Australian House & Garden - - Advice -

1De­sign and dec­o­rate your home for your real life, not your imag­i­nary one.

Most of my brain is taken up with stun­ning spa­ces I’d love to recre­ate, but we have four chil­dren, so pris­tine, pre­cious and per­fect won’t work for us. We now know, for ex­am­ple, that a mid-coloured, wal­nut-toned floor is best. Pale tim­bers quickly look dirty, no mat­ter how good at clean­ing you are, while darker tones show up every­thing (we’ve tried both). De­cide what you and your fam­ily need to live well and hap­pily, then work out the aes­thet­ics around those prac­ti­cal con­sid­er­a­tions.

2Turn neg­a­tives into pos­i­tives. My dream of a large fam­ily room that flowed onto a deck and lush lawn was shat­tered when we were told that, due to flood-zone reg­u­la­tions, any ex­ten­sion to our home had to be 60cm higher than the rest of our house. Sud­denly, we were faced with a split-level de­sign or noth­ing. But for all the ex­tra work it took to make the pieces fit to­gether, we ended up with a much bet­ter de­sign over­all. An­other neg­a­tive was the lack of char­ac­ter in our 1970s fi­bro shack, but that meant we could build in our own char­ac­ter with­out feel­ing guilty about not be­ing sym­pa­thetic to its style or his­tory – def­i­nitely a pos­i­tive.

3Ren­o­vat­ing will con­sume you. Aside from the fun of find­ing im­ages of spa­ces you love and shop­ping for pretty things, you’ll spend a ridicu­lous amount of time ag­o­nis­ing over the right stain for your floor­boards, test­ing the slip­per­i­ness of tiles, work­ing out sizes and styles of var­i­ous fit­tings and googling re­views of po­ten­tial ap­pli­ances, prod­ucts and busi­nesses. You’ll also find your­self in two frames of mind when it comes to pur­chases. If it’s a build­ing ma­te­rial you don’t re­ally un­der­stand (say, rafters, sub­floor­ing or fas­cias), you trust the ex­perts and hand over the cash. If it’s some­thing left up to you to pur­chase, you will turn into an in­de­ci­sive mess, com­par­ing and nar­row­ing down the favourites and do­ing your darnedest to save some pen­nies. Or maybe that’s just me…

4Per­fec­tion is in the eye of the

be­holder. It also costs – in time and money – so some­times “that’ll do” be­comes your own ver­sion of per­fect. My hus­band calls it “adding to the story” of the house, which in­volves cre­at­ing a nar­ra­tive be­hind ev­ery odd­ity, obvious dif­fer­ence, hic­cup or seem­ingly ques­tion­able de­ci­sion. But hon­estly, most of the time, no one will no­tice these things un­less you men­tion them.

5Be on site, but not in the way. For some­one who is pretty easy­go­ing gen­er­ally, I have ma­jor con­trol is­sues when it comes to ren­o­vat­ing. I re­fused to go too far away from site when the tradies were work­ing in case an issue cropped up and I wasn’t there to make a de­ci­sion. It’s not un­til walls are opened up or things are re­moved that builders re­ally know what they’re work­ing with. If you’re nearby, the fore­man or project man­ager will know you’re on standby to deal with is­sues as and when they arise. Who knows? You might even have the so­lu­tion. There are also smaller things, such as keep­ing an eye on the way a door is be­ing hung in case the car­pen­ter for­gets you wanted it to swing to the left, or show­ing the elec­tri­cian

ex­actly where you want that light switch to go. Just re­mem­ber, tradies don’t like it when you hover, so be around and on the look­out, but not in their faces.

6Any­thing out­side the or­di­nary will cost twice as much and take

twice as long. There is a knock-on ef­fect of all cus­tom as­pects of a build in terms of cost, time and ease of in­stal­la­tion. Our very high, steep-an­gled ceil­ing re­quired more ma­te­ri­als, the use of a scaf­fold and crane to con­struct it, cus­tom win­dows and there­fore cus­tom win­dow dress­ings, trick­ier ac­cess for elec­tri­cians, plas­ter­ers and roofers, and the need for a big­ger fan with ex­ten­sion poles. That made the fire­place in­stal­la­tion more dif­fi­cult, as was fit­ting the sky­lights and aeri­als. But ev­ery sin­gle el­e­ment was worth­while be­cause it pro­duced a home that’s very unique and spe­cial to our fam­ily.

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