It goes without saying that the last couple of years have been challenging and there has been a huge focus on making homes a haven. As we emerge out of the dreaded pandemic, we are still left with a new set of issues such as stock problems and unplanned price challenges. I thought it would be helpful to highlight my top tips and key lessons learnt recently.
I know as a designer I am finding it rather challenging right now with stock delays and price rises. It’s always best to go into a renovation with your eyes open and look out for the challenges before they become a major problem.
DO ALL THE DECISION MAKING AT THE BEGINNING
Decision fatigue can be a major issue if you are doing a big build. I always advise clients to make all of the decisions at the beginning when their energy levels are higher! The longer the build goes on the more overwhelmed you become. If you can make key decisions early, you’ll be more prepared and have a clearer budget.
My top tip is to plan your furniture layouts right at the beginning. This allows you to plan where your electricals go and brief an electrician properly. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve seen properties with grids of downlights simply because the client hasn’t had a chance to plan how they will use a room. Bathrooms and kitchens are also key areas to plan early as they affect what you call ‘first fix’ – where the electricians and plumbers put the wires and pipes in place. Kitchens are also on long lead times so meet kitchen companies early and get the planning going, as you may also find that a wall or two needs to be moved to make it work practically for your family. So, if you do this early you can circle back to your architect to make any tweaks and changes to the construction drawings.
At the same time as furniture layouts start to consider the concepts for each room. By this, I mean the look and feel and overall vision. Part of this is the colour scheme, including paint colours. It’s impossible to pick paint colours without deciding on the overall concept. I personally don’t choose paint colours until the key fabrics are decided for each room. Don’t ever just pick a paint colour of a paint chart and hope for the best!
SPECIFY AND BUDGET IN DETAIL
Spiralling costs are one of the biggest sources of stress on a build. Having no clue what it might cost is almost worse than know what it will cost! If you have a clear picture of the cost, you can then make informed decisions about where to budget. Or perhaps which areas to de-prioritise until you have replenished your savings pot.
If you are working with an architect, they can help you put together a detailed tender, which is then sent out to two or three builders. A formal tender process can seem painful but in the long run, is worth the time and effort. On larger projects, a quantity surveyor is likely to be involved too.
A formal tender is accompanied by detailed specifications and drawings. The drawings are the builder’s detailed instructions about how the property should be constructed. The specifications are the details instructions about the materials and methods to be used. So often I see people opt out of the detailed drawings the architect produces thinking they can do it themselves. This is a false economy! Invest in their expertise rather than making expensive mistakes.
If you don’t go through a detailed tender process the quote you receive will be a high-level estimate, with assumptions. Assumptions are dangerous! The quote is often based on basic materials and fittings – so standard items such as basic panel doors, white plastic sockets, Dulux Trade paint etc. So, you will normally find the cost creeps up as you specify better quality items. It’s much better to do that at the beginning and have a clear idea of the actual cost.
I outline more tips for budgeting in this article: budgeting-for-interior-design-in-period-houses
PLAN AHEAD AND BUY KEY ITEMS EARLY
Try and work with builders who can commit to showing you a properly planned schedule of work. This will help you identify when your builders will need key items such as bathroom fittings and tiles. Focus on buying items that might affect the rest of the schedule.
So, for instance, flooring is a major blocker if it’s not on-site on time. If your builder can’t lay the wood floor or tiles you won’t be able to fit your kitchens and bathrooms. Right now, kitchen companies are booking many months ahead. If you lose your slot, you can’t just book another one in a week or two. You’ll find you may have to wait another 3 months before they have a slot for you.
Generally, if you have decided on an item then purchase it right away if you have the budget. Stock levels change daily right now and even as an interior designer I’m finding it challenging to keep up! It’s better to have these items on-site.
TRY TO STAY RELAXED ABOUT THE COMPLETION DATE (AND BE KIND TO YOUR SUPPLIERS!)
I would say right now that every project has a delay. This isn’t the fault of the contractors, who are often working with impossible stock delays right now. There will just be unexpected delays that pop up and it’s best to go in with this frame of mind.
I would also encourage you to be understanding of your suppliers and contractors. No one wants to deliver disappointing news to you about delays. Many of these delays are out of the control of those suppliers. Tension causes trust issues and once the trust breaks down with a supplier it’s much harder to encourage them to work hard for you!
AVOID THE OVERWHELM OF SOCIAL MEDIA
When you are planning your home be realistic about where you look for inspiration. When I’m shown images by potential clients, I quite often see very similar images from well-known influencers. Remember that many of these influencers get these items at high discounts and in reality, the price of those might be out of your budget. To me it’s a bit like trying on your perfect wedding dress you know you can’t afford and expecting to get the same dress from the high street. Sometimes it’s just not achievable and you’ll keep dreaming about that perfect dress!
I also find that the quest for perfectionism can stop you from connecting with your own style and the feel you want to achieve for your home. Instagram and Pinterest are great sources for initial ideas but before you even begin looking for inspiration start with three keywords for your home – e.g., Calm, Welcoming, Relaxed. Having those at the back of your mind will help you to filter ideas.
Once you have decided on the look and feel for a room try and remove yourself from still looking for inspiration on social media. It will make you constantly question the decisions you’ve already made, and start being swayed to other ideas!
REMEMBER TO ENJOY IT TOO!
Some elements of a build can be rather boring! So, balance it out with the exciting part of planning your home. I’m obviously biased but planning the decorative elements (such as the fabrics, soft furnishings, furniture, and lighting) is the really enjoyable part. If you find it too overwhelming, then enlist the support of an interior designer who can collaborate with you to bring your ideas to life. When you are searching for an interior designer make sure you connect with them on a personal level and be very open about why you need their help and your budget.
If you decide not to use an interior designer, then my top advice is to simply start with what you love and build from there. For instance, a beautiful rug, a piece of art or fabric that you are really drawn to. There is a reason you love that item, most likely from the colour palette. So, if you’ve already made an emotional connection to it then build a scheme from there, picking out the colours from that item. If you love that “hero” item, you are likely to love the rest of the room too.
I hope you’ve found this article useful. Please do get in touch if you’d like some help with the design and renovation of your home.