10 Reno Rules That Designers Swear By
Planning to renovate this spring? Join the club! While it’s fun to plan ahead and fill up Pinterest boards, it’s a good time to seek sound advice, too. After all, whether you’re considering a major or minor revamp, time-tested guidelines can make any project easier. Read on for renovation tips from some of H&H‘s favorite designers to streamline your next home reno.
“Habits influence how you create an environment,” explains designer Lindsay Konior. Design your kitchen to suit how you honestly dine (some of us will never sit down at a traditional dinner table), and invest your decorating budget in the rooms you naturally gravitate to. Lindsay’s advice for owners of a new home? “Don’t rush into making final decisions — live in the space for a period of time.”
“Be sure you’re happy with your layout and finishes before work begins — and stick to them! It’s the best way to save time and money,” says Shirley Meisels (shown). “So much time can pass during a project, and you’ll find yourself second-guessing, which is almost always a bad thing,” Garrow Kedigian concurs. “When I redid my apartment, I made a list of 10 things that inspired me and didn’t veer from it.”
“I’ve learned that renovating is like baking a cake,” says Sloan Mauran. “You have to have the foundation right, and then the rest is the icing.” When the high-end designer took on the challenge of reviving this dated 1950s house, she tackled the floor plan first. It was only after she created a natural, airier flow between rooms that she turned her attention to layering in texture, pattern and shine.
“Light fixtures play a huge role in making a space work,” says Alexandre Blazys of design firm BlazysGérard. This is a conviction echoed by the majority of top designers, who advise homeowners to carefully consider their options when taking on a renovation. Plan for a mix of ceiling-mount, task and tabletop lighting — like this handsome Quebec kitchen — for a warm, well-balanced effect.
Jennifer Worts is a proponent of shopping for tile, flooring and fixtures well in advance. “Ask your contractor for a schedule, so you can have everything on site and ready to install when the time comes,” she says. “This way, you’ll have the time to wait for items that may get delayed by suppliers, instead of compromising — and possibly overspending — because you need a replacement quickly.”
If you’re lucky enough to have a historical home like a Victorian or mid-century beauty, avoid stripping it to the studs. Architect and designer Darcie Watson kept this in mind when she gave her own Edwardian home a contemporary revival. “I tried to make all the new features recede so the detail would come out in the old — the texture of the wood, the panelling, the rich colors of the stained glass.”
Balancing a reno budget after a big investment is important, but it doesn’t have to mean sacrificing style. When the owners of this Toronto kitchen decided to splurge on oversized metal patio doors, designer Trish Johnston smartly knew she needed to save money elsewhere, while still making an impact. “We ended up using slate flooring to save money, but laid it in a stylish herringbone pattern,” she says.
When faced with an empty, freshly painted space, avoid the temptation to furnish it in one fell swoop. “There are people who will buy inexpensive and disposable items to fill a space, but I like pieces that grow with you and can be handed down from generation to generation,” says Mazen El-Abdallah. Top designers agree: You won’t regret saving, and hunting, for well-made items that you truly love.
The mark of a professionally designed space is often in its unexpected details, so don’t neglect to budget for finishing elements. “I’m always conscious of adding special touches in a space,” says Samantha Farjo, who installed a showpiece fireplace and custom plaster detailing at one end of this Toronto kitchen. “This [overall] design was very simple, but the little touches really set it apart.”
“Ultimately, a room is like an outfit: If someone is trying too hard, it’s no longer stylish,” says Nam Dang-Mitchell. “If the symmetry is too perfect in a space, I want to go in there and shake it up a bit,” agrees Ashley Botten. The designer verdict is in: If your finished room feels fussy, matchy or overly formal, loosen things up! Mix in collectibles, mementoes and quirky art for a look that’s all your own.