During her recent home renovation, Remodelista Editor Christine Chang Hanway was offered access to Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium.
As a seasoned and serial home renovator, my advice for a successful construction project comes down to two words: collaboration and communication. With my most recent renovation however, a critical member of my design team (aka husband) was home in London only one week out of four at the most, thus proving collaboration and communication to be our greatest challenge until I discovered Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium, which rescued us in more ways than one.
Above: My dining room before the builders arrived. Photo by Kristin Perers.
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There are many parallels between running a family and managing a construction project. All of your efforts at keeping things running smoothly go completely unnoticed until something goes wrong—like missing socks—after which everything can quickly spiral out of control. And when you live through the construction, despite your best plans, spiraling out of control is a continuum. Your home swarms with builders and dust while your world turns upside down and you wave farewell to any semblance of structure (forgive the pun) in your life. And the most stressful part is that you are spending a significant amount of money and fast.
Above: My calm peaceful dining room after the builders moved in.
Construction issues that arise on site are the most frightening because this is where time literally equals money, and the ability to make a quick decision while the clock is ticking is critical. To avoid delays, I needed to be able to convey any arising issues immediately to my husband so that we could arrive at a successful solution together in as little time as possible. All doable when he is in the same city, but a little more difficult when his traveling schedule meant that he literally was anywhere at anytime.
Above: The upheaval of construction meant my daily routine of afternoon tea went underground for a few months. Photo by Kristin Perers.
Like when the joiners came to fit the kitchen and realized that at the end of a 30-foot run of cabinets, the new refrigerator door was not going to open all the way. It was a situation that required some fast thinking to avoid delays. I took a photo of the condition and uploaded it to our OneNote Remodeling Notebook and then emailed my husband to call me when he woke up in New York. Sure enough by 7:30 am EST, my Skype account was ringing.
“Umm – we have a slight problem, the radiator wasn’t on the drawing that the contractor sent to the joiners and so they didn’t take that into account and now the refrigerator door in this location is not going to open all the way.”
“It’s a little early here, you’re talking way too fast and I haven’t had my coffee yet. Say it again?”
“You should have had your coffee first,” I hissed impatiently. “Look, I have uploaded a photo into OneNote and you’ll understand the minute you see it.”
“Got it—so what are the options?”
“Well, we can either take the radiator away or move the refrigerator. Personally, I think we should take the radiator away and put additional heat into the baseboard.”
“I don't agree. I think we should move the refrigerator. If you’ll remember correctly, that was not my preferred position.”
“Yes, but if we move it, we’ll have to break our 20 feet of uninterrupted counter top. Allow me to remind you that we worked really hard on the kitchen layout including knocking down two walls—to end up with the same length of counter top? There's no point we might as well have not redone the kitchen at all!” (Hysteria free, I promise.)
“Move the refrigerator. The baseboard heating sounds expensive.”
“I have already been through the costing options with the builder and it’s pretty much like for like whatever we do; but we need to decide quickly... Actually, you know what? You haven’t been here for five weeks. This is my decision—I'm moving the radiator, full stop.”
Above: Now you see it...
Above: Now you don't.
So every now and then, I apply a little creative license to the meaning of the word “collaboration.” Does “benevolent dictatorship” come to mind? I figured that as long as we were still communicating though, we'd get there in the end. And thanks to Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium we were able to communicate all the way through the renovation, even if it meant disagreeing at times across multi-time zones.
With OneNote on SkyDrive, we had an instant digital notebook where everything was all in one place and which could be added to and accessed by either of us on any of our devices at any time. We left each other comments about images and drawings and thanks to OneNote's basic drawing tools, we were even able to leave quick sketches (for designers, a picture often says more than a thousand words!). And because he was always itching to see progress, I was constantly uploading photos and videos as well. And then for those decisions that required further discussion between us, we were able to look at the same images simultaneously while discussing it on Skype. With 60 free minutes of Skype a month, video call discussions about certain details were immensely valuable.
Above: Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium enabled great flexibility in our collaboration and communication across our various time zone and distance constraints.
This week, our renovation approaches completion and it no longer feels like I have a house full of builders. As I wave farewell to the back of the vans, the itinerant husband conveniently returns for a week. Unpacking boxes and hanging pictures, he looks proudly around the kitchen and says, "I'm really glad I decided to leave the refrigerator where it is—that uninterrupted long counter run works so well, don't you think?" Sigh, the benevolent dictator in me is going to let that one slide.
See Collaborating on a Home Renovation with My Husband, the Time Traveler and Home Renovation Shopping with an Absentee Husband and see we how used Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium to help us plan and shop for our renovation.