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With her decades of experience in finance and decor, interior designer and Coterie member Gabriela Gargano is kind of a wizard when it comes to keeping renovations on track and on budget. But nothing tested her mettle quite like her latest project: Cedar Hedge House. Gargano purchased the 1950s Hamptons bungalow as an investment property, and, due to complex tax laws, she only had six months to completely gut renovate, build an addition and list it for rent—all while sticking to a strict budget. On the heels of this ridiculously chic and impressive house flip, we decided to check in and learn her best insider tips for saving time, money and general sanity.

RELATED: 5 Mistakes I Made While renovating My Kitchen 

ASK FRIENDS WHO’VE RENOVATED FOR THEIR MISTAKES

“Perhaps they’ll mention something like, ‘we should have added a three-way switch between the kitchen and entry, we hate having to walk in the dark to turn off the lights!,’ says Gargano. “These conversations will give you a sense of the little details that can make your home go from good to great.” It’s also a great way to find referrals for contractors, plumbers and the like, she maintains.

SHOP SAMPLE SALES FIRST

Gargano swears by sourcing remnant stone and fabric as a way to save money without sacrificing quality. “I've sourced leftover tiles and marble slabs that have inspired an entire project!” As far as finding those sales? Get on the mailing list for the companies you like, as most retailers have one or two blowout sales every year. Another idea? Call up customer service and ask if they have leftovers from any recent orders.

OPT FOR PRE-FINISHED FLOORS

One easy trick to shave a full week off your reno? Buy pre-finished floors, as opposed to ones which will be stained on-site. “If you choose natural wood floors, they have to be delivered and acclimate to the temperature and humidity before being installed—then afterwards, sanded and stained with two coats and a topcoat for protection. Then they need to cure before you move in.” Gargano says that any GC or designer would know this kind of intel—so don’t be shy about asking. 

DON’T FORGET ABOUT SHIPPING COSTS

Taxes and shipping fees can seriously eat into your budget and, too often, says Gargano, they’re overlooked when folks price out their expenses. “If your budget for a bathtub is $900, for example, that means you should really be looking at models in the $700 range, since taxes and freight shipping will add another $200—a substantial difference!”

ALWAYS PICK IN-STOCK MATERIALS

So you've got your heart set on some rad geometric concrete tiles for your bathroom. Trouble is? They've got a "lead time" for production. In other words, they're not available for immediate purchase. Gargano advises skipping this type of purchase altogether in a tight timeline reno, as it can a) hold up your contractor and b) necessitate paying rush fees down the line. Instead, ask your salesperson for options they currently have in stock—in the quantities you need—right off the bat. 

USE THE RULE OF THREES FOR CONTRACTORS

Hiring the first contractor you meet with? Big no-no, says Gargano. “I recommend a rule of three when it comes to booking tradesmen: Meet three candidates and get three proposals before moving forward.” That way, you can know you’re making an informed decision.

P.S. The gorgeous Cedar Hedge House is currently for rent! Inquire here

RELATED: This Is What a $220K House Flip Looks Like 

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