If you’re like me (Carmen here), you probably start dreaming of your home renovation by flipping through the IKEA catalog, your favourite design magazines, or searching Pinterest.
And who could blame us? Beautiful finishes are what make a project exciting. And as someone who has spent an entire 4 years’ of reno savings just to have my plumbing continue to drain to the city’s sewer, I definitely recognize the disappointment of a purely functional project.
But the look you love is not actually the best place to start your renovation plan!
3 steps to take before thinking about style
1. Observe the pros and cons of what you have
Start by taking notes on what is working and what is not working in your space. Are there places that seem to generate a mess? What’s in the mess? Are you walking back and forth across your space to accomplish a task? Are you unable to store everything you need to store, or keep related items together?
One of the most amazing things Lenore ever did for me as a designer was to help me prepare my bedroom for my new baby. At the time we lived in a one bedroom apartment, and so there was no question that she’d be in our bedroom… which was consistently the messiest in the house. She told me to write down what the mess was made of for a week or two before investing in any thing. I did, and realized that all I needed was one more laundry basket and a bookshelf. Our room became tidy, as if by magic! (At least until the baby came…but that’s another story.)
2. Write down what you do, or plan to do, in your space
If it’s a kitchen, do you cook a lot or a little? Do you like to entertain in the kitchen, eat in the kitchen? If it’s a living room, do you have a hobby you’d like to do there? Is the space going to be multifunctional, or dedicated? How many people will be using it?
Thinking through these sorts of questions will help you know whether you are going to need layout changes. It’s useful to have a sense of must-haves and like-to-haves in this category, since structural changes are the most expensive, and the next stage is the dreaded budget.
3. The dreaded budget
There are ways to get more out of your budget, and we can get into details on those in a future post, but for now it’s important to have a handle on what you can realistically spend. There is almost no upper limit for what you can spend on a reno, and so before you start looking at Pinterest boards of New York lofts, Mediterranean castles, or whatever it is that makes you wish for unlimited resources, it’s good to know where the line is going to be.
Once you’ve decided on your budget, lop 15-25% off the top and set that aside as an “emergency” fund. Particularly if you are doing anything complicated, things crop up. So, your budget minus 20% (give or take) is what you need to keep in mind when you’re looking at finishes.
And now the fun stuff
The best part of taking this approach is that now you’re going to have a much firmer sense of what you’re looking for. You can focus on finding the things you need in the styles you love that fit in your budget.
Are you planning, or dreaming of, a reno project? Where are you starting? What steps are you struggling with? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll see if we can help!