To Renovate or Not To Renovate?

10 Min.


We were honored to be part of the 2015 Boston Design Week events at the  Boston Magazine panel discussion – “To Renovate or Not to Renovate” The discussion centered around the booming Boston real estate market and covered how to renovate without breaking the bank or losing your sanity. Panelists were Bob Ernst, President of FBN Construction, Gail Roberts of Coldwell Banker Realty and JF’s own Olivia Lord.

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Boston Magazine home and property editor Olivia Rassow moderated the discussion, kicking things off by asking Real estate diva Gail Roberts what steps a homeowner should take when they first put their house on the market; “de-clutter! You’re selling a lifestyle, so clear out your knick knacks and make sure your home is open and clean” Gail also recommended fresh flowers and removing shades to increase the light in the home.

The discussion then moved towards the trends that FBN Construction’s Bob Ernst and Jewett Farms + Co’s Olivia Lord are seeing in both kitchen and full home renovations. Bob spoke generally about the increasing popularity of mud room areas, and the idea that form must follow function. Olivia spoke to the desire of home owners to increase their functional storage space – for example including drawers instead of open cabinets so nothing is lost in the back, as well as creating multiple work areas and a design that flows from the kitchen into the rest of the space.

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A large part of a successful renovation is having a  good team, Bob confirmed this “You have to be able to relate to your contractor, they will be your room mate, your best friend and your constant companion during this time. Gather your team early”. Olivia Lord agreed and stressed the importance of communication between the team members “There ‘may’ be delays…” she joked “making sure that everyone is communicating will keep timing running smoothly and avoid potential costly issues”. They both agreed that having a solid, well vetted list of sub-contractors is key to creating a good team.

Which led Olivia Rassow to her next topic, expensive renovation pitfalls and how to avoid them. Bob referenced the importance of a solid team – to troubleshoot potential issues and efficiently deal with structural, electrical or plumbing issues that may arise. As kitchen designers and cabinet makers Jewett Farms + Co. generally come to the project after such issues have been resolved, however Olivia Lord did affirm the importance of sticking to the plan “it’s important to take the time during the design process to figure out exactly what you want. Then avoid making changes once work has begun”.

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Budget is, of course, a very large part of a renovation – and the question often becomes ‘With all the renovations we want to do – shouldn’t we just move?’ Bob Ernst said he has seen this happen to his own clients “Sometimes I will help them with their house hunting. More often than not even if they buy a new house, they still end up doing some kind of renovation”. Gail Roberts agreed, “people buy houses in Cambridge, because they want to live in Cambridge. They deal with the house after the fact”. Olivia Lord added that it is important for home owners to have a budget in mind when they come to their kitchen renovation so that the design fits within that scope and expectations are met. (See below for video)

The evening concluded with some great questions from the audience; designers, professional organizers and a specialist in technology integration all added to the lively discussion.

Galley West at the Boston Design Center was the perfect venue for the event, the high ceilings and large windows let in the spring feel of the day and provided enough space for the large crowd (standing room only!). Boston Magazine truly knows how to out on a fun shindig, great drinks and appetizers and a varied and interesting group of home industry professionals.