5 Things to Consider When Renovating Your Home

There’s something about springtime that makes homeowners want to start knocking down walls and enlarging their kitchens. That springtime folly can easily become a prolonged disaster if the project begins before key steps are taken. Virginia Van Lear and Debbie Hollonbeck, partners at Level Craft Atlanta, a local full-service design-build firm, say it’s important to clarify your vision and work closely withyour contractor to ensure that they understand and execute your vision.

“As a client, you want to connect with your contractor, know they will quickly respond to your questions with helpful information, and that they understand your overall vision. We take those expectations very seriously. We understand the importance of each project and work hard to make each client’s vision a reality. Building a home is not stressful if you trust your contractor,” Van Lear, a licensed residential contractor, explains.

“Because it’s important to us to establish a good relationship with our clients and involve them in the process, we make the building experience an enjoyable one. There is a lot of excitement around creating a home, and we truly relish it,” adds Hollonbeck, project manager and designer for the duo.

To help their clients create a realistic and successful vision for their renovation project, Van Lear and Hollonbeck suggest the following early-stage considerations:

1. Budget
Know your budget and make sure you include 15 to 20 percent for contingency costs. “You never know what potential nightmare is hiding behind your walls, or if you’ll absolutely never forgive yourself if you don’t upgrade to that sputnik chandelier or the higher-end materials,” says Hollonbeck, who lives in a Decatur home she renovated. “Overruns account for the majority of budget snags. Having contingency costs built into your budget will allow you to start your project without worrying that you’ll go over.”

2. Lifestyle
You want the spaces you design and build to reflect your daily activities and routines, so consider your family’s habits. Do you love hosting formal parties? Then you’ll need to consider that when planning your dining room or your foyer. Where do you usually relax after dinner? Do you retreat to the sitting room? “My family always lingered around the kitchen table while my parents did the dishes. So, I designed my kitchen as a wide-open space that facilitated those after-dinner discussions. And my sink is located on the island, so while I do dishes I’m facing the family and can be a part of the antics,” says Van Lear. “The right contractor takes all of these lifestyle choices into consideration when planning the design and functionality of your home.”

3. Natural Light
“We are very keen on the effects of natural light in our custom builds and renovations. There are so many documented health-related benefits tied to natural light—not to mention the aesthetic and energy-saving appeal. All of the studies have encouraged us to pay attention and to incorporate natural light into our design when possible,” explains Hollonbeck.

According to an article in Architectural Lighting, scientists at the Lighting Research Center in Troy, New York, have reported that “daylit environments increase occupant productivity and comfort, and provide the mental and visual stimulation necessary to regulate human circadian rhythms.”

And if you’re a houseplant lover, you’ll want to consider that north facing windows provide the most consistent levels of light throughout the day.  “We think about these things when planning your renovation,” adds Van Lear.

4. Engineering + Functionality
The concepts “value engineering” and “efficiency and green building” are more meaningful than industry buzzwords. You need to understand how they benefit you and save you money on your remodeling project.

“Value engineering is a method in which we propose designs that cut costs while maximizing the value and functionality of your spaces by giving you more livable square footage. For example, one thing we consider in the planning stage of your renovation is the amount of walk-space in your hallways and vestibules. We pride ourselves on finding creative ways to utilize the wasted space we find around your home,” says Van Lear, who has been building and renovating homes locally since 1996.

Environmental impact is also critical. “We are also Earth Craft builders so we look for ways of being more efficient and green. We want our homes to be constructed and designed to reduce environmental impacts—it’s our responsibility to do our part,” explains Van Lear.

“We are conscientious builders who really care about putting out a beautiful product,” affirms Hollonbeck.

5. Storage
It might be the least-fun element to ponder when planning your renovation, but it’s important.  “You need to incorporate organized spaces for your cleaning supplies, extra bedding, and all that sporting equipment your significant other keeps buying,” says Hollonbeck.  “There are several innovative ways to create extra storage spaces around your home so that you can conceal the clutter while still keeping it handy for when you need it.”

“Every detail is important to us. We work closely with our clients and are very sensitive to their needs—it’s a relationship we don’t take lightly. It’s an art—the creation of your dream home,” affirms Van Lear.

For more information, visit LevelCraftAtlanta.com or call 404.704.7350.


by Lorrie Bryan • Photography by Angela George for Level Craft