leave your good freinds where they are, as freinds. $$ and deadlines tend to make a hardship,
And unless they are willing to work on the price, and you don't complain about anything, been there done that.
As far as a designer, get as much out of magazines and books that you can, get a good remodelor, and save your $$. I have worked with many, and cannot say I was any more impressed than any of the jobs customers did themselves with plenty of homework....and a good remodeler.
Last thing, get ready to live like a refugee for at least 6 months, no kidding.
Good luck!! And take lots of pics!