Over the past 3-4 months my husband and I have been up and down and round and round about the renovation we want to do on our house. We have limited funds for it and a house with a small footprint to try and fit everything we want in. We have learned a great deal about the renovation process and today I thought I would pass on a few tips.
1. Don't engage an architect before you really know what you are doing
We moved in to our house over a year ago now. About one month after we moved in I knew I wanted to renovate and fix some things up. I wanted to add a new bedroom so each of our three boys would have a room of their own. We only had one bathroom and I wanted to add an ensuite and there were some other styling things I wanted to fix up as well. But so far it has taken me more than a year to try and work out exactly what we need and how best we can achieve this for our limited budget. About 3 months ago we engaged an architect and to be honest with you it was about 3 months too early. So far we have spent quite a lot of money on going back and forth with the architect, largely because my husband and I hadn't been clear on what we really wanted, or how much we really wanted to spend.
It can be exciting to renovate and you can easily get caught up in the process. But architects are a big and expensive step in the process and I advise to not rush in to who you choose and how fast you get going. If practical it is always best to try and live in a space for a while before you renovate, especially if this is a house you are planning on renovating and living in for the longer term (3 years +). It is hugely beneficial to see how a space works for you and your family before you start renovating. You would be surprised at what you learn about it - where you might want your laundry room, how much storage you need, where the bedrooms should be placed, how the sun comes in and lights the house over the day. What kind of flooring do you want? Will carpet or floorboards be better in the bedrooms? Is the house warm in winter and cool in summer? If not, how might you approach cooling/heating? These are all the types of things you might want to consider as you plan your renovation. Getting these things wrong can cost you more money in the long run.
2. Think about your future potential buyers
Are you trying to design a family house? Or a house for young couples with no children? Are you worried about resale value and how much your house will be worth post-renovation (if not, you should be!).
When you are renovating a house for you and your family it can be easy to get caught up in the here and now. This is where so many people go wrong with renovations. They spend too much money on things they love that end up alienating their target market when they go to sell. What then happens is their house sits on the market for far longer than it should. Make sure that when you renovate you think of who you will be selling to down the track. Don't paint pink feature walls if you love pink. Instead, buy some pink throw cushions or a great artwork with splashes of pink. Not only can you take these things with you to your next house, you won't alienate half the people who might buy from you (i.e. the people who don't really want to have pink feature walls in their bedrooms!).For maximum appeal and profit down the track, keep the big things in a renovation neutral. That means kitchens, bathrooms, paint colour choice, flooring. Go crazy on your accessories though. Not only can you spend more on these as you can take them anywhere you ever move to, but they won't put buyers off and won't impact on your sale value down the track.
3. You can achieve a lot with styling
This leads to styling. So much can be done on a budget with styling choices. If you aren't that interested in current styling trends an easy way to achieve a current look in your renovation is to copy trends you see in magazines and online (Houzz, Pinterest and Instagram). I always find looking through online house sale websites (e.g. Domain or RealEstate.com in Australia) can be great sources of inspiration for latest ideas and trends. You will get a feeling for what others are doing in their houses and no doubt find tips and tricks you can use in your own house. Check out the board I've set up on pinterest where I collect all the images and ideas for my own home renovation.
I also use the floor plans on house sale websites to try and find good ideas for storage options, floor plan ideas and the sorts of sizes bedrooms and other rooms in the house should be. Not sure what size a main bedroom should be? Take a look at similar houses to yours online and see what kind of floor plans they have. Can you take any tips from this for your own renovation?
4. Draw your floor plan - then plan it out and see what you have
I've replanned my home renovation about 5-6 times now. I've been working on it for over year. The reason it is tricky is because we are working to a serious budget and we have a difficult floor plan to start. We also want to try and make the most of the space we have - I don't want to waste any area so I'm trying to minimise corridor/wasted space and make the house be as efficient as it can. But this is harder than it seems. I have probably drawn about 25 floor plans now. I do them up on grid paper and draw them to scale. When I think I'm getting close to a good design I cut out all my large furniture pieces to scale on the same size grid paper and I move these around the rooms. This can be a really helpful way of seeing whether my furniture will fit in the rooms/spaces I have drawn. About 20 of the designs I have drawn have been discarded at this point because I have seen that in reality the floor plans just won't work. Once the big furniture items are in (e.g. beds, couch) I can clearly see if doors don't open well, whether you can get around the foot of the bed easily etc. It's a very effective method. It can be time consuming though. In fact in the past few months most of my spare time has been taken up with drawing my little floor plans (you may have noticed my lack of posts on this blog as a result!!!).
Once you have done those steps and you feel you are getting close to a design the next recommendation is for you to mark out the new spaces with masking tape on the floor. This is particularly helpful for bathrooms as you can see whether the toilet and sink will work in the spaces you have planned or whether you need more/less space. You can see an attempt at this below where I was seeing whether I could fit a master and ensuite in to my second living area. I was convinced this would work but when I taped it out and walked through the space I could clearly see the bedroom area was just going to be too small, so I discarded this plan as well.
5. Steal ideas from everywhere
Obsess over Pinterst, Instagram, interior design blogs, and published magazines. You don't have to be a design genius to copy ideas you see and make them in your own homes. Get a feel for current trends and see what the fashionable architects and designers are doing with their houses and copy their ideas. Keep a notes list open on your phone and write down any ideas you see of products, paint colours, etc. when you're out and about. You might see a great pendant light that you love - jot down where you found it and take a photo of it to refer back to later. Trust me, you will forget all about it otherwise!
It can be a good idea to keep a book of photos you like so that when you get to the point of engaging an architect you have some shots you can show them of things you like and the look you are going for. This can be done by cutting out clippings from magazines and keeping them in a folder, or I set up a pinterest board just for my renovation to keep all the ideas and pictures I like together in one place. Check it out here if you're interested.
6. Source products yourself
Don't fall in the trap of getting builders or trades people to source products for you. With so many online suppliers these days you can make significant savings by shopping around for products you like and buying them yourself. This might be for fixtures and fittings (e.g. taps, shower heads etc.) or appliances or furniture. The biggest retailers don't always have the cheapest prices and if you do a bit of online searching for products you love, you will be sure to find them online cheaper elsewhere.
7. Enjoy the process!
The most important thing is to try and enjoy the process of renovating. It can be a stressful time, but it doesn't need to be. If you plan well, make good design choices that will appeal to the widest possible group of people and source products yourself you are sure to end up with a great result that will not only be great to live in but will improve the value of your home over the long term.
As for us, we have decided to put our renovation on hold for the moment while we think some more about it. So I'm doing styling updates to my house instead - like installing this new pendant above my dining table above.
Happy renovating - have a great day.