architectural plans and permitting.

INTERVIEWER: How do you approach a home remodeling project differently from a new construction interior design project?

Kristen Ongstad: A remodel is different from a new construction project in that often the clients are still living in the home.  We are tasked with working around their daily schedules and tend to have fewer storage options with the materials.  We have very open lines of communication within our team and with the client to make sure we can mitigate the disruptions for the client.

INTERVIEWER: What are the most important factors to consider when planning a home remodel?

Kristen Ongstad: When planning a home remodel, budget and schedule are the most important factors.  Budget is important because a remodel should add comfort and convenience to a space.  When the budget is overextended, it becomes much more stressful, and often the space is not looked upon fondly after it is completed. The schedule is important because there are necessary timelines that are unavoidable.  For example, the materials require cure times and delays to ensure proper installation. The schedule requirements should be communicated clearly to make sure it does not interfere unduly with prior engagements.

INTERVIEWER: Can you share an example of a home remodeling project that significantly improved the functionality of the space? What changes were made?

Kristen Ongstad: A home remodeling project that improved the functionality of the space was a kitchen remodel.  The layout of the kitchen did not allow for ample cooking space or entertaining large groups.  We took down the decorative arch over the range to free up counter space.  Then we lowered the bar seating at the island and created a single-level eating and prep space.  This maximized the space the client already had by reconfiguring the counterspace without changing the footprint.  The result is a very functional and updated kitchen that works well for the family.

INTERVIEWER: How do you assess which aspects of a home should be preserved and which should be updated or completely redesigned?

Kristen Ongstad: When deciding what should be preserved and what should be removed there are a couple of things to think about.  The first is the condition of the item.  Is it in good condition that will allow for slight modifications to update or does it require too much to shore it up and make it sturdy?  The second is: does the item complement the updated look/style? If an item does not have a cohesive style with the updates, it will distract from all the beautiful changes made.

INTERVIEWER: How do you measure the success of a remodeling project? What feedback do you look for from your clients post-completion?

Kristen Ongstad: A successful remodeling project adds both beauty and functionality to a space.  It should feel comfortable for the client and fulfill their needs for the space. When the client “can’t wait” to use their space or show it off, we know it was a success.  The excitement of a client when the remodel is completed is a good barometer for how well we did throughout the whole process.  We hope to receive feedback stating that our communication was fantastic, we listened to their needs and brought their dream and vision to reality.

INTERVIEWER: What advice would you give homeowners preparing to embark on a significant remodeling project for the first time?

Kristen Ongstad: Advice for homeowners who are new to remodeling is to make sure you plan out how you would like to use the space and how you would like the space to feel.  Mood boards are great for getting ideas and examples in one space. This is a good way to see how the materials and looks work. It is also a good idea to be realistic about costs and timelines.  TV shows that depict a renovation happening in 30 short minutes on the episode and only costing pennies are a big disservice to the industry.  Oftentimes, the cost and schedule are not realistic examples of work to be completed.

INTERVIEWER: What trends are currently popular in remodeling?

Kristen Ongstad: Currently, in home remodeling, we see earth tones and warm neutrals gaining stronger footing.  This is coupled with raw materials and mixing of steel and wood.  There is also traction gained on less open floor plans and more individualized spaces as more people continue to work from home.  Overall, the trend continues toward clean lines and bright spaces taking cues from nature.