Original article published by Distinction magazine February/March 2020 Edition

by Joni Spear

There are few things as satisfying as watching an old, dilapidated home go from mess to masterpiece. The transformation, admittedly, makes for great TV. But the problem is that shows like Fixer Upper, Property Brothers and Flip or Flop tend to give viewers an unrealistic idea of the actual process of home renovation.

Through the magic of TV, and with the help of producers and financers, these shows often make it seem like turning your hovel into a showplace will take seven weeks and cost $30,000. In the real world, it takes at least that long to vet a contractor, and an actual renovation will likely cost three times that much. Heck, it costs $25,000 for a
decent set of midsize kitchen cabinets.

TV home renovations are exciting. Real-life renovations are long and emotional journeys. They are often worth it, but Lord, the patience it takes to get through them would test Job. In real life, the renovation never goes smoothly, and dozens of time-consuming factors come into play before one sledgehammer breaks through the walls.

A proper renovation requires permits and architectural drawings. And if you’re removing a wall, you certainly need an engineer. Then there are the dilemmas discovered halfway. Asbestos …  Oh no!

Illustration by Maria Fabrizio

Have you ever noticed that lighting never comes into play on television? That’s because it’s too boring and nobody wants to see it. But lighting is one of the most important factors in a remodel. Contractors charge per fixture, so the process can be both expensive and extensive. What about electrical outlets? It’s never discussed and yet it matters. You would not believe the number of codes you have to follow.

And the costs on TV renovations are often subsidized by the network, as well as sponsors who see the show as great advertisement for their products. Why did they rip up that great hardwood floor for vinyl planking? Sponsor. Where did they get that new furniture? Sponsor. After all, you can’t have Grandad’s recliner in the new living room.

I probably get the most frustrated when I see the kitchen renovations. They gloss over all the work it takes to get the details right. Some people take months to select cabinet handles. And appliances? That will take several trips to different stores to find just the right ones.

Don’t get me wrong; a renovation is an incredible way to turn your house into your dream home. But spoiler alert: It is not easy, or quick. It takes work and patience. But when you’re done, it will all be worth it.

Joni Spear, a professional interior designer with more than 20 years of experience, specializes in high-end residential projects. She recently relocated to Smithfield. See some of her work at www.jonispear.com.

Original article published by Distinction magazine February/March 2020 Edition