How to Handle any Renovation at Ease

I will never forget a client who was making peanut butter sandwiches for her kids on a windowsill. Fridge was moved at the bay window in the sitting room and this small area became a form of canteen. Kids could play only in their bedroom and TV room was upstairs as well. Construction was going well but my client didn’t have clear vision of finished project with some changes made at last minute and that’s where I was invited to help.

Any type of renovation can be stressful but good planning and thinking ahead can save you a lot of time, money and you get your home back to normality rather sooner than later. There are many things to consider and here is my check-list of what you might forget:

#1 Research and Understand your Project

Make a good research on what will be involved in your project: how many different contractors you will need, what materials you will require, who are your suppliers, makers etc. What is the essential work needs to be considered to exclude any additional work in the future (at least in first 10 years): electric wiring, plumbing, drainage system, insolation etc. Do you plan to do some work yourself? Don’t assume that builder is your project manager. Think who is your project coordinator, especially if you use independent contractors.

Well-planned construction always shows great progress

#2 No Rubbish Plan

During construction you will have plenty rubbish and you need a plan for getting rid of it. Depends on a project scale, you might need a skip or check with your builder if he will sort it for you.

Organizing it yourself, don’t forget to include cost in your budget, where rates can vary: standard skip around 300-350 euro for 5 days, mini skip just about 160-180 euro for 3 days (rates in 2019, Midlands, Ireland).


#3 Budgeting

To know your expenses is crucial because nothing can beat money stress.

Quote different contractors, find out how much is labour, materials, finishing details. How much does it cost to bring house to a clean stage?

Make a provisional list of materials you will require during construction. Discuss it with your construction team and set a plan who /what and when is going to source various materials.

Don’t forget about small works such as furniture fitting, skirting boards, hanging pendants, putting shelves up etc. Small costs add up quicker than you imagine, don’t ignore it at early stage. If your calculation brings you over budget decide to save, to borrow or compromise on various solutions before you begin.


#4 Be ready for Unexpecting!

Talking about budget and project duration – Expect Unexpecting!

It doesn’t matter if it’s new build or existing building renovation, there is always a risk of hidden issues. Nobody can know in advance what might show up when the work commence, for example: lick, mold, electrical lines that need replacing, issue with insolation etc.

All these surprises can add unexpecting 10-20% over your budget. Make sure to include it in your budget. It means if you plan to spend 30 000 euro, your active budget you use for planning is 24 000 -27 000 euro. It’s better to have money left in your pocket than to be broke half way.


#5. Get a planner

Clear project vision is your written plan. When you include each contractor into your planner, renovation doesn’t seem endless and you can keep a track on progress. Builders usually have certain plan for various stages and sometimes only as far as to finish construction work.

You need to contact all other suppliers and fitters yourself to make your home livable again. Allow lead time about 6-12 weeks for tilers, makers and fitters. Don’t forget to organize deliveries (2-4 weeks) and you will have your sofa in time.

Project planning, technical drawings by AlenaCDesign


Life goes on even during renovation. Especially if you have children, you need to plan construction with minimum disturbance of your daily routine. Not everyone can afford to move out, so if you plan to stay during peak of renovation, prepare yourself to accept dust, mess, disorder of things for a certain number of days / weeks. The best advice is constantly keep thinking ahead!

Any home improvement project comes with its own surprises and challenges. Get a plan and be organized, your new living space will be ready in no time!


Best of Luck!

Alena C

2019-04-30T18:57:32+01:00April 4th, 2019|Design Reality, Design Tips|

Top 7 principles all Designers Know and Do!

Every designer has individual style and unique approach in designing space. Nevertheless, all design professionals use common sense principals to create practical, functional place with outstanding look.

Interior design is very similar with personal style, when not everything suits everybody. Every home is just the same unique and we should emphasize advantages and make disadvantages less noticeable.

 Do you want to renovate and decorate like a Pro? Make room for Pro Design principals!


#1 Furniture layout First! 

I know, once you feel ready to design room, it’s very tempting to start choosing colour straigh away as if it’s life saving solution – quick and effective. Not so fast! 

Most of the times, you don’t feel right in the room because of incorrect furniture position, lack of storage or too much furniture! 

All designers arrange furniture before anything else, so it would create symmetry or make conversational area or simply to be practical.


Working file, Floor plan attic conversion by AlenaCDesign  

If you have little side table which is on your way but handy to leave a cup of tea on it from time to time – find for it permanent location! If you have several medium height book shelves but room looks cluttered – replace it on one tall unit. Make optimisation and don’t be afraid to say Good-Bye to old things – Life goes on! 

#2 Function before aesthetics 

Anything you get for your home should be functional, practical and work well for your habits and lifestyle! Personal comfort is a key and don’t compromise!  

If you have dynamic life…hairy dog…kids walking with snacks..- don’t get dark polished floor where every light hair and little crumb is super visible. You don’t need another reason to be stressed in your life. 

#3 Stick to chosen Colour concept 

It’s very easy to get lost in colour scheme selection, especially if you browse on Pinterest or Houzz. Colour selection is huge! Focus on Colour concept First! 

Basically there are only TWO to choose from! Yeah, only two!  

One is based on Neutral colours and 2nd is based on Contrast of colours. 

  Top 7 principles all Designers Know and Do!Top 7 principles all Designers Know and Do!

via Pinterest  

In first case, you pick neutral colour and add all shades from dark to light. Don’t forget to add textures to increase visual interest.  

In second case, you place one colour against another finding right combination to your mood and taste. Stay focused and work within chosen concept!  

#4 Don’t use white in dark room!

It’s very common mistake to think that if room doesn’t have enough natural lighting, you have to paint room in light tone to brighten it up. Unfortunately, it never works!  

Any light and pale colour tone turns out to be grey-ish and very dull… Instead, choose tone more rich to what you normally choose.  

To see colour inside – bring colour! It doesn’ t have to be bright, it can be quiet neutral tone but NOT Pale! All designers know that light tone and white Interiors look fresh only with good lighting!   

#5 Focus on one space at the time

I don’t think if you can find even a single designer who takes project and on a first day designs half bathroom and on second day half kitchen… No way!

It takes time to get inspired for certain client type, style and space. I believe you have to keep that focus to deliver something finished and outstanding.  

Use this practice if you design home yourself. Focus on one room at a time. Finished rooms stay finished for years, not finished rooms is never ending refurbishment and decorating process. 

#6 Keep mind creative & Open  

It’s the biggest challenge for every designer!

In order to be great professional you have to keep your mind open to be good listener for your Clients, understand key requests to improve internal space and overall living environment.  

But creative part is the hardest and it can be developed only with good practice and over time. It is an amazing ability to look at empty wall and to see something what’s not there and even possibly doesn’t exist but can be made. 

Design, art and craft stand very close to each other!  

#7 Predict the future! 

Design is an investment into your well-being or business (if it’s commercial space) and it will pay off over years. Nevertheless, our focus in life/business change, your personality change, you grow and so your interior should be versatile and should be easy for adapting to something new.  

Try to predict what changes might happen in your lifestyle, mood and think of interior to be flexible for that case.  

Design like a Pro & Be happy!

Alena C

2019-02-03T16:59:41+00:00May 12th, 2018|Design Reality, Design Tips|

Caring Project Management

Hello guys,

It’s going to be another honest Blog post from inside of Interior Design work. I hope practical recommendations will be helpful to homeowners and young designers.  

As a designer, I find it’s important to work with every Client using individual approach and it makes every design project like a little story, where with many Clients you become friends. All my Clients know that they can call me 27/7, even on Sunday and late evening and I will find time to discuss whatever they find important. I know from business model it’s crazy and shouldn’t be so (somebody might say ;) but for me it’s important for my clients to know that I Care. That’s exactly what I want to focus on in this blog. 

When we finish design concept and all specifications for contractors are ready, at this stage we usually know who will do Project coordination. Very often Residential Clients prefer to finish it themselves at own pace but there are number of Clients with bigger projects and with Commercial properties ask me to step up and lead project to finish.  AlenaCDesign work example

In any case, as soon we involve more contractors and professionals, our little story with Client becomes a whole Little Life with up and downs. There are two main conditions to call project successful: It was finished in Time and within Budget.

It can be tough if you are restricted in both. Although, to have project successful, it’s important to focus on finding contractors who Care! 

Project planning, setting schedule for each stage, finding contractors and collect quotations for each specific work – all these should be done before any work commence! Don’t skip planning, it is a key to avoid mistakes, misunderstanding with contractors and more likely you finish project in time. It’s true that it’s very important to hire right people and if you missed this part, READ in previous Blog: Your Ideal Contractor. 

Last time I avoided this topic but I think it’s important to share what kind of professionals I avoid to work with or reasons why I keep looking for opportunity to meet new ones. Each new contractor can be considered as a Business person as well as Individual. And I believe that even thinking business and expect to be charged fair fee, it’s more benifitial to work with people who Care.

 I believe in any relationships (business or private) there are three fundamental elements: TRUST, RESPECT, UNDERSTANDING. If one is missing, relationships fall apart. 


Yes, I’m talking about Small & Big lies!

You know the saying “The bitterest truth is better than the sweetest lie”? 

Working in a tight time frame, it’s important to understand when person will be on site. Sometimes circumstances change and you always allow several days for this (as an emmegency). Otherwise, it all can be negotiated and agreed in advance. Working with people you rely on them and expect to be sincere. Unfortnately, there are exceptions. I met several different contractors who prefer to “jump on work” somewhere else or “work for best friend” and then they leave you with lie….. Simple stories from “I was sick” or more santimental “my wife got me get away surprize, can’t cancel”. Please don’t think I’m being very suspicious, it’s just these people have been caught working somewhere else when their told story was different. Can you work with person, you can’t trust?…. – I don’t think so.  

Caring Project Management via 

Watch for ‘little lie’ signs from the beginning because Pro’s who does this regularly is like a chronical desease, it’s always there. 

Another important thing to mention is Money – I always make sure that jobs fairly priced and contractors get paid in time. Talking about fairly, I mean in ‘both ways’ – Not underpriced for contractor and not Overpriced for Client. To solve this dilemma, it’s great when pricing is trasparent, particularly for big scoup of work. We never negotiate to get anything for free but to understand what client pays for is one of the ways to establish trustworthy relationships.  


I’m sure you met one or two people, who are EXPERTS. I’m not talking about qualified, experienced and skilled people. It’s Pros who knows better than the others :) They teach you, teach other contractors, teach your client. They don’t collaborate because they know better and they are quick to judge everyone else’s work. Althought, they are ok if you hire for straight forward work but they can be hard in collaboration with other contractors. One typical characteristic of this types – not easy-going and have poor sense of humour :)

Caring Project ManagementVia Instagram @earlthegrump  


I think it’s important ability to reach understanding, agreement and very often through work negotiation. Many contractors prefer to visit work site to provide a quote. But initial quote and scoup of work might be a subject to a change. Unfortnately, not all contractors like to come back to discussion and especially to participate in negotiation. Most of the times, we need to collect all quotes before we know where we are with final budget, especially if it’s a big scale project. Sometimes, we have to review design and plans in the matter to fit into Client’s financial expectation. Therefore, if contractor isn’t interested in a project as a process then it’s ok and it’s good to know at early stage.

Caring Project ManagementImage credit: The Clinton Street Theater 

I didn’t put CARE as essential characteristic for contractor but very desirable! I think it’s a shame when people work Business-for-business and money-for-wealth. When professional can offer a little bit, you get what you can’t buy – kindness and sympathy. This contractor is priceless and pleasure to work with! They are like diamonds and that’s why I keep looking for more to work with :) If you think you could add something more into my list, please let me know about it or share your thoughts in a comment! I would like to know about your experience! 

Best of Luck!

Alena C

2019-02-03T16:59:41+00:00March 15th, 2018|Design Reality, Design Tips|

Your Ideal Contractor

This is second part of blog on How to Hire Right Contractor.
Very often I work with professionals from different trades, some I meet myself, others come from recommendations. Unfortunately, sometimes great expertise, high profile and superb skills isn’t enough for complete positive experience.
Everyone has different personality behind professionalism. To see it, you need to get to know person better! Unfortunately, time is against of us and professional testimonial becomes a priority in hiring contractor.
I believe overall experience can be divided on two parts : #1 Final work; #2 Work process. Professionalism guarantees quality of work, which is our final result; when right personality of contractor is important factor of positive work process.
Could you say “This contractor did an amazing work but he is sh… to work with. Highly recommended!” ? Believe it or not but I heard this several times and even had “an opportunity” to work with one or two. But this experience taught me a good thing, to see this attitude and first signals to avoid “no my type” contractors before we start next time.
Here what you really should look for:
#1 Good Professional ethics:
There are contractors who like to criticize other professionals. It happens even without looking at their work, with no clear argument to discuss. You can call it “just a talk”. Working on big scale projects different contractors have to work as a team. We all know that good understanding starts with respect. Only then two professionals can communicate effectively.
#2 Contractor with good planner:
Most of contractors are self-employed and they plan time and orders themselves. During high constraction season most of them are well-booked with waiting time about 6 weeks (average). But there are “contractors – unicorns”, they do magic. Being very booked, they somehow find time for you between orders. This professionals are rare to meet but when you meet one, stay down to earth. All professionals work certain hours, they have family, kids, dog to walk and dinner to eat. Nobody works over night and extra weekend. What I want to say that this type of contractors aren’t reliable. You might be promissed special day between other two clients/orders, you will believe but then on day X, there is no order or contractor to show up because he is overbooked. Magic disappears! Your Ideal contractor has good planner, he knows how long it takes to complete one order before takes next one. He marks it in the diary and informs you about available day. You know the date when contractor is free FOR YOU and ready to focus on your request.
#3 Solution finder vs. problem thinker:
Being creative person, I often suggest not standart soltions. That’s why I especially value open-minded professionals. It’s very important to have on your side not only highly skilled person but also the individual who has enthusiasm to solve big and small dilemmas (not always so creative). You don’t need to go far to hear reasons why something can’t be done. There will be listed many reasons including bad weather and bad luck. If you meet contractor who says that something you want can not be done and proposed solution doesn’t work for you! >>Look for a different contractor who will find solution to make your idea work! It’s the same if you go to doctor and he says “You are deadly sick and there is no cure!”, I don’t think you will give up that easily and surely will find new doctor ;)
#4 Must be easy-going:
Once I met two contractors who brough their skills on a whole new level. They do their job great, quality is outstanding but they work with provisional materials of certain brands or type. Once contractor nearly refused to paint hallway because paint was of a wrong brand. I know sometimes it’s important to have good quality materials but everything should be reasonable.
#5 Fair man!:
You know that nobody is perfect, even perfectionist! Mistakes and falures happen most of the times simply by accident. I think it is very important for contractor to be mature, honest and fair man. It’s not about IF, it’s more WHEN ‘falure’ is going to happen. Nobody of both sides should take it personally!
Remember my #1 type, this contractor might blame others after own falure “I could do it better if not him…..I was telling about him at the beginning”. It will be hard to untangle this ball of facts.
Somebody else might refuse the fact of bad quality work and will prefer to retire.
I have a great respect to professionals who aren’t affraid to face this situation and do their best to resolve it! Well done!
The best way to see if contractor has a right personality, ask him questions related to each position I named above. Ask him what to expect if you supply own materials, if something goes wrong; try to find out more details on how you cooperate and communicate or how he will work with other contractors on site etc. Than more questions you ask (even you think obvious ones) than better understanding you get that the person in front of you is the right one to hire!
I have to say, reading this blog post, believe me that there are more of professional, intellegent and highly-skilled men than ”not great ones”! Unfortunately, when it happens to meet one, contrast is too strong to miss it.
Best of luck!
Alena C
2019-02-03T16:59:41+00:00November 22nd, 2017|Design Reality|

How to Hire the Right Contractor

Every project starts with an idea. You already see in your mind how functional and beautiful will look your place. You have an idea what sort of work needs to be involved. Although, not always we have skills or time to make specific work ourselves. It is time to hire professional.
Recently I’ve been involved into interior design project, where I met contractors hired by my client. Meeting them was interesting experience, which gave me an idea to write this post.
There are many recommendations how to find professional for the job:
1. Decide what job should be done and who do you need to hire
2. Ask your friends and relatives if they can recommend someone or look for someone local
3. Get several quotations
4. Ask for portfolio, recommendations, reviews etc.
5. Meet personally!
It is a great list and you really should follow these tips. But to find right person, most of the times it isn’t enough. To make your project experience maximum positive, pay attention at next:
1. Determine What level of skills should have your contractor.
There is no need to hire professional artist if you simply need to repaint your walls. Before hiring a professional, make a list of everything should be done in your place. Divide all work into groups, for example: job for painter, job for carpenter, job for tiler and etc. Inside of group try to put more details of what work will involve, for example: do you want tiler to prepare walls for new tiles himself or it will do builder? Your walls have good surface to start painting or there is extra work needed? Who will do it?
Decide how many different contractors you will involve into project. Can one contractor have several skills?
TIP:It is hard if ever possible to be good at several things. Most of qualifications require magnificent amount of years and sometimes lifetime to achieve Master level.
When you hire contractor always ask about main qualification and how often person gets involved into specific job. I mean situation, when you hire carpenter and he says something like: “I’m actually tiler but I also do carpentry”. It’s not bad to have two different skills but it’s very rare to be very good at both equally.
Ideally, to achieve the best result, better to hire contractor for one type of work. Unfortunately, it isn’t budget friendly way but you get higher quality work. Look for the right person, for example, some tilers can also install vanities along with tiles and in that case you don’t need to hire plumber. In opposite, if you need to change pipes directions or make new provision, hire skilled person to do it. Mistake will cost you more.
2. Meet doesn’t mean to hire!
I know some people ready to hire contractor right after getting satisfying number (quotation) on a phone. Never do that! Always meet your contractor!
It happens, contractor is hired after phone agreement and on a first day you both realize that scope of work is bigger and project cost more for you and involves longer hours for professional. Everyone feel pressure…
Don’t be afraid to invite potential person to show stage and volume of work. This meeting doesn’t mean that you must hire straight after, it is only to help you and contractor to make decision, to get precised quotation, ask questions, meet person etc. It’s also important for professional to understand if it is his type of work to be involved.
3. See individual and not only price!
I will repeat it again that always meet contractor before to hire. You have to be sure that you have good understanding with the person you will work with. Get confidence that contractor will follow your guidelines and always will come to discuss before taking any decisions.
TIP: It is my personal advice – Be aware of people who talk more than listen! Remember this when you will have first meeting to hire. This type of people are good to sell themselves and their service but it doesn’t mean they are good. Ask more questions about their work and how he/she will achieve what you plan to get as a result.
4. Get written agreement.
Everybody knows that it is good thing to sign a document, but at the end of the day leave it without attention. Please, don’t do it! It doesn’t have to be contract but should be at least agreement on work you provide and result you need to get. It is good for your contractor to have written promise to receive money and for you to get full list of arranged work done. Discuss what happens in case of delay from both sides or in case something goes wrong. It helps to establish trustworthy relationships.
Good luck with your projects!
Wish you only positive experience!
2019-02-03T16:59:41+00:00November 15th, 2017|Design Reality|

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