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The Anatomy of a Renovation: On Time (Wow!) and No Advil Required


There’s really no secret to a successful renovation. I could make this really short and state the obvious. Talented designers, meticulous planning, great trades, and constant streams of healthy communication are key. Also having fantastic clients with a lot of patience, flexibility, and who can grasp the big picture and decide on the minutiae all at the same time is pivotal. So that’s it. Check out the before and afters. :) It turned out brilliantly.

The Longer Story...


You say the word “renovate” in Toronto and you have enough conversation to fill a eight-hour dinner party with wine pairings at every course. Everyone has a story, or a dream of doing something, or they are trying to figure out if it’s worth it to leave their home “as is” because that’s what the agent might put in the listing, and they may still get bidding wars. 

The permutations for potential outcomes of renovations are enormous. Decisions at every level along the way are countless. It’s a daunting task for those wanting to do something significant to their home. 

In this case, I was lucky to be brought in on a renovation project that had everything I would recommend to anyone taking on a renovation of any scale: expertise, talent, a healthy timeline, realistic expectations, and skilled people at every stage along the way. This is the recipe for success. 

Anna Smith and her colleague Alex Perckucin of A. Smith Design were the creative masterminds behind the conception and selection of all the design elements of the renovation. I was hired by the client to execute their design with a timeline of May to November. I was provided with very organized notes, drawings and contacts of trades, and I brought in a few more on my own. 


I relish in list making and spreadsheets. There were an enormous amount of moving parts to this project and a spreadsheet was mandatory for scheduling and tracking each element. My spreadsheet ended up having 123 separate, general tasks highlighted for action. Multiply each task by 10 - 20 emails, phone calls, texts, meetings etc., and you can see how important it is to have a centralized source to manage something of this scale.  

The project covered every room in the home from a complete renovation of flooring, cabinetry and electrical in the basement, to painting the entire home including spray painting the kitchen cabinetry (a large mini-sub project all on its own!), new carpeting, shutters, window treatments, bathroom fixtures, furniture, soft accessories, electrical, plumbing, wallpaper, light fixtures, reupholstering and the list goes on. 

I look at every single organizing and project management task the same way. You have to compartmentalize it to make it manageable. It’s easy to lose control when only working within the big picture. The project was approached by floor. There were some areas where there was crossover - all the materials and furnishings were ordered up front and managed throughout the process. This strategy worked and the project was completed on time as scheduled, to the delight of my clients. I think they secretly worried that their Christmas morning was going to be surrounded by tarps, shrink wrap and unopened boxes that weren’t presents!


My last thought on this project is that constant communication is key. And I mean constant. It’s not just staying on top of tasks, it’s staying ahead of them. Being proactive with trades, suppliers, and most importantly, clients, makes projects go so much more smoothly. Figuring out what works best for people: texting, emailing, calling is an important part of understanding working relationships. Consideration for people’s time, and things like commuting distances, respect for their skill and knowledge base all help make a team work together. This was a very team oriented job. I was connected with very talented people which is an obvious component of successful execution. Getting your ducks in a row in advance is very necessary. 


“Thank you for all your amazing work, I do not remember a project that went as well as this one!”

-Alex Perkucin, A. Smith Design

“Kathleen was fully committed to making our renovation as seamless as possible for us. She rolled up her sleeves, got her hands dirty and somehow made it all happen on time. It was a lot of upheaval, but Kathleen did her best to ensure that our liveable spaces remained liveable, tidy and organized. This really kept us sane. We loved the painter she brought into the project who became our dog’s new best friend! She was wonderful in managing all the people coming and going, giving us peace of mind and security in knowing our home was being treated as if it was her own.”

- Jill and David, Homeowners

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