Renovating a home is a super-stressful, super-exciting process – with the emphasis on stressful if you’re watching your bank balance drop while receiving nightmarish texts about unexpected cost overruns. Until now, cost “estimates” have often functioned as cruel jokes – at least when compared to the final price. Bolster aims to solve that problem – and in today’s Milkshake, the CEO and co-founder of the New York City firm, Anna Karp, talks to us about how it’s managed to do the impossible: offer a guarantee to clients that it won’t go over budget – and if it does, they’ll pick up the difference.
Karp was born in Mexico and began her career in forestry, before moving into construction. Bolster is her brainchild, along with co-founder Fraser Patterson – a fellow veteran of tech-centric construction start-ups. What makes Bolster unique is how it fuses the design and construction processes; it claims that Bolster projects finish, on average, two weeks early, while spending less, thanks to the Bolster “promise”: a fixed price that won’t be revised upward unless you “change your mind on a critical path item.” Outside of that, Bolster will eat the cost overages. How do they do it? “When we started the company, we basically wondered why are people incurring so much risk on the second-largest investment that they’re likely to make [after the home itself], in terms of cost overruns,” she says. “Cost overruns arise when there’s obscurity, a lack of transparency, or even just, like, a lack of information in the renovation that will be undertaken. Since you cannot X-ray a property, we do a diligence process from the very beginning of the design stage in order to determine any single factor that could be a risk to the renovation. We price it in, and present it to the homeowner.” They also make clear communication with their homeowners a top priority: “We take them through every stage of their design process, hand in hand so that homeowners understand the pricing, compliance, and timeline of their project,” Karp says. “We do a lot of pre-construction planning in order to be able to provide a fixed price cost for our homeowners – so when we get to build, we all know what we’re doing.”
Also in this week’s Milkshake, we asked Karp for examples of how homeowners get in over their heads during the renovation process: “Homeowners, or people who are looking to renovate, need to understand that a renovation requires a good deal of time commitment,” she says. “In New York City, people are time starved, and very, very busy – they’re successful, at the top of their game. And when they come into a renovation process, they have certain timeline, cost, [and] design expectations that any good general contractor or any good design firm will try to meet. Homeowners get in over their heads when they don’t understand, or have the information to understand, their renovation process.”
For more – including her most-hated home reno trend – tune in.
Diana Ostrom, who has written for Wallpaper, Interior Design, ID, The Wall Street Journal, and other outlets, is also the author of Faraway Places, a newsletter about travel.
Milkshake, DMTV (Design Milk TV)’s first regular series, shakes up the traditional interview format by asking designers, creatives, educators and industry professionals to select interview questions at random from their favorite bowl or vessel. During their candid discussions, you’ll not only gain a peek into their personal homeware collections, but also valuable insights into their work, life and passions.