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One bad decision pays for the designerRenovating my House

Fifth Rule of Design: Don’t Panic, Trust the Plan

While deep in my renovation plans, I discovered a new design rule that I wanted to share with you. And it’s something I’ve been guilty of myself. That is, overthinking the small details before a project is finished. Hello: panic.

So, I was reminded recently to trust the plan.

Details matter when planning a renovation.

Anyone who has been through a reno project usually has decision fatigue at the end because the decisions you have to make are countless. 

But, even when you have a solid design plan in place, it’s easy to begin focusing too much on the wrong detail.

And this phenomenon happens the most when you have NOTHING ELSE TO LOOK AT.

And when do you have nothing else to look at? When you’re an the start or in the middle of construction and things are just not pretty yet.

This is when you’ll analyze the way the light falls on the paint colour differently in this corner than that. It’s when you’ll panic that the backsplash you chose isn’t interesting enough. And is that simple faucet really the one?

The thing is, if you’ve got a timeless design plan – and remember the first rule of design: boring now equals timeless later – it’s not going to be pretty until the decor and styling goes in.

That’s the moment you’ll be happy you chose simple and versatile finishes that you can endlessly restyle and redecorate. That’s when you’ll have something better to look at than, say the shift in the the way the light hits your upper and lower cabinets. 

It’s an easy ditch to fall in.

When renovating, keep the outcome in mind

During my renovation last Fall, especially when my house was empty, I often got too fixated on a small detail that in the big scheme of things wouldn’t make or break anything overall. And, I had to keep reminding myself of this fact.

Case in point.

MaryAnne White (who designed my last garden 10 years ago and ongoing) sent me the design below for the front of our property. 

Then when a contractor came by to give me a quote, he pointed out that the bed beside the garage didn’t cover the septic tank covers. Unfortunately there are 4 of them in the yard.

So we discussed making a larger garden bed. However to bring the bed out further, would make the it so much bigger and just plain wrong.

Then he suggested a water feature.

I told him I would discuss it with my garden designer, MaryAnne, and this is how she reponsded: 

“Do they actually need to be covered? Why can’t they just be green sitting in the lawn? And no, a water feature makes no sense in the context of your garden design.”

Oh yeah. She’s exactly right.

And if I really want them to be covered, I could always get a fake rock or two just like I did in my Mom’s garden (below):

Then, as another options, she sent me some design updates that included a deeper curve with a garden bench. So good.

Here’s the lesson. I have a plan for my garden design. And sticking to my design plan will, at the end of the day, result in a beautiful garden installed. That means I’m going to have better things to look at than three septic tank covers that blend visually with the lawn. Don’t panic, trust the plan.

Don’t over analyze the paint colour in an unfinished room

Another example is that even though the paint colour on this section of my kitchen cabinets (below) is identical to the rest of the kitchen, most of the time the colour looks slightly different than the rest of the cabinets.  

My contractor Jan was much more bothered by that phenomenon than I was. I knew that once the kitchen is styled, we’re not looking at the slight shift in the paint colour – that’s if it’s actually the right colour to relate with the tile, etc.

Here’s how I decided on my kitchen wall colour

If you’re trying this hard to control the lighting (or its effect) consider that you don’t have enough decorating or styling in the room to distract you from the inevitable fact that lighting changes throughout the day. 

Fifth Rule of Design: Don’t Panic, Trust the Plan

Trust the plan and the less than pretty process to get there.

We have received our share of panicked emails from eDesign clients over the years during their kitchen renovation. Because while their new kitchen was being installed they started worrying about the little details. Is it too plain or maybe this or that is not right?

Uh huh, yes… Remember, what you’re looking at is still just a construction site. You are not seeing the big picture. And, because you hired me for eDesign, you have a timeless plan in place! Don’t worry my lovelies! It’s just the dusty bones and not the entire outfit. 😉

Good styling can easily distract from mistakes

Remember that styling and decorating is the destination, not the bald, hard finishes being installed at the moment.

Once my True Colour Experts attend my training and then open up any design magazine, they can point out the colour mistakes immediately. But why isn’t the rest of the world bothered? 

Because any celebrity designer who gets their work featured in a magazine is a good stylist, and that’s why we don’t notice the colour mistakes.

Learn how to create timeless design plans with perfectly coordinated colour so that you can keep calm and trust the process. You’ll get the confidence you need to tackle your renovation or new construction project with the outcome in mind.  I hope you’ll join me in my Specify Colour with Confidence spring workshops. There are only two events left and space is limited, so don’t delay! Enroll here.


Related posts:

First Rule of Design: Boring Now, Equals Timeless Later

Second Rule of Design: Waiting Now Equals Beautiful Later

Third Rule of Design: Expensive Does not Equal Timeless

Fourth Rule of Design: Trendy Equals Temporary


  • Melissa says:

    I think some of us panic and don’t trust the plan because the planner (maybe ourselves or someone else) hasn’t earned our trust 😀

  • Karen says:

    What MaryAnne did for your last place was stunning. And you know this will be the same. I am sure your former neighbors are also very grateful for her talent.

  • Kristin says:

    Such good advice, as always! Have you considered doing a mini workshop or a class (like the shopping class) on just styling, not all the details of the color system?

  • Robin says:

    I love this! Real time advice from an
    in-the-moment reno. Yours!! My most trusted colour expert.💛 This helps keep it all in perspective. And decision fatigue is a definite real deal lol.
    I just loved this post. So good.

  • Cheryl says:

    So true! I fretted about the bathroom faucets and then the bathroom light fixtures. Settled down when I couldn’t find anything I liked better, but I wasted hours looking. Thank you, Maria, for helping me build a timeless home! I get so many compliments. You’ve generously shared your design knowledge and helped us have more confidence in our choices.

  • JJ says:

    Such good advice and so true! We just finished a bathroom remodel and my husband said it looked boring and he was really worried about it. But I decided to trust my plan. Once we added color, art, plants, etc. it looks fantastic! Even he was impressed. And even though I didn’t get all of my white tile the correct shade, it all worked out in the end. No one is looking at the whites.

  • Stevie Regal says:

    This advice is such perfect timing. I’m finally renovating my old, ugly bathroom. I hit decision fatigue way too early because I was overthinking everything. I struggled to keep the “timeless and boring” motto front and center. Then agonized over the undertones of white cabinets vs tile vs countertop. Then the paint – another round of excess worry with the changing light (no windows, only a small skylight).

    Then after I had all the materials here, I began to second-guess the tile layout and cabinet hardware. Why? I realize after seeing this article it was because it was all still in boxes and I lost track of my bigger picture.

    In the end? I had to shut off my brain, boot myself out of the analysis paralysis, and accept this is only a bathroom – one that will be so much better when finished that I doubt I or anyone else will notice if it isn’t absolutely perfect. I will do my best with Maria’s excellent blog advice and my budget. I know that once everything is styled (I use that loosely!), the function and appeal of a pretty, timeless bathroom instead of the tired mess in there now will be the first thing noticed.

    Thank you, Maria, for bringing some common sense back to my life.

    • Tracy K says:

      This is exactly right! I am remodeling my kitchen now, and, it is just part of the house! A place to cook and gather. At the end of the day, it will function so much better and I’m remembering to keep it timeless in accordance with the provenance of the house (1960s red brick ranch). So, perfect is not the goal — following the plan is the goal, then as Maria said–style it pretty! (And enjoy!)

  • Sheree L says:

    Makes me glad I don’t have any renovations or new-builds in my near future! But, this is such a great posts, Maria! With as stressful as the process already is, I think your insights will help a lot of people not go overboard with stress 🙂 Keep preaching the need for an overall plan, please. We need it to really sink in!

  • Brilliant advice! I’ll have to bookmark this post to send to any of my design clients who may have concerns about paint or fixtures, before everything is in place.

  • Deb Landy says:

    So true Maria. Thank you. And how good in the end that you had this experience in your own new build to remember what clients building or making major renovations go through. It’s always harder in your own space: both home and head!

    Thank you once again for helping us see the big picture.

    Also, LOVE the landscape design.

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