Vellum Interiors | Full-service interior design & styling studio in Sydney • Residential • Design & Decoration


How to Prepare for a Renovation

Doing any works to your home can be daunting and overwhelming. While it’s not likely to be entirely problem-free, there are some things you can do to make that time enjoyable, and even fun! Making improvements to where you live is always an exciting time and I like to encourage my clients to enjoy the process as much as possible. It makes it all worth it at the end. 


Apart from enjoying yourself, here are my top 5 tips to prepare for a renovation. 


1. Know what you want

What is it that you want to achieve? You don’t need to have the answer for exactly what the end product will look like, but even things like — we want more storage in the bathroom, we want to fit a second car in the garage, or we want to improve the layout — are good places to start. Having a clear idea of what you want to achieve will help with all the other steps and decisions to be made along the way. 


2. Get inspired

This is the fun part. Gather inspiration from wherever you can — talk to friends and family, see what your neighbours have done, visit showrooms, buy magazines and browse the internet. Once you start paying attention to images of spaces you like, you’ll start noticing more and more of what you like and don’t like. It’s always a good idea to do this with your significant other (or at least make sure they're happy for you to make the decisions). 

The places I like to get inspiration from are:


3. Make a Wish list

Now that you have an idea of what you like in terms of style, it should be easier to put together a list of things you really need and want. Think about how you currently live in the space and if something really bothers you. For example, are you constantly in need of more bathroom storage? Do you have to climb up on your kitchen bench to get down the olive oil? Is the living room a thoroughfare? Include absolutely everything you need, then create a list of what you want, (i.e. the nice-to-have items). This will help you know what to prioritise, in preparation for the next step.


4. Know your budget

This isn't quite as fun as the first steps. Determining a budget depends on the scope of what you’re after (i.e that wish list from #3), and the level of quality and longevity you want. 


Think about how long you want to live in your place and if you'll want to renovate again in a few year’s time. If you want to be in your home for at least the next 10 years, most professionals will advise to spend the money doing it properly once so you’re not having to make minor repairs and updates in that time. I am an advocate of doing things once, and doing them right, but if you're in desperate need of something and don't have the budget, I'm all for doing a cheap and quick job now, then saving up for your "ideal" in the future. 


Also think about the current value of your house to avoid over-capitalising. If you are in your ‘forever home’ it's worth considering that you’re also investing in your family's lifestyle, more than in your financial assets.


If you’ve never renovated before and have no idea what it’s going to cost you, a good place to start is thinking what the absolute maximum is that you have to spend — is it $50 or $100K, or is it $1 million? What’s the number that makes you feel uncomfortable (or sick!)?


It’s safe to say that there’ll likely be some issues during your renovation. This is normal, especially in older houses because the trades won’t 100% know what they’re working with until they rip the guts up. Make sure to have a little stash of contingency budget to cover this.


5. Bring in the experts!

Once you’ve decided on your wish list and budget it’s time to bring in the professionals to get things into action. 


If you're planning on major structural works and increasing your home’s footprint, a good place to start is to engage an architect who'll be able to manage the process of any relevant approvals. 


Internal structural works can be generally managed by an architect, an interior architect or an interior design firm (like us!). If you’re also planning on updating elements like paint colours, furniture and furnishings it can be a good idea to have an architect and interior design team working together. 


If you already have trades you’d like to work with, that’s great, otherwise your designer or architect can engage trades on your behalf and also manage the process for you. For example, our studio works collaboratively with a set of trusted builders, architects, interior architects and landscape architects we can put you in touch with. Having your “experts” working together up-front can also save you having to repeat yourself to all of them.


6. Prepare  (bonus step!)

The last step requires patience and trust! Renovations can be a long process, especially when approvals are required, but it’s important to trust that you’re making an investment in your lifestyle and it’s going to take time to get right. 


Renovations generally take anywhere upwards of 4 weeks and depending on the size, you may even want to move out (which is almost always less stressful than hanging around while trades arrive at 7am each day.). 


The other thing to prepare for is things going not to plan! This is where that contingency budget can come in handy. If you’ve engaged professionals to manage the renovation on your behalf, they will come up with a solution for any issues that occur. The main advice I can give is it keep your head on, stay calm and know that when problems arise, your architect or designer will come up with a work-around. Promise!


This is such an exciting time, so enjoy the process of watching your dreams come to life! And if you’d like someone to manage your renovation process, we’d love you to get in touch

Alex Gourlay