Hiring a Pro for Your Living Room

Know who to hire and how to check their references when hiring for your next living room renovation.
Natural materials and earthy hues create an inviting feel in this open living dining area, which features a plasma TV mounted neatly over the fireplace.


Photo courtesy of CEDIA

Photo by: HOWARD TUCKER 216-696-4616

HOWARD TUCKER 216-696-4616

Photo courtesy of CEDIA
By: Susan Kleinman

Depending on the scope of your living room renovation, you may be working with one professional or half-a-dozen, from architects and designers, to electricians and carpenters. Before you start gathering information about local service providers and interviewing them, think about which pros you will actually need to get your job done.

Architect. If you are moving walls, changing the layout of your room, or replacing windows with French doors, an architect will be responsible for drawing up plans that are both structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing.

Contractor. A term that is used to mean many different things, a "contractor" is in charge of construction and may also serve some of the basic functions of an architect, carpenter or electrician. Perhaps more importantly, s/he can work with other professionals to coordinate all aspects of your job for maximum efficiency.

Interior Designer. You may know what colors you like, and what kind of furniture. And if you’re simply replacing your old sofa with a new one, you may opt to decorate the space yourself. But an interior designer can bring an extra level of planning and polish to your project, laying out the space in a way that maximizes flow and beauty, and mixing elements creatively so that the room is greater than the sum of its parts.

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Electrician. If you are planning to add or upgrade lighting in your living room, you will need a licensed electrician to do the work. An electrician may also be necessary if you need to install new electrical outlets to accommodate a revised floor plan or expanded footprint, or to add outlets that can handle a high-wattage sound system if you are putting your TV and stereo in the living room.

Carpenter. If you are adding built-in cabinets or window seats, or if you are adding complicated or custom crown moldings to an existing room, you will need to hire a carpenter – or a contractor with precision carpentry skills. In addition to seeing photos of the carpenter’s work, ask if you can visit some in person; that's the best way to make sure moving parts like drawers and doors are lined up perfectly and function smoothly.

Painter. A qualified painter will make sure that your walls – whether they’re newly built or existing, drywall or plaster – are prepared properly, and will then paint the walls with precision so that the results look good not only upon completion, but down the line.

As you start interviewing any of these professionals, remember that the success of your project will depend on the professionals' ability to work together. "Homeowners need to realize that any construction project is a team effort and that the professionals involved should be working together and not pitted against one another," says architect Kirsten Thoft, AIA, LEED, AP. "I've seen the latter approach taken because of a belief that if the architect and contractor work too closely together, the client somehow loses out, presumably in pricing. From my experience, the opposite is true. When there is free exchange of information from early on in the project, specifically regarding budget desires, the professionals involved can often find creative solutions that can save the client money and time."

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