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Last week I caught up with Mike Mulligan who is still in the construction stage of his new-old home. It sounded like more woe than wonderful right now. As anyone who has done any building project knows, it's the final stages that can drive you crazy.

In the beginning we are all heady and excited over the prospect. We pour over the plans as if we are expecting a new baby. In the middle of the project we often wonder about our sanity in starting this in the first place and, as the project draws way beyond the estimated time, and often cost, we get a bit panicky. It's impossible to turn back, we don't know how long this will go on and we just want to get to the point of enjoyment.

It seems that more people are looking at their spaces with an eye to improvement rather than building, or buying new. We're always looking to improve our nests. The desire for state-of-the-art kitchens and high-tech bathrooms seems to be never-ending.

I am in the category of rearranging rather than renovating at the moment, but I've lived through many building projects, more than doubling the size of my house over the years. Now whenever I get restless I move furniture around. Once I think I've got it perfect, it is not long before I feel the need to make it even better. I chalk this up to occupational hazard.

The other day I was pondering the issues that contribute to the horrors and joys of home building, repairs, renovations, additions or changes to existing dwellings that have been inflicted upon so many islanders, sometimes by others, sometimes by our own decisions.

For those of you yet to join the ranks, you can decide if it is indeed worth the trouble, or you can bask in the knowledge that what you have is perfect for your needs and remain content with the status quo. If you can do this you are in a very enviable position.

When people are in the middle of a home project the complaints are high. It's taking too long. It's way over budget. It's loud and disruptive. It will be months before we can enjoy our home. Why then do we do it?

Because, in the beginning we are all naÃØve. We've heard the horror tales from our friends and acquaintances, but we scoff. We think, aha, they were probably lousy clients and got what they deserved. Besides, we know what we want and won't waffle on decisions which, we are sure is the cause for most problems in a construction job.

But then we learn the meaning of true pain and frustration. We remain exiled out of our homes or burrowed in one room like rabbits in a rabbit hole. In our case, when my home office was being renovated I moved my stuff into my husband's office. "It will only be temporary, a month or two at most," I said to my partner whose office is no bigger than a walk-in closet. But this story has a happy ending. After a year, we came through the agony and out the other side still friends.

All too many home-improvement projects result in much complaining. Work is behind schedule, products don't show up on time and sometimes our visions of what is and what we thought it would be don't mesh. (I changed the plans for my office a dozen times.) Those last little pieces of granite for the kitchen didn't arrive on schedule and when they finally did, they were the wrong size or broken, a typical tale.

But, as everyone who has gone through this process knows, when all is finished and the last coat of glossy paint has dried on the molding; the custom-fitted shutters close without a hitch; the Italian knobs on the French doors feel oh-so comfortable in the palm of one's hand; the umpteenth coat of satin varnish gives the oak floors a lustre that defies description; the placement of the windows you agonized over to get just the right sun exposure reveals a streak of sunlight across the marble threshold; the contrast between the cherry wood and the granite counters is the stuff that sets hearts aflutter; the color of the roses in the cut glass vase on the glass coffee table exactly matches the subtle shade of the draperies that also picks up that one detail in the carpet you loved so much in the showroom; and finally, you float in the new pool you mentally cross off everything on your to-do list, and know in your heart of hearts why you embarked on this project in the first place.

The birthing pains disappear. You begin life anew with this wonderful creation. The quality of your life is enhanced and you can take great pride in the space you have created or recreated. It makes you feel good down to your very core.

Leslie Linsley has written more than 50 books on crafts, decorating and home style. She resides on Nantucket with her husband, photographer Jon Aron, and has a store on the island that specializes in her one-of-a-kind creations. Her latest book is "Key West, a Tropical Lifestyle" (Monacelli Press), with photos by Terry Pommett.