I dropped what I was doing and ran up to her job site to see what could be done. I'd sold her the tile and I wasn't going to take a return so what there was to do was calm her down. Over the years, I've found that the best way to counteract panic is to get even more measured and calm than I am usually. Inside, there was a knot in my stomach but I was determined to come across like the Dalai Lama if it killed me.
It took about an hour to talk her down from the ledge and let the tile setter finish his job. Her chief complaint was that the tile looked somehow different going in than it did in the mocked up sample I'd made over the summer. It took a little digging, but eventually I figured out that her tile looked different because it hadn't been grouted yet. My mocked up board was fully grouted and what she fell in love with was the finished tile. It never occurred to her that ungrouted tile would look so different from the finished product and I had seriously underestimated her inability to see the finished project as it would be rather than what it looked like when it was going in.
I have the vision thing, all of us do who are involved in any kind of work that involves designing how something will look eventually. Most people don't have the vision thing and that's OK. I strongly suspect that the vision thing is an aptitude --it's something you're born with. I go overboard accommodating my clients' inability to visualize their finished projects but in this case, I now know that I hadn't gone far enough. But when I look back and remember that this tile panic was coming on the heels of a lighting panic, a granite panic, a cabinet color panic, a hardware finish panic and a flooring panic I realize that the only way I could have gone further overboard would have been to put her on an airplane and sent her away for two months. I've spent a lot of time being the Dalai Lama since construction started on this one six weeks ago. It happens sometimes.
So the lesson here is to do a better job of identifying the people who need extra reassurance before they actually need that reassurance. If you're considering a renovation, keep a couple of things in mind. Now that I'm thinking about it, here's a list. Print this out and tape it to your fridge.
- Any renovation job will cost more and take longer than you think it will. Don't start spending money until you have accurate estimates of the costs of everything associated with your job and the time frames it will take for all of your components to arrive and be installed.
- When you're getting prices and someone gives you a range rather than a set price (this happens a lot with labor costs and it's perfectly normal), use the high price in the range in your budget. That way, if the total comes in lower than the high price, you get a happy surprise instead of a miserable one.
- When someone gives you a delivery window or range (this happens a lot with lighting in particular and again, it's perfectly normal) use the further away date. So when you hear "four to six weeks" don't get attached to four weeks. Assume it will be six. Again, set yourself up to be pleasantly surprised rather than disappointed.
- When you're getting ready for construction to begin, make a "safe place" somewhere in your house. If it's a kitchen renovation you're about to embark on, set up a temporary kitchen somewhere. Move a microwave, dishes, food, a coffee maker, etc., somewhere near a utility sink or into a bathroom so you can have everything in one place when you go to make something to eat or start your day.
- Leave your bedrooms clear and uncluttered, don't use them for storage when you empty out the rooms being renovated. Keep your bedroom that way it is normally. After a couple of weeks of camping out in a bathroom and dealing with noise and dust, it's tremendously helpful to be able to go into your bedroom, close the door and retreat into normal.
- Don't hover over the people who are working in your home. If you're working with a designer and a contractor you trust, let the people who work for them do their jobs.
- Don't judge partially installed work unless you have the vision thing. In mid installation, nothing looks the way it will when it's done. Tile looks very different before it's grouted, kitchen cabinets look awful before they have counters on them, appliances are enormous when they aren't in position and dings and nicks in the walls get fixed at the end of a project.
- If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, that's normal too. Take a walk, get out of the house, breathe, call your designer. Don't panic. Ever. There's always a solution and just as there's always a solution, the only way you can find it is with a clear head.
- You will spend a lot of money and be seriously inconvenienced but it will be worth it in the end. Anticipate in advance how you deal with messes and disruption and take steps ahead of time to prepare yourself, physically and emotionally.
- Finally, your memory of your renovation will always be less traumatic than your experience of it. Count on it.