Sunday, October 23, 2011

How to Prioritize Your Renovation Dollars / Top-to-Bottom Re-Design

At long last, many of the decor elements of a client’s renovation I began work on last summer have now been implemented – which means there are some finished areas to reveal!

A large portion of a re-design can often take place within a few months ... but sometimes exceeded budgets on the reno side means new furniture, window coverings etc. have to wait and thus can stretch the total project into many more months – sometimes even years [after all, I can’t show you a 12-yr old couch amongst the new elements ... now can I? :) ]

My client’s - Professional Organizer, Rowena List - “Office to Dream In”
{photo by Anna Beaudry}

So – how does one go about prioritizing a top-to-bottom re-design if there simply isn’t enough money to do it all at once? Structural changes and kitchen/bathroom renos aside, here is the order I recommend spending your re-design dollars in:

1. Flooring: newly painted walls, a new layout, furniture etc. will be lost on worn or uncoordinated flooring – I say this is priority 1.

In my client’s 1960s bungalow (below), we went with a medium brown laminate in most areas (the kitchen and bathrooms were left alone). [Identifying the overall colour palette before settling on your flooring colour is key.]

{photo by Anna Beaudry}

(Re-cladding the fireplace in this project was also prioritized; big elements like that should squeeze onto the list, somewhere near the top.)
a) don’t use laminate in an entry way in a wet climate (ie. Vancouver!) [we went with a porcelain tile above];
b) when the space is an open plan* and the entry way is a smaller area, choose a colour that most closely matches the main flooring so that the eye is tricked into seeing it all as uniform.

* Many designers recommend keeping all flooring uniform from room to room regardless of the plan (eg. hardwood throughout the entire home), but I think there are instances when different flooring for different spaces is not only appropriate, it’s more interesting. I don't disagree with the reasoning of keeping it entirely uniform, I just think the rule can be broken successfully ... with a clear and carefully chosen palette, of course.

2. Lighting: most homes of yester-year have lighting that is nothing short of terrible. Not just the fixtures themselves are outdated, but the amount of illumination per area is usually highly inadequate.

If you’re going to re-paint the interior of your home, do yourselves a favour and evaluate your lighting plan first (as walls and/or ceilings may need to be ripped open).

Consider a mixture of recessed ceiling lights, hanging ceiling lights (pendants), wall sconces, up-lighting, down-lighting, under-cabinet etc. – yes, in addition to floor, table and task lamps you may wish to use.

{photo by Anna Beaudry}

With no budget for a kitchen reno, I updated my client’s kitchen above with new animal-print inspired pendants + additional recessed lights (along with a new backsplash, tobacco woven blinds and copper-backed stools that all pull in the new colour scheme the owners love in the adjacent Great Room).

3. Doors + trimwork (eg. baseboards, mouldings etc):  Be sure to evaluate the state of the doors and trimwork inside your home; painting worn doors and trimwork only brings them back to life if they're in decent shape to begin with.
And please don’t think that painting those non-wood doors that are finished with a ‘wood grain look’ are going to do the trick – they look cheap no matter what.

Either refurbish solid wood vintage doors (check out your local salvage dealer and home demolition sales), or paint new, modern-looking doors (and if they’re not wood, don’t try to make them look like wood...).

{photo by Anna Beaudry}

In this part of my client’s Great Room above – I updated existing furniture with pops of colour, a knock-out mirror and a custom built-in cabinet that delivers on both functionality and aesthetics. There was a door where the mirror is, and instead they splurged on glass folding doors that lead out to an inviting outdoor living area.

4. Painting: Next figure out how much, what and where you’re going to paint (ceilings? walls? doors, trim ...) Are you going for a clean, neutral colour throughout the home so you can have dramatic features in areas/rooms here ‘n there?

Or are you implementing a varied palette that still flows from room to room and ties to look smashing together? Wallpaper accent or mural? Colour blocking? If you’re unsure, hire a professional colour consultant or designer that can help you get the look and feel you’ll love living in for years to come.

{photo by Anna Beaudry}

In the case of my client, she wanted a clean look that would also feel warm, inviting, casual – while still elegant, and a bit funky (and she loves earth tones, not on-trend-right-now-grey).

So I recommended a soft cream on all walls, BM Simply White on the doors, trimwork and ceilings (except the great room which has a tall slanted ceiling – in which case carrying the wall colour onto the ceiling works best).

5. Window coverings: I would rather see old furniture in a room with new window coverings than the other way around. Old furniture can be dressed up with decorative pillows, a throw, slipcover.

There’s no getting around outdated or worn window coverings – they take away the lustre of other re-design efforts in a space quickly!

In my client's master bedroom above, I added shimmer to chocolate drapes by hanging glimmering charcoal gray beads over the drapes.

{photo by Anna Beaudry}

I recommended my client prioritize the purchase of the above white dresser for their bedroom – using their existing antique teak unit would not support bringing the room up-to-date. It also supports the luxurious and inviting feel to the room sumptuously!

In terms of the remaining items “on the list” in a top-to-bottom re-design, I recommend choosing updated decor objects next if new furniture is not in the budget right away. This includes pillows, throws, area rugs and art.

Of course, the list can go on and on ... I remember my client saying to me about 2/3’s of the way through the process, “I just want to get this done”. But we would never buy three new necklaces and consider our wardrobe ‘done’ for the next 10 years ... and so it is with a well-designed home.

What’s next on your list?

It's Your Space, Your Place, Your Life:  want a great-looking space that embibes the feel you'll love living in?  Contact Liz to help make it happen!




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