AKJ Architects LLC

Tips for Living Through Your Home Renovation Project

With ongoing noise and dust, I’m well prepared to tell you what it’s like, share a few tips, and reassure you that living at home while construction is in progress is ultimately worth it!

Now that construction has started, I’m feeling a lot of compassion for the daily inconveniences that my clients live through during their home renovation projects. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a dream come true to be able to design and work with a general contractor on my own home improvement project while I live in the building. And even though my husband and I have completed many projects in our mid-century modern Seattle home, this is the most extensive renovation we’ve tackled to date. With ongoing noise and dust, I’m well prepared to tell you what it’s like, share a few tips, and reassure you that living at home while construction is in progress is ultimately worth it!

I’d like to start with the emotions we’ve been experiencing. Even with years of professional experience, my husband and I are feeling the highs and lows that my clients share with me on projects I design and manage for them. When our spirits are down, we quickly shift gears knowing that a renovation was needed to address our embarrassing 1956 kitchen and failing exterior entry space. Our project is progressing. We trust our contractor and are being flexible with regard to our living arrangements. We’re living in our clients’ shoes, and each day we take one more step towards completion – it’s not too far away.   

With that said, the change orders due to design revisions and discovery are frustrating and nearly impossible to avoid. No matter how well prepared the architectural drawings are and how well priced the general contractor’s construction estimate is, no one has x-ray eyes to see what’s behind the walls or under concrete slabs. And – pricing is really difficult. So, we’ve had our share of change orders. I recommend having a contingency fund available for unforeseen circumstances to minimize the range of emotions you’ll experience when more money is needed. The roller coaster diagram below tells the story quite well – the key is to minimize the dips!

And now our tips to help you prepare

TIP 1: 

Plan for an area of your home to reference the design documents. Review the information often. Being aware of the design details will help you feel more competent during team meetings, when making decisions, and will allow you to be excited about all the work taking place around you.   

TIP 2: 

Using a makeshift kitchen will be worth it in the long run. Buy a smart oven, electric single burner cooktop, a microwave, and keep your old refrigerator until the new one arrives. Although it’s not sustainable, use paper dinner plates and cups to save time, and use small dishes you can wash in your vanity sink.

TIP 3:

Keep a broom at the front door and have a second at your other entrance so you can tidy up after work – even though your contractor has probably swept at the end of their day. What you’ll notice is that getting a bit more dust into the trash reduces the amount of dust entering your living quarters. Checking that the zip walls are closed will further limit dust migration. Every other week, clean. It’s one element of living in a home that’s being renovated that will help you stay calm, composed, and ready for the upcoming week of construction.

TIP 4: 

If you live in Seattle, chances are you’ve been exposed to the noise of construction crews on projects in residential and downtown areas. It’s important to consider others who may be affected by the noise of construction such as pets, kids, and elders in the home or nearby. Depending on the sensitivity level of you or your loved ones, it may be necessary to plan for how to handle the noise. As an example, our new pup who’s less than a year old, has moments when he barks at the worksite noises coming from the crew. Another personally annoying noise occurred when the concrete slab was being demolished by a jackhammer. This was one task we told our neighbors about since it would be audible at their homes too. 

TIP 5: 

Staying home and being present. Since we’re living in our home during construction, we’ve decided to stay local on weekends. For us, having our cars in the driveway at night keeps our home looking occupied and makes us feel better about keeping what’s in our home safe. We can always plan a vacation when the work is done, and our home is not as vulnerable as it is now. 


Although we’re a few more months away from completing our journey, we’re already feeling some of the accomplishments and looking forward to the day our renovation is complete. We’re following our tips, we’ve adjusted to the inconveniences, and we can already see the light at the end of the tunnel. Our home will be beautiful, unique, and will be a delightful place to share with friends and family. Wait – we do have one more bathroom to go! 

I’ve been showing up for my clients and guiding them through these projects for years. Now, I’m experiencing a renewed feeling of empathy for the on-site experiences and getting my hands dirty literally every day. If you have any questions or would like to discuss your project in detail, reach out and schedule a call with AKJ architects. We’d love to help you find your way to creating the home you’ve been dreaming of!

Arlene Kisiel-Jermann

Arlene brings over twenty-five years of design experience to her company. As a professional who strives to provide exceptional customer service, creative design skills, and an eye for detail, AKJA has the experience and training to lead your residential project from concept through completion.

Arlene received her Master in Architecture Degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, her Master in Science in Interior Design from the University of Massachusetts and her Bachelor degree from Skidmore College with a major in Art & minor in Spanish. Arlene's combination of creative degrees in Architecture, Interior Design and Fine Art give her a holistic approach to residential design and enable her to quickly comprehend and efficiently collaborate with other professionals. At MIT, she coupled her studies with graduate courses at the MIT Center for Real Estate where she studied business. Since a young age, Arlene has had numerous academic opportunities to travel throughout America, Europe and Asia and learn about art and culture throughout the world.

Since 1987, Arlene has been privileged and trusted to work on residential and commercial projects with multi-million dollar budgets. She has managed all phases of residential design, architecture, and construction for well-established Seattle architecture firms such as Sullivan Conard Architects, NBBJ, and General Contractor Toth Construction, a Seattle based custom residential builder. Arlene launched her own firm in 2007 to design new and renovated homes, cabins and condominiums ranging in size from 500sf to 10,000sf. She brings passion, creativity, a commitment to succeed, and a powerful blend of skills, education and experience to every residential architecture project.

Stacey Lara

Stacey Lara has a wide range of experience specializing in efficiency and human wellness. She's a transformational coach with an administrative background in the medical, engineering, landscape architecture and architecture industries.

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