Genevieve Gorder has completed more than a hundred kitchen renovations for clients and on television, and she’s a serial renovator herself. “I’ve redone the kitchen in every single home I had as a child, young adult, and grown-up,” says Gorder. “The only period in my life that prohibited me from doing a kitchen was two years in the dorms, and it killed me!”
But even with all this experience, redoing her own spaces (vs. a client’s), has taught her things about the process and herself. Here are the six biggest lessons Gorder learned during her own kitchen renovations.
1. Budget is always a limitation.
You may think the sky’s the limit for design pros, but the reality is, everyone has to make choices. “My challenge is always budget. My imagination is wild and can be expensive,” says Gorder. “I have a lot of strings I can pull in the industry when it comes to ‘stuff,’ but labor costs what labor costs. Everyone needs to eat at the end of the day and in New York … that’s an expensive meal! If I don’t like the cost, I think of other ways to design a solution. To limit my expenses, I kept the same basic footprint but really upgraded my millwork, stone ,and appliance game.”
2. It’s important to plan — and keep an open mind.
“The kitchen is a high-functioning, expensive layer cake. You have to go in with it figured out or you get slayed,” says Gorder. But know that as you go through the process, it’s inevitable that you will hit snags and have to make changes or adjust. “If you’re not a flexible person … don’t renovate. Behind every wall is an expensive detour or surprise.”
3. You have to know when to call in the help.
Just because Gorder can lay tile and cut countertops, it doesn’t mean she wants to. “I designed the heck out of [the space] and then gave the plans to all of the special practitioners of kitchen. That’s how it works always unless you only have two days and $1000,” says Gorder.
4. The most important opinion is your own.
“Collaboration is an important part of design, otherwise you design in a vacuum and anyone can come poke holes in something you didn’t think of. I ask my family, peers, and friends: ‘What do you think of this? Or if I did this crazy thing? How would you feel if … ?’ But my home is for myself and my family. So while I take everyone’s opinion into consideration, in the end, I’m the designer and the mama of this home, so I have final say,” says Gordon.
5. It’s okay to expect the best.
“I expect a lot from myself, which in turn means I tend to set a high bar for everyone around me,” says Gorder. “It can lead to disappointment, but I like to believe in people first — skeptical is not fun for me! But if it doesn’t work, I edit the team. Life is too short to consistently battle and it shows up in the work if you do.”
Plus, you probably won’t be renovating your kitchen again anytime soon — it’s okay to want it done right!
6. A renovation can change your outlook on life.
Even though a renovation can take months or years, the final result can be transformative. “After a divorce you need to re-landscape life and boy, did I! I felt like a phoenix when it was done,” says Gorder. “I was surprised how happy I would feel to come home each and every day. It’s almost a giddiness. And that’s the true tipping point I use for all of my clients as well — that moment when you stop working for your home and your home starts working for you.”