Even a small one-bedroom condo project in Honolulu can be more complex than it seems. In recent years, product availability and delivery times have become increasingly frustrating, as with everything these days. As my first design employer once told me, the design process itself is only a small portion of the overall project timeline. The majority of the time is spent on analyzing the existing space, assembling a reliable team of professionals including architects, contractors, fabricators, and vendors, obtaining permits, navigating strict HOA/COA regulations, and overseeing the delivery and execution of products with precision and quality.
Dealing with unforeseen issues during the remodel, such as product unavailability or changes in scope, is a common occurrence. It's a full-time job for everyone involved, and most clients may feel overwhelmed by the process.
As a designer, my role goes beyond simply selecting beautiful products. I educate and guide clients through the technical and logistical aspects of the project, ensuring that potential hazards are mitigated and value is maximized. The shopping aspect is just a fraction of what a seasoned and licensed designer brings to the table.
Working on condos, both old and new, has been a significant part of my recent experience on the island. While they may appear easier and more affordable than single-family homes due to a smaller footprint and no structural changes, the reality is often the opposite. Condo projects tend to cost more due to added liabilities and logistical challenges. Dealing with stairs, elevators, limited space for material storage, coordinating utility shutdowns, and HOA/COA approval processes can quickly escalate costs. However, with an informed client who understands these elements and well set expectations, it is always manageable for a great team.
For example, I recently completed a condo renovation in the Salt Lake Area for a client, and the end result was a fresh and functional lovely second home. However, unforeseen plumbing issues in the bathroom significantly extended the project timeline to about a year. It's a common occurrence in older condos where bringing the rough drain in the concrete deck up to code is necessary when pulling a permit for tub/shower repairs. This can easily add to the overall budget. Similar challenges arise with popcorn ceiling removal and adding sufficient overhead lighting, which can be a luxury but costly addition.
Even for simple rip-and-replace projects, there are numerous moving parts. An experienced team will guide you through every decision and educate you about potential worst-case scenarios, ensuring that you have a clear understanding before committing to the project and demolition of your home, avoiding the bulk of potential unforeseen challenges.
Photography credit to client, circa 2022