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​The basics of renovating or redecorating a home

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan
Modern living room by Clean Design Modern
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Any project to boost your house’s appeal (whether it’s something small like painting or rather larger like adding a new extension) can seem like a daunting prospect. Your brain might be bubbling over with ideas. Friends and family might be pelting you with opinions from all sides. And you might start questioning yourself on whether it really is necessary or a good idea. 

The biggest obstacle can often be simply knowing where to start. If this is the case, it’s time to step back, gather your thoughts and apply a little objectivity to the process. 

So, let’s look at some ideas for how to go about creating a home that meets your needs in the best possible way.

1. Plan a methodical makeover

Family Home in Winchester's Sleepers Hill Classic style corridor, hallway and stairs by Martin Gardner Photography Classic
Martin Gardner Photography

Family Home in Winchester's Sleepers Hill

Martin Gardner Photography

If the whole house needs a light facelift instead of a major renovation, your best course of action would be to work through each room to establish the extent of the work and outlay required. Start in the hall (this space usually needs more thought than you might imagine) and work logically from there. 

Think systematically about each room in terms of floor, walls, ceiling, lighting and furnishings. Prepare lists of items to be purchased and building- or decorative work to be done.

2. Start with issues, not solutions

If significant alterations (like an extension) is in your future, take time right from the start to determine what factors are propelling you to undertake this relevant project. 

Think about issues in terms of space, light and storage and exploit each of these to their fullest. Whatever your space and budget, there’s an optimal solution for each part of this home-design trinity. 

homify hint: Keep in mind the present- and future life stages of your household (toddlers will become children, and then teenagers… ) and how your home will need to respond to each.

3. What you have vs. What you want

Classical elegant frontage with a more relaxed facade towards the sea Classic style study/office by Des Ewing Residential Architects Classic
Des Ewing Residential Architects

Classical elegant frontage with a more relaxed facade towards the sea

Des Ewing Residential Architects

Where your issues relate to use of space, start by preparing an inventory of the rooms you have now and how they’re used. 

Next, itemise the spaces you’d like to have and the uses you need to accommodate. Imagine you’re writing the brief for your ideal home. 

Comparing these lists should highlight any gaps that need filling. The challenge then is to see if your existing home can be rethought to meet these needs (for example, can the guest bedroom double up as a home office?). 

Be broad in your thinking to achieve best use of your resources, both spatial and financial.

4. Maximise your existing space

Aluminium orangery with bi fold doors Modern conservatory by homify Modern

Aluminium orangery with bi fold doors


If you feel that you need more space, first check that your existing rooms are doing all that they can be before you start dreaming of an extension. 

Is there an unused room somewhere in your house? Could it be reinvented and put to work in a different way? Could the dividing walls between the rooms at the back of your house be removed to create that required kitchen/dining/family room?

Should you do decide to extend, make sure the existing house and extension flow and that, between both areas, your needs in terms of space and storage are fully met.

5. Boost natural light

A light-filled extension might seem like a bright idea (pun intended) if lack of light is your main problem. However, remember that such an extension could reduce light in your existing spaces. 

Large windows to even the tiniest of external spaces can transform the light levels in any room. And the same with skylights. 

Where space and planning controls permit, a garden room can expand your space without imposing on the quality of light in the main house. And depending on the orientation of your home, the garden room may even enjoy better sunlight than the main rooms.

6. Manage your storage

Tetbury Hall Bench with Cushion: country  by The Cotswold Company, Country
The Cotswold Company

Tetbury Hall Bench with Cushion

The Cotswold Company

Your aim throughout the house should be to achieve storage that’s both convenient and appropriate to what’s being stored. But before ripping out existing cabinetry, ask yourself: could it work harder? 

For example, simply rearranging your kitchen drawers and cupboard shelves can help free up valuable space. And this type of thinking can also be applied to wardrobes, linen cupboards and all other special storage areas around the house. 

The thing that will cost you the most here is time, not money.

7. Transform a ‘problem room’

Any room in a house that’s avoided can be labelled a problem room. However, there’s always a reason why a room’s not used. It may, for example, be too cold, uninviting in its ceiling structure or just too gloomy.  

Determine the reason why that room isn’t working and start exploring possible solutions. Could you take down a wall to solve the problem? Perhaps move a door or a radiator? 

Get costs for the relevant work to see if this project is viable.

8. Prioritise the fundamentals

Tackle issues of watertightness, plumbing, electrics and thermal insulation right from the start. You won’t see visual benefits, but a warm, snug home is a stepping stone to creating greater things.

9. Remember the professionals

Undertaking a home improvement project will definitely mean advice and tips from everyone around you. The problem is that, amid all this, you risk becoming confused and even paralysed, unable to figure out what it is you need to do and how to do it. 

If you find that you’re out of your depth, seek professional guidance to advise you on how to best spend your money and avoid costly mistakes. 

Here on homify, we have a long and strong list of professionals in various fields, from gardening and interior designing to painting and electrics. Take your pick!

10. Stay focused

Family Room Modern living room by Clean Design Modern
Clean Design

Family Room

Clean Design

However large that project turns out to be, resolve to stay focused until the very end. Building work tends to be a long and tiring process and you may be tempted along the way to delegate minor (or major) decisions to outside parties.

These decisions could hurt the final product.

Remember that the person who will be living with the results of the project will be you – and that your main aim should be to create a living space that fits your needs and your lifestyle. 

Good luck! 

To make your home improvement project proceed smoother, look at these: Interior design basics for beginners.

What home improvements are you planning?
Whitton Drive by GK Architects Ltd Modern

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