New Perspectives: Top tips on home renovation

New Perspectives: Top tips on home renovation

Here’s what you need to know before you start your home renovation…

Main image: Steve Cox (c) Matt Clayton Photography

Whether you’ve just bought a new property with a renovation in mind or need to make changes to your much-loved family home, it’s difficult to know where to start. Who can help you in your mission, what will it cost, and how long will it take? How can your renovation be sustainable, legal, and work for you now and in the future?

If you have just moved into the property, it is usually advisable to live in the house before making any changes to see what works for you and what doesn’t. You can see how the light moves around the house through the day, and how you use the spaces.

Make it all about you. Says Anaïs Bléhaut, director of architectural practice daab design: “Connect to your soul and true desires when designing your home. Your home is your earth vessel, your safe place, you will feel truly home if it reflects who you are, not a trend or a glossy image.

“Think outside the box and be open to new things, sometimes we replicate the way we have been living without realising an opportunity that could really make a happy difference.”

Left to right: Hodgkinson Design; daab design © Henry Woide; Sophie Bates Architects, Flaherty Builders Ltd © Simon Kennedy

Before you start, make a list of must-haves and a wish list that can start to form the basis of your brief. While the obvious route is an extension, it may not always be necessary. Says Sophie Bates, from Sophie Bates Architects: “Bigger isn’t always better but it is more expensive. By carefully remodelling existing spaces you can often maximise the usable space and have the budget to then invest in improving the comfort of your home through the likes of insulation and upgrading existing windows.”

Adds architect Andrew Hodgkinson: “Work out what your priorities are and whether your budget will allow for that ambition. Don’t do things cheaply, it a false economy: quality counts.”

Start to assemble your dream team. This depends on the work you would like to do but may include an architect and interior designer as well as a builder. Price will obviously be a major factor in who you choose, but also weigh up their availability – some are worth waiting for. Check their previous projects and references, and membership of trade bodies.

Crucially, do you get on with them as you will be working with this team for months. Says Sean Flaherty of Flaherty Builders: “Our advice to anyone considering undertaking a building project, large or small is, to choose your partners carefully – gut instinct is often right, so make sure that your builder/architect is someone you trust and can work with.”


Architect Steve Cox advises: “Try to find a few designers/architects you like and who work in your area. Talk to them and choose the one you think fits best with you and your project. Once you’ve found that person, try to work with them to do something creative and unique.”

Be realistic about your budget – and build in a 15 to 20% contingency. Don’t forget to factor in VAT. And plan early and thoroughly. Sophie advises: “Allow enough time to explore ideas with your architect or interior designer before you submit for planning permission.”

Consider all the small details, from radiator and socket positioning to flooring and tiling – you’ll be surprised by how many decisions you need to make at the initial stages. Adds Sean: “Think ahead – as a build progresses it becomes more and more difficult – and expensive – to change your mind!”

Think from the outset how sustainable the build will be. Anaïs adds: “Reusing and recycling can be fun, and ask your team to consider carefully demolition and waste. Be responsible with carbon emissions; be involved and educated on how to minimise the impact.”

Have a plan to make your home more eco friendly. Now is the time to do it, or at least future-proof your home so you can make improvements later down the line. Notes Sophie: “If for example you need to lift floor boards to run new cables or pipes, use this opportunity to insulate the floor. If you need to repair your roof, use the opportunity to install solar panels.”

In can be a long process from initial plans to the big reveal but keep the end goal in sight. Steve says: “Keep your eyes on the prize! Don’t forget that while keeping on budget, on schedule, on trend, on the right side of your neighbours and building regulations and many other factors beside… that your real objective is to create something beautiful. If you get everything else right but forget the last one, you’ll be disappointed.”