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.