Here are the top ten lessons I've learned in designing and managing renovation projects:
- Have a VISION. This could be keywords, colours or just the vibe you’re trying to create. You can then start to build a mood board based on your vision (Pinterest is brilliant for this) - for example “elegant and calming” could translate as deep neutral colours with quality materials such as marble and a few charming vintage touches.
- If you find the idea of creating a mood board overwhelming then try thinking of the ONE THING YOU WOULD LOVE in each room and build around that. For example if your dream bathroom has white brick tiles, then use that as the base and start to think about what would work with it. Incidentally one of the reasons I love brick tiles so much is their versatility.. you can literally match any colour you like with them and it will look amazing.
- Work with A BUILDER YOU TRUST. If you don’t have one ask for recommendations. Take up references. Ask to see other projects they've completed. If you’re not totally convinced find another. It’s worth spending time getting it right at the beginning as it’s way harder to change builders once you’re mid-project.
- LOVE THY NEIGHBOURS. You’ll need them onboard from the start to back your planning application, give consent to alterations to the Party Wall and be tolerant of your builders’ noise. If you plan to live there when you’re finished you don’t want to risk an angry encounter every time you leave your home. Keep them informed, listen to their concerns and if anything goes wrong deal with it swiftly.
- HAVE A PLAN. For all my projects I produce an estimate budget (including minimum 10% contingency, depending on the scale of the works and the type of property), a schedule of works and a detailed list of all the fittings, furnishings and equipment we'll purchase. Go through your plan with your builder and fill it with dates of when he’ll need certain things - kitchen design, electrical plan, bathroom fittings on site etc. Speak to suppliers and be aware of delivery lead times.
- Even with the most thoroughly researched plan you should EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED. Works you didn’t plan for will become necessary. You’ll fall in love with a sofa which costs double what you budgeted. Try to roll with the punches and adjust your budget and schedule where necessary. Or employ a project manager to take the punches and redo the sums so you don’t have to.
- Don’t just hand over the keys to your builder with a view to coming back once the work is completed. DO SITE VISITS. Frequently. Or employ someone who can. Builders don’t set out to do things you’re going to hate, but if you’re not there to answer their questions and specify “more to the left” or “not the satin, the matt” then they’ll take it upon themselves to make those decisions and you may not like the result.
- Don’t be scared to QUESTION YOUR DECISIONS. Something that may have seemed right at the beginning may just not work in practice. Mark out your room layout on the floor in tape. Have a good look at fittings before they’re installed. Test paint colours on the walls. If it doesn’t work change it.
- EMBRACE THE STYLE OF YOUR PROPERTY. Most old houses aren’t laid out to meet modern-day living. Nowadays we tend to want open plan living areas, bigger bathrooms and spaces for home-working. With clever design this can all be achieved without destroying the fabric of the original house. If you’ve got fireplaces, keep them. If the fireplaces have been ripped out but the chimney breasts remain, consider putting them back in (reclamation yards are brilliant for this), or cosy it up with a wood-burning stove.
- MIX IT UP. There’s nothing more boring than a safe-coloured room decked out floor to ceiling from the same department store. Use colours that you love - the more dramatic the better. Combine old and new. Add texture and layering with rugs, throws, plants and lamps. Source unique pieces from reclamation yards and antique dealers. Trawl your local charity shop for ceramics and glassware.
If this all sounds a bit too much then email me and let's chat about how I can help you with your project!