Construction is overwhelming – it is expensive and requires many decisions to be made under the pressure of time and often with minimal information. If you can, hire someone to guide you through the process – it is worth the investment. If that is not possible then the following key pieces of advice will help ensure that your project finishes on time and budget and your new space looks and feels like you imagined it could.
1. Do your research – when hiring a contractor or designer, ask around for recommendations and then ask for pictures of completed work. Word of mouth is the most valuable tool for finding out the business behind the business.
2. Before construction commences create a budget including a 10% contingency for unforeseens…and stick to it! Before we start designing a project, we create a spreadsheet including every item required and put a value next to it. Once the bottom line is agreed on, the design work can begin.
3. When deciding on a style use the internet to its fullest but don’t get lost in design cyberspace. Pinterest and Houzz are great tools for getting ideas but can create design havoc so that you end up with a mish mash of styles. Pick images you love and share them with your designer so together you can pinpoint your design aesthetic.
4. Lighting is key – LEDs are the most energy efficient fixtures available and they range in temperature according to Kelvin (K). Usually 4000-5000K fixtures are too harsh for most residential settings. 3000k is quite common but I prefer a 2800K light which gives off a warm and comfortable light that is bright enough to see easily but does not burn out retinas!
5. Updated kitchens and bathrooms are key to increasing a home’s value, but they are also the most expensive to renovate. For this reason, I often recommend a white shaker cabinet for kitchens. The white shaker cabinet is like a great pair of jeans – timeless and versatile. They are easily personalized with the accessories – hardware, countertop and backsplash. Add a graphic concrete tile floor or backsplash and black drawer pulls and you have a trendy vintage industrial feel. Go with polished nickel knobs, marble countertops and walnut wood flooring and the space immediately feels sophisticated. And, if in 6 or 7 years your tastes change, swapping out the backsplash and cabinet hardware will update your space without breaking the bank.
6. When picking wall paint the sheen is as important as the color. Unless you want to feel like you are living inside an igloo then semi-gloss paint should only be used on woodwork. A matt wall paint hides the imperfections and creates a luxurious finish.
7. Shop local – Going to the US and filling a container is a false economy. You end up with either extra or are short of items and often things you thought looked great after 8 hours of binge shopping in Home Depot are a disappointment when you see them in daylight. So save your trips for holidays. Today many local retailers travel far and wide to find interesting materials at reasonable pricing. Also, don’t underestimate the value of a local retailer’s warranty. When something goes wrong you will be lucky to get a call back from one of the big box retailers, let alone a replacement shipped to you free of charge.
8. Size matters – If you do find something online that you can’t live without make sure you check the dimensions before you order. If not, then chances are you could easily end up with a light fixture sized for City Hall or hardware for a doll house.
9. Expect the unexpected – Living on an island means importing becomes a major part of your renovation process. Shipping is not easy to manage – delays and damage will happen. However, if this does occur and if you have armed yourself with a great team they will bear the brunt of the frustration over getting a replacement to site asap. If you take that on yourself prepare to pay extra and have to deal with
10. Finally, have patience – home wasn’t built in a day! There is a process and an order to the way construction should be done. While your team should do their best to accommodate the mishaps that occur (see 9. above), they are not miracle workers. Most importantly, try and remember that a renovation/construction project is an opportunity to take an exciting and creative journey. If you pick the right team to guide you, the experience can be a good one!