In a sea of resources from HGTV, Pinterest, Instagram and #interiordesign, the world of home design, specifically renovations, the work appears to happen fast. In a single social media post, or a quick 30 minute television show beautiful transformations happen. But what is the reality? Is it a coat of paint and quick staging? Is it smoke and mirrors? Is it an actual completed project, or do the producers show only work needed for entertainment value?

At a lightning fast pace, design seems easy. But any professional interior designer will tell you that remodeling is hard. In all the years I have been designing projects, there has never been a single project finish on time, or a project where every element is completed when expected. The “reveals” dramatically presented as before and after presentations are challenging.

But aren’t the before and after photos shocking? And fun? As an interior designer, even I feel the thrill of a “reveal.” But, as you watch and follow projects, realize what goes into a successful renovation. Don’t be fooled by staging or copy cat themes. Staging a room is not an interior design project, it’s decorating. Someone with a good “eye” might successfully decorate a room. Copying a color scheme off a blog, website, or Pinterest is not interior design, and does not make someone a #interiordesigner. Interior design is a thoughtful, skilled profession where experience counts and qualifications matter.

So how do you know what is real? Within a project look for originality, and then consider the level of work and detail. Be amazed, be informed. Use all of these resources but rely on a professional for projects that go beyond amateur level.

  1. Coverup. “Reveals” on Instagram can be posted by anyone with a phone or camera. Missy-Do-Good may be able to hang wallpaper and boast #interiordesign, but is she designing anything? Simply selecting wallpaper isn’t design. It’s shopping, just like buying clothes. Does putting together an outfit qualify as fashion design? Be careful of quick fixes and trends being pushed by Missy-Do-Good. Their longevity may be limited.
  2. Celebrity. Does the gorgeous model spokesperson (with her hand poised on her hip) choosing between a white tile and a grey tile know design? Probably not. Her producer and the design team in the background, maybe. Does the movie star in the mega million’s mansion with an Architectural Digest layout really do her own design? Unlikely. They are no different than you when you seek out professional design help for your own project. There are numerous celebrity designers who are accomplished and who have earned their reputations … and just as many amateurs.
  3. Time. Real renovation projects take time. Months of time to be done correctly. There is design, permits, materials selection, building, finishing and installing. No project can be completed in days or weeks, as portrayed. Understand that projects take time, preparation and patience.
  4. Materials. Renovation materials used in nearly every project are standard. There is framing, drywall, paint, cabinetry, fixtures and hardware. The order in which they come into the project basically follows a set schedule. For instance, drywall follows a set time frame because it is installed, mudded, sanded and sanded again. It is not done quickly. The process in which materials are incorporated cannot be rushed.
  5. Reality. The next time you look at a reveal through before and after photos (or video) consider the work that went into the project. Is it a wallpaper or paint job, or a true renovation? Knowing the process and mechanics of a project make observing the details part of the fun. Watch Missy-Do-Good slip up, and know you are wiser. Enjoy the reveals!
The 40 year old kitchen before the renovation in the Campbellsville University’s president’s home. (Photo submitted)
The newly renovated kitchen in the Campbellsville University’s president’s home. The walls are the same but there is new lighting, cabinetry, flooring and stone. (Photo submitted)
The newly renovated powder room in the Campbellsville University’s president’s home includes similar color tones and motifs as the previously designed room. (Photo submitted)
The powder room prior to renovation. (Photo submitted)