In the last dance studio blog, I shared some of the major pain points Lisa and Katie were experiencing, as well as my recommended fixes. Fortunately, they liked most of the ideas, so were able to create a solid project plan and begin moving into the execution phase on some of the work. (I love it when a plan comes together!)

Here are just a few more before pics to set the stage:

Here are some of the decisions we worked through before beginning the actual work phase:

  • Which floor plan option would be best
  • Which storage solutions made the most sense
  • Whether to buy freestanding furniture or pursue built-ins
  • Which flooring would meet their needs and their budget
  • Details regarding colors, styles and finishes
  • Which contractor to choose for the construction work

If you’re considering tackling bigger projects whether in your own home, or someone else’s—but especially if you may be doing work for someone else—you may need to stretch your skill set a bit. Beyond basic design skills, here are some of the skills I had to put to use with the dance studio project:

  • Interviewing skills:
    It’s important to make the people you’re interviewing comfortable and confident in your abilities, to ask probing questions that will help you understand their needs—obvious needs and those that may be hidden—and to listen and observe carefully so you can pick up voice signals and gestures that let you know what really excites your clients and what concerns them.

  • Sketching skills:
    When you’re playing Pictionary, do your friends mistake your cat for a cow, a crocodile, or the Loch Ness Monster? No worries. If you happen to be artistically challenged,” don’t let that stop you from using sketches to spur your imagination. Even the most rough cat-cow quality sketches can help you visualize your options. Plus, plenty of software exists to help you bridge the gap if you weren’t endowed with drawing DNA. You might also try creating crude prototypes as an alternative to drawing. Break out the construction paper, popsicle sticks, glue and have at it!

  • Researching skills:
    The internet makes it so easy to search for design ideas, comparison shop for products, review of possible vendors, and chat with peers and experts to gain their insights. Make sure to take good notes and not rely on memory, especially if you’re doing a lot of research. The results tend to blend together, and you don’t want to waste time and money, particularly if you’re working for someone else.

  • Space planning skills:
    Although this is a challenge for many, it can definitely become a learned skill. My best advice is to save your back and work out your space options on paper first, either by sketching or by using a space planning kit, which can be purchased in a craft store or online. Shameless plug: The Redesign Toolkit sold on com includes the most comprehensive space planning kit I’ve ever come across—we created it to give you tons of options and it can be used over and over again!

  • Customer service skills: 
    Design projects, especially those done for a business, come with a set of worries: How much will this cost? Will we stick to budget? Will the vendors be professional and easy to work with? Will the changes solve our problems? If you’re helping someone with a project, part of your role is to talk your client, friend or family member “off the ledge” during the inevitable rough days of a project, and to help make sure that any communication with vendors is effective and thorough and that expectations are clearly spelled out and understood.


The last skill that’s absolutely critical to your success: flexibility.

After we had determined the best plan, met with the contractor and made some purchases, my phone rang with a very animated Katie on the line. In her unique and awesome Katie way, she very expressively told me about an epiphany she had about tearing down a wall of their leased studio space. Although it was beyond the original scope of the project, and although it required a major shift in our planning and progress, we owed it to ourselves to “hit the pause button” so we could talk through whether this was just a great idea, or whether it was a great idea that was also feasible. I’ll share the results in the next dance studio blog.

Now what will you do next to love where you live?


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