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  • Writer's pictureDebbie DeMarais

How to Handle a Kitchen Remodel—From 400 Miles Away

A while back, I put together a post that walked through a home staging project from start to finish, so people could get an insider’s view on what happens. I think it helped demystify the process for anyone new to the idea of home staging.

As I’ve been working on more and more kitchen remodels recently, I’ve decided to give one of my recent interior design projects the same step-by-step treatment. If you’ve ever considered home remodeling—for all or part of your home—here’s a little of what you might expect. (I’ve also included lots of before and after pics to bring the project to life!)

Older beige kitchen with white appliances, a porcelain sink, and wood cabinets

The beginning point: a galley kitchen in need of functional and aesthetic updates.

The benefits and drawbacks of remodeling before you move in

As you can imagine, kitchen remodeling is a pretty disruptive process. For this project, my client decided to have all the work done on her new Santa Fe home before she relocated to New Mexico. The good news was she wouldn’t have to deal with the dust and disarray that comes with a remodel. The tough part was being hundreds of miles away while a critical project was taking place in her home.

That’s where I came in. Originally, she hired a contractor to manage the remodel, but for various reasons— some of them due to the difficulties presented by the pandemic—the contractor ended up stepping down from the project and I was enlisted to pick up where they left off.

Throughout the project, I acted as my client’s representative. I was on-site daily, keeping her supplied with regular updates and I got in touch quickly whenever anything needed her input. Despite being 400 miles away in Denver, her interior designer (that’s me!) was able to ensure that the vision we’d developed for her new kitchen would be fully implemented—on time and on budget. Here’s how it all happened:

Step One: A Remodeling Vision

It all starts with understanding what the client wants and translating that into paint colors, tile selection, floor and window treatments, and more. For this project, my client wanted her new home to feel like a fun hangout space with a fresh, feminine vibe. She also loved the color blue, in particular the blue from a colorful tile she wanted to use for the backsplash.

Decorative blue tile backsplash behind a stove top with blue cupboards and a stainless steel tea kettle

My client fell in love with this patterned tile, which became the foundation for the color scheme throughout the kitchen remodel. Photo by Aram Herrara of AirsCloudSantaFe

Following her vision, I used design boards and color tools to show her different options. Since anything shared digitally isn’t going to perfectly represent a real-life color, I directed her to her local paint store where she could see the exact paint colors I’d suggested. We landed on the perfect shade of blue for her cabinets and I selected a complementary soft white shade for the walls.

Low angle view down blue-themed galley kitchen with blue cabinets and decorative blue tile

For this project, the ideal shade of blue was Indigo Batik from Sherwin Williams.

Photo by Aram Herrara of AirsCloudSantaFe

For most interior design projects, I would then continue to aid in the selection of further elements such as flooring and light fixtures, but in this case, the client had already selected those items before I came on the project.

Now that I understood what the client wanted and we’d agreed on an approach, the only thing left to do was make it all a reality.

Step Two: Bringing in Kitchen Remodeling Pros

Generally after deciding on a vision, the next step is to prepare the space for the remodel. Anything not staying must go. In this case, the floors, the appliances, the lighting fixtures, and a window that was being turned into an exterior door had already been removed by the original contractor. The kitchen was gutted and ready for the pros.

While every project is different, this one required painters, flooring installers, an electrician, a plumber, and general workers. That’s a lot of people to coordinate, and probably too much for a typical homeowner to handle. As an interior designer, I am able to draw on a carefully vetted selection of professionals I use on design and staging projects.

Blue-themed kitchen remodel during construction with white walls, decorative tile, and conrete floor pad exposed

Kitchen remodel in progress with flooring and appliances to be installed.

I called on a painter who brought in a crew to prep and paint the walls. Everything not receiving paint was carefully taped and covered. The cabinet doors were removed and taken to the paint shop to be sprayed and coated for a durable finish, while the frames and faces were painted on-site.

The flooring crew installed large gray plank tiles in the kitchen, staggering them at an attractive two-three step.

12 x 24 floor tiles prior to installation laid out in pattern example on bare concrete floor

Staggered floor tile design in process.

A door and window crew installed a new exterior door where a window had once been, keeping with the client’s vision of a fresh and airy space. I recommended a plumber and electrician to take care of fixture installations, and I oversaw the installation of the new appliances by the delivery crews.

View down original galley kitchen with beige color scheme and white appliances

Same view as above of galley kitchen, but after completed remodel with blue cabinetry, stainless steel appliances and window door to garden

Before and after comparison of window wall…now with beautiful access to the Aspens outside.

AFTER photo by Aram Herrara of AirsCloudSantaFe

Somewhat paradoxically, all of these different pros were working at the same time and at different times. It was certainly a lot to orchestrate—but each day, I was there, boots-on-the-ground, coordinating with each foreman to make sure every detail aligned with what I knew my client wanted.

I was also there to make sure nothing went wrong.

Step Three: Troubleshooting

On a project this large, there are bound to be some hiccups. That’s why having an advocate on your side is essential. As the lead on this project, I was able to catch any mistakes before they became difficult to change. One example here was the hardwood flooring and wooden stair treads, which were delivered with two different color finishes. What a nightmare that would have been had they both been installed before the mistake was caught! Luckily I make a habit of confirming each product matches what the client has approved. We were able to get the correct items delivered and the flooring transitions from landings to stairway came out looking seamless and stunning.

Step Four: Constant Communication

With a client hundreds of miles away, clear, consistent communication is key. I wanted my client to feel she understood and was involved in every step of the process. Because I understood what my client wanted to achieve, I was able to confidently direct the work being done. I was also able to answer many of the questions that came up along the way. If ever I wasn't completely sure what her preference might be, I was quick to contact her to ensure we had approval before moving ahead.

white wall with microwave and doors to hidden appliance garage in kitchen remodel

A custom designed appliance garage hides function while freeing up counter space in the kitchen. Photo by Aram Herrara of AirsCloudSantaFe

I provided daily reports on the remodel progress, which helped to set her mind at ease that things were coming along nicely.

Step Five: The Finishing Touches

Because I understood my client’s overall vision for her new home, I was able to suggest a few things that could be taken care of while the remodel was taking place. For example, I noticed a worn handrail along the stairs. There was some peeling paint on the front door and garage. And some very tired portal wood needed a little TLC. Taking care of those minor details during the larger remodel was much easier than taking care of them after she’d moved in, and those touches certainly helped make the home feel “finished.”

Top of wrought iron staircase with metal banister sanded for repair and protective pink paper on hard wood landing

freshly painted black iron banister and stairway handrail at top of stairs

Before and after banister rail comparisons. Contending with other upgrades makes sense when already in the middle of a remodel project.

At the end of the remodel project, I ensured the home was spotless and move-in ready, with no sign of the remodel process—only the results. On move in day, my client was greeted with the home she had envisioned. Not only was she happy with the results, the entire process was virtually stress free for her, as she knew she had someone advocating for and representing her every step of the way.

freshly painted blue kitchen cabinets with decorative tile backsplash behind new stainless steel stove

The finished kitchen ready for my client to move in…

If you’re considering a remodel, an interior designer can help make the experience a total success. I’m here to help make your vision come true. Contact me today to talk about your Santa Fe-area interior design project.

Additional Resources

Updated 02/23/2023

Thinking about a kitchen remodel but not quite sure where to start? Along with 25 other design pros I contributed lots of practical advice about kitchen design in a February 2023 article titled: How to Design a Kitchen — Tips from 26 Home Decor Experts, which was written for online sink retailer, Annie and Oak. I hope you find it helpful!

view over dining room table in open concept condo with blue-themed galley kitchen and modern light fixture over round wood table


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