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The Real Reason Design and Renovations are Taking So Long Right Now

What you need to know about your home renovation timeline in 2021 — and beyond

First of all, let me say this: if you’ve got some flexibility and you’re clear-eyed about the timeline of your project, it’s not a bad time to begin a home renovation. But… there’s a lot of confusion out there about how long home renovations take right now, and I’d like to provide some clarity.

Because setting realistic timelines for your home renovation can save a lot of headaches down the road.

So today, we’re digging into some common questions and misconceptions I’m hearing. Things like:

  • How long will a furnishing and decorating project take right now?

  • Why are remodel timelines so long?

  • If I pay my deposit now, can we start construction next week?*

*(The answer to that last question — no matter how “precedented” the times are — is ”no”. More on that in a bit.)

I want to share my experience with the current pandemic-related shipping delays, contractor availability, and other factors that affect construction and interior design timelines. Because, while the industry is booming, we’re certainly not back to normal just yet. And honestly, I’m not sure when we will be.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t move forward with your project. In some ways, it’s a great time for a home renovation. But it’s important to go into a renovation with appropriate expectations, pandemic or no.

So without further ado, let’s dig in.

How long does a home renovation take, start to finish?

The short answer here is: it totally depends on your specific project. (Annoying, right? But it’s true.)

Everything — from your home’s location to the scope and scale of the renovation to your budget and materials selections — affects the timeline of your unique remodel.

But, since I’m writing a blog post on the topic, I’ll do my best to provide some general guidance here:

  • Decor refresh without construction used to be 6-10 months. Now, I’d assume 12+.

  • Renovation with new furnishings and decor on an averaged sized home — previously 12-18 months, now 18-24

  • Completing a ground up home build with furnishings — 18-24 months, now 20-26

Again, I don’t share these timeline increases to frighten anyone away or to be pessimistic, but it serves no one to go into a remodel with unrealistic expectations. I’ve had multiple prospective clients approach me lately with quotes from contractors for a remodel overhaul in 4-6 months. And that’s just not realistic, unfortunately.

I don’t know if those contractors’ estimations have been given in good faith or not. But either way, those expectations will only lead to heartbreak when you’ve reached the end of month 4 and are in the midst of a dust-filled construction zone instead of hosting that big Thanksgiving you were planning.

So if you’re thinking about beginning a home remodel, talk to a designer — one who’s experienced with full project management and has a trusted team of contractors — to get a more realistic timeline estimate for your project.

Why do renovations take so long?

If those above timelines — even the ‘before’ ones — seemed long, you’re not alone. But here’s the thing: a home renovation includes thousands of decisions and moving pieces along the way. There are permits and codes to contend with, then design iterations and revisions. Plus construction and contractors’ schedules to coordinate — not to mention the actual sourcing, shipping, and installation of materials and fixtures.

To get a better understanding of a typical renovation timeline, here are some general benchmarks for a home remodel:

First of all, there are months of planning. From the initial consultation to conceptualization to sourcing hardscape materials, furnishings and fixtures to creating a drawing package to finalizing the schematic design package - this process at minimum takes 4-6 to month. On larger projects it might be closer to a year.

  • Then, any construction needs to be permitted. Typically, this can take anywhere from 1-6 months. The more involved the construction the longer it takes to permit. So you’re really looking at multiple months of development before we can even begin the actual renovation.

  • From there, we coordinate contractors’ and subcontractors’ schedules and begin construction. Meanwhile, I’m busy ordering and purchasing all of the furnishings, fixtures, and equipment, which then have to be created, shipped, and delivered (or stored until your project is ready for installation).

  • Finally, we can install the final pieces. Again, this takes the coordination of various teams and experts to get everything in place for a finished space.

Even in a perfect world, this takes time.

In a pandemic world? It takes more.

Why are interior design projects delayed right now?

Even if your project doesn’t require major construction, it’s going to take longer than you expect - and that's true pandemic or not.

Shutdowns early last year caused a domino effect in the home and design industry that we’re still feeling the effects of.

Factories, warehouses, and shipping companies shut down completely for weeks.

  • Meanwhile, consumers redirected their quarantine boredom and former travel budgets toward purchases to update their homes. This caused massive backorders that some companies are still trying to climb their way out of.

  • On top of that, many businesses are still operating at reduced capacity for safety measures, so production is slower than normal.

  • Now, shipping companies are struggling to keep up with it all. There are cargo ships sitting off Long Beach’s coast for days, adding another week+ to every timeline. (And that was before the Ever Given made an even bigger mess of things gave us a week’s worth of internet meme gold.)

  • Lastly, there’s simply a labor shortage, especially here in California. After 2008’s recession, many trades left the field and never returned. So we were already at a deficit - and who knows if we’ll ever return to the same numbers as before.

To combat this, many designers are relying more on local artisans, makers, and businesses for custom pieces.

For me, this is a wonderful silver lining. It’s a big part of my business ethos already, and I’ve created a wide network of skilled artisans and makers throughout L.A. over the past decade. Their quality is unparalleled, but custom furnishings take time.

Common misconceptions about renovation timelines

There are a few common misconceptions I see time and time again. And while they’re not really due to pandemic timelines, I still want to provide some clarity.

Renovation Misconception #1 — Your timeline is based on the type of renovation

Now I know I gave general timelines per project type above, so I understand where the confusion begins, but let me be clear: room-specific remodel and construction timelines aren’t created equal.

I provided ballpark estimates above, but that’s not to say your home renovation will fall in that range. If you want a more accurate estimate, you’ll need to get really clear on the scope of your project. What type of materials do you want? How much construction is required? How quickly can you make design decisions?

All of these (and more) play a role in your unique project timeline, and a skilled designer can help narrow it down based on your project scope and scale.

Renovation Misconception #2 — Your renovation timeline is set in stone I’ve honed my process obsessively over the past decade, and I pride myself on being super organized and keeping things on track. It’s one of the things clients love most about working together. But every project — every single one — has a surprise or twelve. That’s just the way it goes.

Again, there are thousands of moving pieces in play. So find a trusted professional to manage your project, get clear on the scope and timeline, and then, hold that loosely (for your own sanity).

Renovation Misconception #3 — Your renovation begins the moment you sign the contract

Even if your designer and contractor have room in their schedule to get started right away, there’s extensive research and planning before construction begins.

But also, your designer may have a waitlist. So while you pay a retainer to hold your place in their calendar, that doesn’t mean your project will begin next week.

Full-service, custom interior design just isn’t something that can or should be rushed. Part of what you’re investing in is thoughtful, meticulous planning by an expert. That takes time.

What you can do to help your renovation run smoothly

Once you’ve found the right interior designer, how can you make your renovation as efficient as possible on your end?

More than you think!

Sometimes, the biggest delays in a home renovation or redesign stem from indecision or last-minute changes. Not only does this extend timelines of canceled/reordered goods, but it can put you weeks — maybe even months — out on a subcontractor’s schedule.

For example — You decide last minute that you actually do want those two sconces your designer recommended months ago, but that wall tile is supposed to be installed in your bathroom next week. Even if the sconces and electrician are available quickly, the tile installer will have to reschedule and move onto the next job. So now, you’re looking at the next available day in your contractor’s already-booked calendar, which could be weeks away.

So it’s really critical that clients make careful, thoughtful decisions in those early design phases. Then, sit back and trust the process. When your renovation follows the correct order of operations, the entire process is more streamlined and predictable.

One more note about renovation timelines…

To begin (and maintain) a wonderful relationship with your interior designer, and to avoid unnecessary stress, please don’t tie your renovation hopes and dreams to a fixed date.


Your son’s backyard wedding.

That Labor Day pool party you can’t wait to throw for 50 of your closest friends. (YAY for vaccines!!)

Unless that date is 2 years away, that’s just really, really stressful. Your designer and team will do everything in their power to provide and stick to a clear, accurate timeline.

But there are no guarantees. So for your own sanity, please don’t put arbitrary dates in place that are just going to put added pressure on your project from day one.

Instead, plan your dream home. Make thoughtful design decisions. Then, sit back, and let your designer manage the rest.

It might take a bit longer than it did a few years ago, but I promise: that end result will be more than worth it.

Until next time,



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