I’m often asked for tips on where I think investment should be directed for the renovation and decoration of a country home. The interiors budget can often be rather depleted by unforeseen building costs. This is particularly prevalent with period properties where hidden issues can crop up during renovations.
Decorating a whole period home is not easy. Managing a builder, finding the right mix of style and combining this with the practical constraints of period homes can be challenging. Add into that the difficult task of budgeting and it can get rather overwhelming.
Where you direct your investment will be very much influenced by your vision and how quickly you plan to renovate and furnish your home. However, below are some general tips on where you might invest and areas where you might save.
WORK YOUR ROOM AROUND A STATEMENT ITEM
Every room should have a star piece that the room is built around. Make sure this is an item you love, as you will never regret buying emotionally led items. Invest in a well-made, long-term item that will get the most use.
I would always recommend considering this item before you start looking for other items. In period homes you may decide the room itself is the star and par back the furniture and soft furnishings to let the architecture sing. Take this example of a country living room. The fireplace and beams are the stars of the room and the fabrics and furniture bring warmth and atmosphere.
Where you have a more simple room in terms of architecture I love statement rugs, which can bring together a whole colour scheme at the same time as making an impact. Large scale lighting can also look beautiful, particularly in a hall or dining room.
Most of all I would recommend investing in at least one piece that is bespoke or hand crafted. These are the future heirloom items to pass down, such as a beautiful cabinet or table. I always say if you fall in love with a special item then it will be worth investing in. Wait and save if you can’t buy it right now.
PHASE YOUR INVESTMENT – DO ONE ROOM AT A TIME
Do one room properly and then move on, rather than doing lots of rooms and compromising on them all. Often people like to start every room in the house, with a view that they will add to it over time. In reality, we all get busy and rooms often don’t get finished! Without adding all the elements and layering to a room it will simply feel flat.
I always recommend starting with a vision for the entire home, even if you don’t plan to implement all the rooms all at once. It means you can come back to the designs at any point and work from that vision. It also saves costly mistakes, as the choices you make will be part of an informed decision making process. Start with priority rooms (kitchen, living room, master bedroom and master bathroom) and do them properly. Then move on to the next rooms as you replenish your savings pot.
DON’T SCRIMP ON THE CURTAIN MAKING
Curtain and blind making is an area I suggest is never saved on. Curtains and blinds are items you are unlikely to change for some time and use on a daily basis. Quality workmanship will ensure that these last and keep their shape. If you appoint a cheaper supplier you will inevitably end up with broken items, which end up needing replacing.
A quality curtain maker will also know what to do with uneven ceilings, ensuring that poles are fitted perfectly so your curtains evenly touch the floor. Take this example in this period house. The pole is perfectly fitted and copes with the wonky ceiling and beam detail perfectly. I recently put together a separate post on choosing blinds and curtains for modern country homes here.
SAVE MONEY BY SOURCING ALTERNATIVE FABRICS
Much as it pains me to say it (I’m a huge fabric addict!), one obvious place to save money is to swap some of your fabric choices. What I often do is spend more per metre on the cushion fabric, as you need so little of it. Patterns and luxurious fabrics can also be used on items such as statement chairs. Then spend less per metre on curtains and plain upholstery fabrics. To make them feel more interesting add a trim or piping, which immediately makes items feel more special.
FOR BATHROOMS CHOOSE QUALITY BRASSWARE AND HANDLES
Kitchens and bathrooms are the rooms you are unlikely to change for a very long time, so choose taps and showers wisely. Taps and shower fittings are the most important items for me in a bathroom. You touch them every day and they need to cope with the rigour of regular use and water. I recommend classic quality fittings like Lefroy Brooks and Samuel Heath, although my huge favourite is Waterworks. You can choose simple tiles to go with these fittings, drawing attention to the quality shower fittings. Go for darker contrast paint colours to highlight the quality of the taps. White just won’t show them off! The taps below are from Samuel Heath.
Spend less money on sinks, toilets and baths, which are fitted into bath panels. There are, of course, exceptions to this. A dramatic sink in a bathroom can make a real statement and I love freestanding baths. But it’s about choices. By choosing this sink you are actually saving money from buying a vanity unit and stone! This bathroom has simple blinds and joinery to let the statement piece stand out.
HIRE A PROFESSIONAL
First of all you should always define what your vision of your home is and what you are prepared to spend as a topline figure. But even taking this first step can be difficult, which is where an interior designer or project manager comes in.
From helping define the big picture vision, through to making it happen, a designer comes into their own. Setting a budget is integral to this process and helps you make informed decisions of where to focus your spend. Designers have broad experience of setting and managing budgets, ensuring any items sourced are in line with this budget. You designer should also keep an up to date summary of spend to date as the project progresses.
Designers are also experienced in the common pitfalls and hidden costs, using their experience of similar projects. Get them involved as early as possible – when plans are being developed – as they will often spot issues in layouts which will save you money down the line.