La Jolla architect shares keys to a stress-free and streamlined remodel

Whole house remodel performed by Alicia Calhoon, located in Bay Park, Calif.
Whole house remodel performed by Alicia Calhoon, located in Bay Park, Calif.
(Victoria Pearce)

If you’re getting serious about remodeling your home, chances are you’ve read reviews or talked to friends about their experiences. And you most likely heard stories about remodels that took twice as long and cost twice as much as expected.

But local architect Alicia Calhoon says there’s one way to make sure your project runs as smoothly as possible: Think everything through before you start construction.

For the layperson, that sounds daunting.

But as both a licensed architect and an interior designer, Calhoon is able to plan even the smallest late-stage details while her clients are still in the planning phase.

La Jolla-based Alicia Calhoon is both a licensed architect and an interior designer.
La Jolla-based Alicia Calhoon is both a licensed architect and an interior designer.
(Victoria Pearce)

“The lines blur for me — design is design,” Calhoon said. “But being able to do the whole process has huge advantages.”

For the past two decades, Calhoon has helped clients create surroundings that function optimally for the way they live, work and entertain. She has worked as the architect/interior designer on projects as well as the interior designer who came in later in the process.

“When you join a project midway, you run into things you wish had been done differently but weren’t thought of during the architecture phase,” Calhoon said. “When one person handles everything, you have a streamlined experience and cohesive design.”

Getting it right from the start

Redoing your home should be exciting. There were months, if not years, of dreaming about an updated kitchen with a big beautiful island, perfect for preparing holiday meals, or the ultimate outdoor space for gathering with friends.

And with all of the dreaming and planning comes uncertainty.

Calhoon knows first-hand how a project that wasn’t thought all the way through can cause stress when the client has to scramble to make big design decisions that he or she will be living with for years to come.

“A lot of people wait until they’re under construction to make decisions about finishes, appliances and lighting,” Calhoon said. “But then it’s either too late or you have to redo things. It ends up costing more money and time.”

And Calhoon doesn’t advise going it alone.

People often think hiring an interior designer will be too expensive. So they start a Pinterest board and try to tackle it themselves. But in the long run, it can be more expensive if they make the wrong choices and not love the home they invested in.

“There’s an elevated feel to a professionally designed space,” Calhoon said. “Every choice is intentional and all the small details flow. You can tell the difference.”

Hiring the right person

When hiring an architect or interior designer, some people base their decisions on what they see in a portfolio. But choosing someone you click with and who communicates well with you is more important, Calhoon said.

“I work with my clients’ aesthetics,” she said. “It’s really important to listen to what they want so we can make their project the best it can be.”

Looking at images her client likes helps her identify the elements that will create the overall look. Then she works those elements into the project, she said.

But it’s not all about looks. Calhoon said she designs each room with function front and center, with everything where it should be and no wasted effort or wasted space.

Calhoon handles everything: feasibility studies, schematic designs, construction documents, permitting, coordination of subcontractors and purchasing and placing all finishing touches.

“A big part of my role is to solve problems before the client even realizes there is one,” she said. “To handle all the little things while realizing all of their ideas.”

Calhoon specializes in custom residential projects – both big and small – that reflect her clients’ style and evolve with them as their needs change. Learn more about her work at

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