Step one: Admit you need a designer.
You may think you know exactly what kind of room/reno/addition you want. And hey! You can get some software for your computer to help you put together some plans. So what do you need a designer for? Well, do you know what size windows you can put in the room (housing by-laws have a window-to-wall ratio you must follow). Or if you need an engineer to sign off on the removal of that load-bearing wall? A designer knows. Plus he/she can bring lots of great new ideas to the project that you would never think of. So enter into your relationship with this person/team knowing that you’re doing the best thing for your future — and paying up front for a good design can save you many bucks later on.
Step two: communicate, communicate, communicate
Show the designers pictures of what you like to let them know your style and what kind of design you want. Ask questions — don’t be afraid to question everything at any step of the way. And let them know what you want in the big picture — not just what kind of dining room, but what you want to do with it, how often you entertain, how you envision the entire family gathered in the den.
Step three: money, honey
Let the designer know your budget at the beginning of the process. Though you may have champagne tastes and a beer budget they may be able to provide you with some Chablis-grade alternatives. And your designer will let you know if you can complete your entire renovation now or whether you’ll need to finish it over several stages — plus they can make sure that you’re not taking one step forward and two steps back when it comes time to continue to the next stage.
And remember to keep back at least 10% of your budget for contingencies. I have honestly never heard of anyone who did not need that money before the project was over — no matter how precise their budget and plans were at the outset.
Step four: communicate some more
With each stage of the design process you will be defining exactly what you want and need. Changes to the plans will cost much less than a change order at the building stage. Plus! Love the look of marble in your bathroom? Knowing that at the design stage means you can look around for exactly what you want, find the best prices, and order it early in the build stage. Knowing well in advance what kind of plumbing fixtures you want, choosing the right tile for your backsplash, having a firm idea of the flooring you want will all pay dividends during the build.
Another reason to hire a designer — you can relax, knowing that your project will be wonderful!