Renovating Luxury Homes: Plan, Budget and Consult Professionals

Luxury homes are an investment and a showcase of success. In the Valley of the Sun, the market is excellent for buyers wanting to enjoy a home full or part time or to invest in for a flip or holding until later. And, sellers might want to consider their options for how much money they want to invest into renovating a property to help secure their targeted closing price.

In particular, buyers must understand that the luxury process is a unique one before beginning the journey: “Most buyers fail to find out how much and how long it’ll take to sell the luxury home they are investing in,” says Frank Aazami, Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty Brand Ambassador, who recommends that they consult first with a proven luxury specialist.

Broadly, renovations can be light, say, a house face-lift; moderate; or complete, explains Tanya Shively, ASID, LEED AP, principal of Scottsdale’s Sesshu Design Associates, named for the 15th-century Japanese artist, Sesshu Toyo. She has been practicing interior design for 20-plus years, with a large percentage of her projects large and small renovations. In addition, she has locally pioneered sustainable, or green, design.


“A light renovation is typically just a freshen-up of colors and materials without any changes to layout or rooms,” Shively explains. “It’s a budget-friendly option and typically faster to achieve.”

With this, kitchen appliances stay in place but could be updated to new styles, technology and finishes. Plumbing also stays put but can be updated. Walls are painted or possibly gain new plaster or paper.

Flooring often remains the same material but in a fresh color palette, for example, stone, from travertine to marble or limestone, or ceramic tile to porcelain. Or, carpeting changes to wood or vinyl planks. You can recover or refinish furniture and add new pieces. And, window coverings are often updated for fresh styling.


“The main idea is that we can create a completely fresh look with just updating materials and fixtures,” Shively says.

Moderate renovations, however, are more intensive. These involve small modifications to spaces, such as removing the wall between kitchen and family room to create today’s open floorplan. Small changes to plumbing and appliance locations might be implemented. Most walls and fixture locations would remain the same.

All renovated spaces receive new finishes and materials, and new plumbing and lighting fixtures are also selected. Also new in at least some spaces are doors, cabinets, hardware and countertops. More new furnishings are likely to be selected. Outside, windows may be upgraded to double or even triple pane as well as some doors.


“This is a happy medium type of renovation,” she says. “The look of the home changes, the costs are moderate, and the timeline is a bit longer but usually less than a complete renovation.”

That final option entails extensive changes to walls, enlarging rooms with additions or combining of two spaces, raising the ceilings or the roof. “This is nearly like creating a new house,” Shively says. “Costs may be lower than building custom from the ground up, and timelines are also typically a little shorter than new.”

A full renovation can be extensive and down to the studs, gutting the interior and rearranging rooms within the given footprint or even adding to that. The entire style of the house can shift, from Mediterranean to Contemporary or vice versa. Exterior elevations may change accordingly.


Energy efficiency can be focal at this stage. New windows and doors insulate against the elements, especially the summer desert sun. Multi-paned tubular skylights, or solar tubes, can transform rooms with great Arizona light. And, inside, ENERGY STAR™ appliances can reduce electricity costs and new plumbing fixtures water expenditures.

Any renovation should involve eco-friendly choices, including materials that are nontoxic, sustainable and energy efficient, Shively tells her clients, at whatever level they wish to work. Growing up in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, she was close to Yellowstone, Glacier and Grand Teton national parks; she was inspired by them and incorporated environmental sensitivity into her life work.

Consider, too, how the removal and disposal of materials and fixtures are handled, she recommends. Companies will take donations of cabinets, plumbing fixtures, appliances and lighting and HVAC components if they are in good condition.


Ask how the builder will dispose of wood and nonreusable materials. Can the company recycle rather than landfill? What are the costs and how will this be scheduled? Consider reusing, repurposing and refinishing some pieces. For instance, old laundry cabinets can be repurposed for use in the garage.

Different professionals should be retained, depending on the extent of the job. A face-lift might require just an interior designer and a builder. The moderate renovation will absolutely require a builder and designer, and an architect may or may not need to be consulted depending on factors such as bearing walls and roof changes.

For the total redo, the full team of architect, interior designer and builder should be impaneled.


“The complexity of decisions that will be addressed is nearly the same as for a new construction house, and each profession will be able to make sure that nothing is missed,” Shively says.

Your budget will depend on the size of the spaces being remodeled and the materials chosen. Here, you, the seller or buyer, have complete control. “You will want to have an idea of what you are comfortable investing before starting your design process and share that with your design team. They can also help you determine what is realistic for your goals and the house,” she says. Also, a luxury Realtor® can advise on what level of investment is realistic for each home for selling quickly or for a longer period of time living in or leasing out.

For Shively, any renovation, luxury or less so, should result in what she calls “WELL Designed” homes that are healthy, eco-conscious and livable. She approaches each as unique and aligned with the owners’ lifestyles, tastes and needs: “The aesthetics are customized to individual styles while always bringing the philosophy of wellness and sustainability into consideration.”


Shively is available at:
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