What I Do and Don’t Do as a Designer

Do you think Interior Designers have a glamorous and exciting job?

assorted gold plated table figurines
Photo by Sammsara Luxury Modern Home on


I happen to like it, but the truth is that a lot of it is not that glamorous. Lots of research, tons of details, measuring, and way more talking about toilets than you would think!

The things interior designers do really varies. Some are more focused on remodeling and construction, some more on luxury homes, some on furniture and decor, some on styling, some on art, some on color.  Some project manage and hire subcontractors, some don’t. Some sell products, some don’t. Some work for big firms, some are solo.

I am more in the middle of the spectrum, working with the everyday things people struggle with. I focus on consulting and planning more than overseeing and managing laborers. I love designing kitchens and bathrooms, choosing materials, simple decorating, and creating cohesive room plans. I love helping people solve problems.

Being into simplicity, I made a list of 12 things I personally do followed by 12 things I don’t do.

hollek selections
Kitchen Selections, Kristin Bythewood Interiors

What I Do

  • Help you create your ideal kitchen or bathroom, either through simpler cosmetic updates or major renovation, and advise you on all the hundreds of details and involved in that process.
  • Help you select furniture, window treatments, lamps, rugs, accessories, artwork for your home or business
  • Help you select tile, flooring, paint, light fixtures, hardware and any other building materials needed for your improvement project
  • Save you time and energy by researching specific items that fit your wants, needs, style and budget
  • Give you the tools and information you need to do the projects you want to do
  • Help you maximize the usefulness and functionality of your home.
  • Provide computer generated floorplans, 3d renderings, and moodboards
  • Help you move your furniture and accessories around to improve a space instantly.
  • Prevent you from making costly bad decisions or unnecessary changes.
  • Help you find your style if you don’t have one
  • Visualize possibilities you haven’t thought about
  • Try to keep you on budget

transitional teal living room (3)

What I Don’t Do:

  • Exterior items like porches, roofs, carports, railings
  • Attic conversions or additions
  • Garages
  • Pools and Water Features
  • Landscaping and Plants
  • Professional Organizing
  • Large Commercial Projects
  • Design Buildings
  • Design Furniture
  • Create Artwork
  • Make custom furniture
  • Feng Shui

While architects and builders are more focused on how the home is constructed from a structural standpoint, I focus on making that home personal and practical and beautiful on the inside for whoever is going to be living in it.

Kristin Bythewood Interiors, Photo by Cate Black Photography

So there it is! Check out my services page if you want more specifics on how I work!

If you haven’t gotten on my email list, email me at and I will add you to my Fourth Friday Newsletter, with some great design tips and updates on what I am working on.

Remodeling for Smarties Part 2

Hooray, you’ve decided to move forward with your remodel!

Here are some tips for making your remodel go smoothly.

two black wooden bar stools near table and french door refrigerator
Photo by Sarah Jane on

1) Research Contractors

What I look for in a contractor first and foremost is are they a good manager. A major remodel project is complex and has many details with big potential for costly problems. Be sure to check references and reviews, and make sure they are licensed and insured. For a large project, a well run, reputable company may cost a bit more, but will likely save you money in the long run. And please be sure there is a written contract that outlines the expectations and payment schedules before you hand over any money.

2) Hire a Designer or Architect


If you are making changes to layout, working with a designer can save you money and stress, because you have a firm plan in place before construction starts. Designers tend to be highly detail oriented, and having designed numerous spaces, we will know every single thing to ask you or look for that you probably haven’t thought about.  It’s easier if you have a contractor first so if any concerns come up when designing, the contractor is able to give input which can help keep the design realistic.

For changes in structure or exterior, an architect is the way to go. You could bring a designer in to help you pick colors and finishes or work on the interior layouts once you have an official blueprint.

3) Get Everything in Writing. Everything.

One thing I include with my design plan is a document that lists every single thing you want done for your project, from placing light switches to installing tile to moving doorways.  This benefits the contractor and you, as all your requests are written down in one place, should there be any confusion later. My design plans also include 3D renderings, which makes it much easier for clients and the contractor to be on the same page. Even if you aren’t making load changes, your contractor will need some type of as built and proposed plan to submit for permits.

4) Prioritize

Georgetown Remodel-Master Bath Shower

As much as possible, try to work within your existing structure. It’s easy to get crazy with possibilities but that can really start to add up. Sometimes simpler is best. Decide what is most important and what can be let go of if the cost gets too high.

5) Check in on the work but don’t be a pain.

While you should check in regularly to make sure things are being done right, be careful not to confuse the trades.  Call the contractor if you see an issue, don’t try to stop the worker.  Check in after hours or on weekends if possible, and take some photos of the area of concern. Then address several things at once on a call or at a meeting.

It’s a long process, but the results are usually worth it!

Yount Kitchen Before
After Photo by Cate Black Photography


For more info on my design plans for remodeling, check out!

Remodeling for Smarties: Part 1

Remember how American Idol brought awareness of the music industry to the general public and made musicians cool? Now, thanks to HGTV, everyone is buzzing about home decor and renovation.  Everyone is inspired, but many of us living in reality land with no sponsors, free labor, or husband wife power teams have some unrealistic expectations of what really goes into renovation.

I find that most of the people I work with just don’t know what they don’t know.

Here are three steps I strongly encourage you to do before you start getting estimates.

Cate Black Photography

Step 1: Determine if you (and your spouse/business partners) really want to remodel.

I never want to talk anyone out of a project, because I love projects, but trust me, you need to really think this through.  Can you be without the use of that space for 2 months or more? Are you willing to put up with loud noise and mess and dust? Do you really have the money to do it? Be honest because it’s a big commitment.

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Twist Tours Photography

Step 2: Determine why you want to remodel.

Will remodeling solve a particular problem you are facing that is impeding your way of life? Do you want to remodel to add value to your home? Have you watched too many episodes of Fixer Upper/Property Brothers and have TV house envy?

There are different reasons for remodeling, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons for you and your family or business, or it will not be a pleasant experience. Sometimes some simple cosmetic upgrades or paint can really make things feel fresh in the meantime. There is always something you can do now to improve your home, even if you can’t do the big stuff now.

Georgetown Remodel-Master Bath Shower

Step 3. Research

Just like planning a wedding, there are a lot of factors that you need to plan for before you start getting attached to designs and ideas.

To get some initial numbers, do some measuring: linear feet for cabinets, square feet for countertops, tile, and flooring.

A good resource to use is Home Advisor’s Cost Estimating tool to look up some average project costs by location.

Don’t get bogged down, you are just trying to get a general idea to see if this is even do-able.  Just start with some numbers and plug them into a spreadsheet.

This list is pretty typical of what factors into a residential remodel-not including permitting, design and engineering fees if needed.

  1. Demo (removing existing cabinets, flooring, tile, etc)
  2. Drywall and Framing (if you are messing with the walls)
  3. Plumbing (more if you move stuff around, less if you don’t)
  4. Electrical-relocating outlets, adding can lights
  5. Flooring (don’t forget about baseboards)
  6. Cabinets and Installation (add assembly costs if going with cheaper cabinets)
  7. Appliances
  8. Plumbing Fixtures (sinks, faucets, etc)
  9. Countertops
  10. Painting
  11. Light Fixtures and Installation
  12. Doors/Windows
  13. Wall and Accent Tile
  14. Management and Overhead (at least 10-15 percent)
  15. 10 to 15 percent contingency fund (for unexpected costs)

I personally learned all this the hard way. I got all excited to remodel the kitchen of my first home, built in 1955.  This pic was taken after removing the wallpaper with coffee words like “Java” and Espresso” all over it.

200 salem kitchen before 1

I ordered all the cabinets and appliances, selected materials, then got my estimates and we realized that the cost was going to put us into a risky financial position. I had to return everything I had bought and can the project. I was so disappointed.

Instead, I did what I could with what I had which was about $1,500 total in the end.


A year later, we listed the home for sale, made money from the sale and ended up with an exponentially nicer home in a great neighborhood.

It’s so easy to get caught up in other people’s realities on TV- but the best projects are done with a plan, within the realm of what is realistic for you.

In part 2 I’ll focus on things to consider once you decide to do the remodel!

Model Home Envy


kitchen and dining area
Photo by Mark McCammon on

I love to visit model homes in the Austin area, often to get design inspiration or just geek out at what the different homes look like.  A few weeks ago I popped in to a David Weekly Homes Community near me called Presidio Station. After spending some time in the first one, I ooh-ed and aah-ed looking around, racking my brain to figure out how we could pack up and buy this home. The funny thing is, the decor in there wasn’t really my taste, and I probably would have chosen different materials for a lot of it. But you know what model homes have that most homes don’t? Besides expensive upgrades?

They are done. Finished. Completely updated and decorated. No unfinished projects, streamers stuck to the ceiling from a birthday party two years ago, no eclectic mess of mismatched furnishings from former bachelor pads, no stained couches…They are done. And they are done in a cohesive way that creates a sense of calm and peace.

And that is the point.

brown wooden center table
Photo by Skitterphoto on

I think the biggest challenge we face in our homes is finishing. Too often, we move in, set up something in the first few months, and then we lose momentum and just sort of live with things in an unfinished state and wait for “someday” when we will have enough time, money, kids moving out, etc… and we don’t enjoy our homes right now. Well I believe we can finish our homes in whatever season of life, no matter how long you have lived in or plan to live in yours.

Here are some ideas to get you going!

  1. Hang curtains. I love simple linen white IKEA curtains with a sturdy curtain rod in Brushed Nickel or Dark Bronze. They go with everything.
  2. Choose a color scheme. Choose some art or a rug with more than 2 colors, and add some pillows and other things that have those colors. Ideally you stick with similar colors throughout the house, especially if you have a lot of open areas.
  3. Add personal and meaningful items. Put photos in your frames. Get some photo paper and print them from your computer.
  4. Do small things more often. Large projects are very expensive and stressful, try to hone in one small area at a time. Maybe it’s painting the kids bathroom, next month it’s pillows for the sofa. Sometimes it’s hang one curtain rod and curtains, but commit to doing something each month, or before a certain deadline. I keep a short list of projects on a note on my phone or in a notebook. If I write it down I am more likely to do it.
  5. Use a handyman service. There are so many tasks that never get done because certain people in the home aren’t really into “fixing stuff” or the opposite-think they can fix everything and then never finish. Make a list of 3-4 things that are bugging you and call someone to help.

What’s something you can do this week to move toward feeling finished? I’m planning to paint my son’s room before school starts!