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My old boss used to say that for every project an architect has three equally-important priorities: cost, quality and schedule.

As I began my remodel, maybe because of my background in design, quality seemed paramount. Cost was the second concern. Because I had other places to stay during construction, time was the final consideration.

As I moved through the project, though, cost became the overriding concern. Initially, flushed with optimism, I made payments for materials and services without a fuss. But as the project moved forward and the total cost crept closer and closer to my limit, I became increasingly suspect about spending money and searched more passionately for less costly substitutions.

This was especially true for the smaller, more ornamental elements. I spent a little extra money to get a faucet set for my bathroom sink from a high end supplier. But I didn’t order the supplier’s matching toilet paper holder and towel bars because I couldn’t justify the extra expense for such simple pieces of hardware. I returned a beautiful towel shelf I had ordered because, when the time came to install it, it felt too opulent. Instead of ordering kitchen cabinet pulls from the supplier I bought them in bulk at a hardware store.

I was especially alarmed by surprise costs, which came fast and furious at the end of the project. My building management company mailed me an invoice for the cost of their “Architectural Review,” which they had not told me about. I had to order extra wood panels from the cabinet supplier to complete the installation. And I needed a myriad of small, last-minute items from the hardware store like a shower curtain rod and a lever for my toilet tank. Each time I pulled out my credit card I winced.

As in many other things, what helped most was to step back and take a larger view. The remodel was an investment that would ultimately increase the value of my home.

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