Where to Start When You're Starting Over?

I was approached by friends this past weekend who have decided to make a long term commitment to their current job and, therefore, location. Now that they intend to stay here for more than a year, they are looking to transform their house into a home. The problem? When they arrived, they had a very short time to paint and procure furniture, and now they have buyer's remorse about essentially every room in their house.The plan is to spend the next six months making changes to the kitchen, living room, dining room, den, the master bedroom, two bathrooms, and two kids' bedrooms. Cosmetic changes only 7mdash; the house comes with the job so the basic structures will stay the same. They want my help, but I'm at a bit of a loss on how to begin. Working in an empty space is one thing, but redoing everything in an full house with a family presents a completely different challenge.

Do we start with the private spaces, the bedrooms and bathroom upstairs, because they are more contained and therefore likely easier to complete in a shorter timeframe? If we do this, the family may feel an immediate positive effect which would help keep up their enthusiasm for the project, but may have to battle disappointment that the changes aren't visible to guests.

Or do we start with the larger, more public spaces, the kitchen, dining and living rooms, because they are the center of the home? If we do this, the family may feel they are getting more bang for the buck in terms of impact, but will have to live longer with a work in progress before they see any fully finished rooms.

My friends and I are all feeling a little overwhelmed by the various options, so I am turning to you readers for advice and assistance. Is it better to start small or start big? Would you rather make incremental changes or is a clean sweep the best way to go? If you have ever done a whole house makeover while living in the house, please share what worked and what didn't. Help me help my friends turn their house into a home that works for their family, one they will be eager to share with their friends.

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