Last weekend I did a thing. I was part of a renovation panel at Interior Junction – a fabulous weekender interiors festival that took place in Derby. The panel I was on consisted of experienced renovators and a builder. We talked about our experiences and answered questions from the audience who are thinking about, starting or part way through a renovation, or simply just want to know more about what a renovation entails.
When I agreed to be on the panel several months ago, I had thought that by September, the builders would have long since completed their work with my project, and I would be happily decorating my house room by room, and turning it into a lovely home for my family. But sometimes even the best laid plans can go awry, and we are still living in a mess, as progress has become very slow over the past couple of months. It’s frustrating, but I suppose it’s all part and parcel of a renovation journey.
Last summer I wrote a post about the renovation tips that I was taking on board as I embarked on my project. Now, 7 months into an extensive renovation project, I can tell you that every single one of them rings true. At the Interior Junction panel talk, all the panellists emphasised similar advice and there were also some additional tips that we found ourselves vehemently agreeing to. For the benefit of anyone else about to start their renovation journey or even part way through, I have summarised the top 5 tips that were most discussed at the panel talk.
1. PLAN PLAN PLAN
You cannot overplan. Plan your layouts, plan your room designs and cost them out to help you plan your budget (spreadsheets!), and draw up your electrical plans. The more detailed your plans, the better. This is what I call designing backwards. When you are planning your project, imagine how you want your new space to be: think about where the light switch will be as you enter a room, which areas need lighting, where you may need sockets, how your kitchen work flow will be, if your bathroom must have a double basin or a separate bath and shower, etc. Keep on top of lead times for products and ensure orders are made on time so that work isn’t delayed due to waiting around for something to be delivered.
Don’t be swayed by pretty lifestyle photos; think practically for the way you live. E.g. will a sink positioned in the kitchen island always look messy with washing up clutter? If you are having trouble visualising what you want from your home, get an interior designer on board from the start. An architect can do a great job with space and light, but a good interior designer can really help you with your spatial planning to achieve a personalised design that will work beautifully for you and your family. We had a question where someone was worried about getting the practicalities wrong, like storage, lighting and traffic flow. Getting these things right is crucial, or else you will have to fork out more money to correct these things later, or have a home that frustrates you even after going through all the stress and costs of an extension/renovation.
Even with meticulous planning, you’ll still find that you have to make numerous decisions on the spot, so the more that you have already thought about at the start, the better.
2. CHOOSING PROFESSIONALS
This is possibly the most important element of your project, yet can be the trickiest. Don’t be in a rush to hire an architect or builder. You will be working very closely with them to help you transform YOUR home. Look for recommendations and meet with several so you can try to establish who would work well with you, and who understands your vision. Your builders will be in your space every working day from early morning, for months! You may see them more than you see your own family, so it would really help if you like them. There will be banter and you may get to know them well, but always keep in mind that it is a professional working relationship. So for instance, ensure that all project specifics or agreements are in writing to keep it all official.
Compromise isn’t a word that I find particularly palatable, but some compromises are inevitable either due to budget constraints or because some things simply don’t work out as you’d wanted. While you may have planned everything you want from your project, it is also important to be flexible and not get too worked up when things don’t go entirely to plan, because not everything will. If you are a control freak like me, you may appreciate how hard this can be. But it really does help to keep a positive attitude and know that every problem has a solution.
4. SHOP AROUND / DIY TO SAVE MONEY
Budget is often the most common sticking point for many of us in our quest to achieve a dream home. Champagne taste on a beer budget – that’s the biggest challenge I am facing through my huge renovation project. So I have researched every possible avenue to find the best prices for everything without compromising on quality or on my vision, from big ticket items like custom painted kitchen cabinets, right down to small accessories like towel rings, because every bit of saving helps! If you are good at DIY, take on jobs that you feel comfortable doing. For example, I will be doing most of the decorating in my home, thereby saving thousands in decorator’s costs.
5. IT WILL BE WORTH IT
Everyone on the panel echoed that a renovation is very stressful. The past couple of months have been particularly difficult for me, so much so that I could no longer continue to write my monthly renovation updates because the only way I am able to cope is to look forward rather than dwell on the hell I have been through. (Apologies if you were enjoying reading my monthly updates, but you can always catch up on what has been going on through my instagram story highlights which I have categorised by month.)
Broken home. 😢 But you need a crack a few eggs to make an omelette!
Even beyond the difficulty of seeing your home being smashed to pieces and living in a chaotic mess without a kitchen or decent bathroom, all sorts of other issues can throw off your positivity – things not working out as you thought, tradespeople letting you down, financial worries, or any number of unforeseen problems. There will be days when everything seems to go wrong but other days that excite you beyond words. It’s a rollercoaster.
Find a support system for yourself, whether a patient and understanding partner or friend, or fellow renovators who can understand what you are going through. Through this project, I have had to call in numerous favours from friends who I will be eternally grateful to. Some of them have leant me a sympathetic ear over a cuppa which has been a huge help. I have also connected with several renovators on instagram who have been a lifeline for me during difficult days and who have celebrated my high points with me. It’s no exaggeration when I say that these pocket pals have kept me sane. If you are new to instagram, you can find renovation accounts through hashtags such as #homerenovation, #renovationproject etc. Most people are really friendly and will happily share what they know, including product sources, so you can have a bank of support and industry knowledge in your pocket.
There is an end to the stress and frustrations, and the reward is worth everything. Much of my house is still bit messy, particular upstairs, but as I look around at how we are transforming it, I can see how beautifully it’ll work for my family. An extension and renovation was the only way to create our own perfect home.
We are well on our way to achieving our dream home! 😊
Over the coming months, I will have many new spaces to share with you as they get completed. Please feel free to subscribe to this blog (details on sidebar) or follow me on instagram so you don’t miss any of the action!