Your Renovation Dream Team: Hiring the Best of the Best (in the Bay Area & Beyond)
Whether you’re embarking on a Bay Area renovation as far east as Oakland or as south as Palo Alto, success starts by assembling your dream team from Day 1. After 17+ years of diving into personal and professional home renovations, I can tell you that the people you hire will make or break your project.
You want a team with real experience, values that match your own, and a track record of success.
Do this and you won’t have unnecessary gray hairs, rushed decisions, or unpleasant surprises that drain your bank account. Instead, you’ll experience seamless communication and results that exceed your expectations.
So… where do you find professionals like this?
Who should be hired first for your renovation?
Enter the timeless “chicken or egg” debate…. Does the architect come before the interior designer, or vice versa? Or maybe you’ve already hired a contractor, only to realize they can’t communicate your vision. (I see you.) Here’s our take:
Option 1. Architect or Structural Engineer
Both of these experts specialize in safety, but whether you need an architect, engineer, or a mix of both depends on your renovation’s scope:
Architects document the home’s footprint for builders and evaluate structural changes. Plus, they sign off on permit drawings, which are crucial for construction.
Structural engineers are the ones orchestrating the design’s backbone, ensuring stability and security as you shape your space (i.e. moving walls).
When to Hire: If there’s a particular architect or structural engineer you’re itching to collab with, they should be your first hire. Not sure what your home needs? Put architect-hunting on pause until you have your interior designer locked in. (As you’ll see, we’re the experts who make team-building effortless.)
Option 2. Interior Designer
Experienced designers don’t just create beauty — we create the spaces where you LIVE. Our work shapes how you experience each day, from the footprint of the home to how it flows to the way it feels and functions. From nailing the perfect spots for lighting to designing custom pieces, it’s all in our job description.
And let’s not forget, we’re also the behind-the-scenes heroes of project management. Think of us as the schedulers, problem-solvers, and beauty-makers:
- Assembling an A-team of skilled and trusted trades? Go ahead, breathe that sigh of relief.
- Deadlines? We’ve got it covered.
- Lead times? We’ll handle it.
- Installation day? Show up to a finished home you love.
When to Hire: ASAP. Considering a renovation? On the brink of buying a new home? Even if you don’t hire a designer right away, the sooner you start the conversation with them, the smoother your journey will be.
Which other trades will be involved in your renovation?
General Contractor & Subcontractors
General Contractors (GC) are the MVPs of construction. They’re the ones turning our construction documents into bricks and mortar. Wrangling subcontractors? They’ll do this too — plumbers, electricians, stone fabricators, tile installers… whatever it takes to bring your vision to life. And yes, they even handle city authorities for inspections, making sure your space is top-notch, up to code, and right on schedule.
Pro Tip: Do your due diligence and make sure your GC is packing the right credentials — license and insurance. These mean smooth sailing for work permits and zero-hassle progress. (No safety hiccups or city fines.)
When to Hire: Don’t jump the gun and hire your GC before you have a solid vision. While they’ve got the skills and know-how, they’re not designers. They WILL ask you for design decisions, which will put your project on pause until you can answer. It’s best to hire your contractor after you hire your designer and have a well-documented design plan in hand.
Cabinet makers are an underrated team member. They build, supply, and install your cabinetry, ensuring you get the perfect fit and finish.
As designers, we often work with our favorite cabinet makers to design custom solutions that fit your needs perfectly — think pull-out trash, secret appliance panels, and drawers that practically organize themselves. These are the elements that make your everyday functional and seamless.
When to Hire: If you need a cabinet maker for your project, you’ll want to get them on board after you’ve finalized your design plans. Better yet, your designer can either bring in or refer you to a talented (and well-vetted) cabinet maker they trust.
Qualities to Consider When Hiring Professionals
Obtaining clarity and having confidence in your team is essential. You can achieve this by focusing on the following during your vetting process:
Communication: Let’s be real, working with trade professionals is a relationship. Are they easy to talk to and reliable with their responses? Before the project kicks off, make sure your burning questions find answers. This will dodge any confusion or unwanted anxiety down the line.
Availability: Got a specific project deadline, like a big family party or a holiday bash? Lay it all out on the table. Clear communication with your chosen experts is key. This way, you’re not just hoping for a seamless process, you’re setting the stage for it.
Portfolio Check: Your vision matters. It’s not just about skills — it’s about finding someone who understands your vibe. Don’t shy away from browsing through portfolios or reaching out to previous clients for real-life reviews.
After all, this is your home. Make sure the dream team aligns with your dream space.
Where can you look for Bay Area professionals?
- Ask your inner circle for referrals to experts they love
- Dive into the Houzz directory to see who’s near you
- Scroll Instagram to curate your shortlist of professionals
- Hire one expert (like a designer) and ask for referrals to the others
Final Tip: It’s essential to gather your team as early as possible. Design, procurement, and construction always take longer than people expect, but it’s worth the time required to do it right.
Starting early allows your team to collaborate, set expectations, and establish a clear understanding of each person’s role and responsibilities — before the work begins. You won’t regret it.
Are we on your short list? You know where to find us.