Renovating Tips for First-Home Buyers

Shared from ‘It’s my home‘ magazine

Carlene Duffy from The Block Glasshouse shares her top tips for first home buyers looking to renovate.

Educate yourself in order to avoid being swept up in passing trends. Learn what is current in finishes and furnishings, and how to differentiate fads. An experienced designer can usually sift through the trends to determine which styles will have longevity, and which will die a quick death. It is this knowledge that will save you money down the track.

Think open spaces, mid-century modernist design saw the emergence of open plan living, and we have never looked back. Why not, it’s genius! This type of living is particularly beneficial in a small space, as by knocking out walls between the kitchen and the living and dining areas, you are creating the illusion of space and in essence making small, pokey areas seem larger. Knocking out walls also maximizes the amount of light into the home, and is simply more aligned with how the modern person lives. If you are looking at resale shortly down the track, I caution you not to turn a three-bedroom home into a two-bedroom for the sake of making the bedrooms larger, however. It’s not good for resale.

But not too much space. Don’t hurt me when i say that some people purchase homes with the issue of actually having too much space. Although this might seem like a luxury to many, it can come with its own set of problems. These homes are costly to renovate, furnish and maintain, and I’m speaking from experience. Our house is quite a unique one, built into a hill, with the top level burnt down. The concrete slab was still intact when we purchased it, but we now don’t want all the excess space. We simply can’t use it and it’s just very uncool (in a non-eco way) to have unused space in a home. Right now we are planning to cut into the slab and reduce our interior space.

Mix it up. Mixing higher-end and lower-end materials and furnishings not only gives your home character, but it is just plain money-wise. When looking for furnishings, I’ve become quite savvy at op shops, and I’ve been known to nab a curbside steal. My used pieces look super quirky and right-at-home juxtaposed with our contemporary finishes. I also have an Ikea wall hung TV unit. It was, in fact, the only slim-line wall-hung unit I could find at the time, it looks good, and it saved us about $1000. Sometimes the cheaper options are the right ones.

Have a crack! If the budget is tight, and it generally is for the first home buyer, you might even consider trying your hand at what you can do yourself (within reason!). Michael is a chippie by trade, but he’s really a jack-of-all-trades, which is why it is easy for him to say, “have a go”. In addition to building the home, he has had a go at everything in our place, from tiling, to framing my canvas artworks. Better yet, trade in trades. Your tradie mates will be much more obliging if you do the job with them and can return the favour, in labour if nothing else.

Just paint. If you have bought a renovator but have neither the time, the know-how or the budget to start revamping any time soon, do not step over that threshold until you have given the place a good lick of paint all over. Paint provides the biggest bang for your buck and instant gratification. Just paint every wall white (choose your white carefully) so that you have a blank canvas and a home that feels instantly fresher and more liveable. I know of someone who hired 15 painters to paint the whole house, inside and out, in one day so that they could move in the next. It’s 100 times easier to paint when there is no furniture to negotiate.

Don’t let your heart always win – kudos to you for persevering when you are trying to achieve a certain look but stop and listen after the fourth cabinet-maker, or when all your friends and family are telling you the glossy, purple kitchen cabinets you saw in vogue living are a bad, bad, bad idea.

What works in one home doesn’t always work in another! Furnish with foresight if your plans are to move on from your home after a relatively short period of time, be mindful to invest in furniture and furnishings that you love and could apply to another home. This is in contrast with compromising and purchasing items simply because they fit – unless of course you are happy to sell them with the home.

Phone a friend if you have exhausted every design blog and interiors magazine out there, and concede that you are still at a loss as to how to proceed with your renovation, arrange a consult with someone in the know. Whether this is a property stylist, an interior designer, or a loyal friend with renovation experience and/or who just has a good eye for design, this will be money well spent because some mistakes are not worth making.

Carlene’s keen eye for design, combined with Michael’s professional carpentry and project management skills, made this duo a force to be reckoned with on the block glasshouse, 2014. Michael and Carlene are now channelling their broad range of winning design and construction skills into a new business venture Cedar & Suede, aimed at helping others achieve their dream of a beautiful home.