It started so innocently. A tiny corner of wallpaper taunting me, "go ahead and try". Two commercial breaks later, my powder room wall was stripped bare. Now what? I had no plan. No hardware, plumbing or paint color picked out. No measurements. No budget. Just ambition. And so it started - my quest for a beautiful bathroom on a tight schedule and even tighter budget.
I believe in eating local. But buying home goods? If it's quality and cheap, I'll travel or ship. But the harsh realities of poor customer service, inflexibility, lengthy waiting times and nightmarish returns are very punishing.
I needed a 16-inch towel bar. Apparently this bathroom was last updated in the late 20's, as the standard for towel bars today is 18 inches. Have our hands grown over the generations? I scoured the internet and visited two national chains. Nada, nothing and zilch. Then, on a pleasure visit to a local public market, I came upon beautiful, hand-forged steel sculptures and a friendly, knowledgeable and passionate owner. Somehow we got to talking about bathrooms and he was able to make me a 16" towel bar to my liking, to match the image I was trying to achieve and also make matching hardware for the rest of the room. It was a custom, quality solution. It was going to be a conversation piece. Well, maybe just a 'thought' piece for those in there alone.
Save vs. Splurge
A tight budget meant no $150/hr professional consultant and installer. No fancy chandeliers, granite countertops or marble floors. I divided what was most important to me with what just needs to be functional. Like a toilet. It needs to look like a normal toilet and function like one. But a sink and lighting and an 'mmm' smelling handsoap would improve my overall image of the room, making it an enjoyable and memorable visit.
Some of the Best Projects Have No Plans
I knew this project was on my to-do list, but I never got around to a plan. And I'm glad I didn't because I learned so much along the way and had fun doing it. I knew the sooner I got this project done, I would feel better and my house would look better.
I invested time in researching the internet for solutions, visiting stores for comparison pricing, talking to experts (and handy neighbors) in learning how a bathroom works and snooping around fancy restaurants and store bathrooms for ideas. This extra time resulted in a much more exciting and interesting bathroom than the original picture in my head.
So here are my lessons learned for my future business model:
1. In an impersonal world, sometimes it's nice to be personal with someone you trust doing business with. A little face-to-face interaction brings a new level of trust and opens the door to new relationships and possibly new business opportunities. Nothing beats a nice word of mouth referral. Plus, local vendors are usually more flexible and willing to work on a custom solution.
2. If it affects my business image or reputation - I splurge on the investment. If it is something that needs to be functional and reliable - I splurge. If it is something that goes unnoticed or brings little or no value to my clients...I skimp.
3. Sometimes plans hold you back. Sometimes they narrow your vision. Sometimes they don't predict an economic downfall or a change in customer preferences or an emergency that will dip into your marketing budget. Commit to being flexible and enjoying the adventure.