Published: 10:00, 26 December 2017
Cheryl Freedman, Houzz contributor
Living through major building works isn’t easy. Even if you’ve planned every last detail, the reality of having builders and decorators in your home for months on end can drive anyone slightly mad.
Here, then, are the unofficial side effects of going through a renovation project – and some tips on how to come out the other side with your sanity, relationships and bank balance intact.
Side effect 1: Extending your ‘vision’
You started off simply updating your kitchen. Then as the project took form, you decided you’d like to tackle your dining area as well. And your downstairs cloakroom. And your hall. The problem with improving one part of your home is that it swiftly throws into light how ‘shabby’ the rest of your place looks in comparison. If you already have a competent team of builders, painters and carpenters across your threshold, it’s all too tempting to retain them for a few more weeks.
But (and there are many buts), extending your vision means you’ll inevitably require a bigger (possibly much bigger) budget. Falling prey to this common side effect also means your original schedule will need to be completely redrawn. Ultimately, it will leave you with no privacy for months on end and, in the worst-case scenario, in serious financial dire straits.
The cure: Like painting the Forth Bridge, doing up your home is an endless task. It is unlikely that all parts of your house will look freshly decorated and stylish at the same time.
Take a long hard look at your bank account. Do you like eating? Being able to turn on your central heating? Unless you are blessed with bottomless funds, then it’s a good idea to not get too carried away. As we all know, budgets have a habit of spiralling – and as your vision ‘extends’ this is only going to get worse.
All that said, extending your vision a little isn’t necessarily always a bad thing. It can be cheaper this way, as doing multiple jobs in one go is usually more cost effective than bringing a team in for lots of smaller, separate jobs at different times. The trick is to plan and keep things in perspective. Will the extra cost and time be worth it? Is the extra work a necessity or a luxury? And are you simply getting carried away? Only you can say.
Side effect 2: Obsessing over other people’s houses
While it’s great to find inspiration in a friend’s gorgeous home, it can also cause stress and panic, especially half way through a project when you wonder if you have got it all wrong and everyone else has got it right.
Symptoms of ‘obsessive interiors disorder’ include interrupting your friend while they share a personal problem with you to quiz them about where they got their worktop from, and which Farrow & Ball shade they used on their cabinets. Or going out to dinner with your other half and spending the whole evening analysing the light fittings and dining chairs in the restaurant.
The cure: If your works are yet to begin, obsessing over other people’s houses is not in itself a bad thing, as it will help ensure you’ve thought through your design choices properly, and are happy with your decisions.
If your project has started, however, remind yourself that there are infinite numbers of ways to decorate and furnish any room. The key is to put together an ideabook of images you love on Houzz before you begin your project. By doing your research, you should be able to get a clear vision of your own style that you can stick to throughout. Have confidence in your own tastes and decisions, and try not to get sidetracked by someone else’s vision.
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Side effect 3: Changing your mind
This generally involves waking in the middle of the night to realise the black rectangular tiles you’ve already spent a fortune on should be geometric. Or pink. Or deciding that you hate your paint colour choice after the first two coats. Or that the layout of your new extension is all wrong, or that the new windows are too small, or that the freshly laid flooring is, actually, now you can see it, the wrong material and colour, or that you wish you’d gone for a different worktop than the one that was fitted yesterday…
The cure: Changing your mind isn’t a problem if you do it early in the day. In fact, it may actually be a good thing – better to do so swiftly and decisively rather than live with regrets later. However, changing your mind too far through major renovations is inevitably going to cost you money, time and possibly your sanity.
The best prevention is to research well before you start. This means materials, stockists, colours, products – and dimensions, don’t ever forget dimensions. If you can, visit showrooms and check out taps, sofas, carpets, everything, in real life. Call in plenty of paint testers and samples, and read reviews, scour product descriptions carefully, or speak to someone on the phone or email.
Brief your contractors carefully and clearly, and double-check details – there’s nothing worse than getting home after a hard day’s work and discovering the tiles have been laid in the wrong formation or in the wrong place, or that you didn’t check the box when they came and actually they’re just not the right tiles.
If you’re indecisive by nature, and therefore prone to changing your mind, build this into your choices and budget. For example, opt for a neutral backdrop and change accessories regularly.
Side effect 4: Wishing you’d checked into an Airbnb
Staying in your house during building works can be challenging. There’s the dust, the noise and the possible lack of water/heating/electricity/civilised toilet or cooking facilities. Your privacy will no doubt suffer, as builders, electricians and plumbers turn up early for months on end, using your toilet and hovering in your kitchen, while you hustle your kids out of bed and out the door. This can be particularly unbearable if you’re not a morning person.
However, for many of us, living in our homes during building works is necessary. Some may feel able to spend money on a private rental elsewhere, or have generous-hearted family or friends with multiple spare rooms, but most of us do not.
In the first days or weeks, you may feel gung ho, but after a while your bright-eyed initial optimism will start to fade. You’ll have daydreams about packing your suitcase and escaping to the local B&B, or even your in-laws’ home. And, let’s face it, things nearly always take longer than they’re supposed to.
The cure: Remember, all things will pass. A recent study showed that projecting yourself into the future can help you better manage present stress, so visualise that lovely new loft room or rear extension, the light filtering in through the skylight. Or maybe climbing into your new freestanding bath or rustling up a nice dinner on your new range cooker.
Funds allowing, it may also be a sensible idea to book your household into a rental property or cheap hotel for the very worst periods of the works, such as when walls are coming down or ceilings are being lowered. There are often a few days when the dust and mayhem is at its peak, so try and coordinate with your building team. See if you can coincide with a trip away to the seaside or a city break and (hopefully) return feeling revitalised.
Decluttering and organising before your renovation can really help. Here’s how
Side effect 5: Digestive havoc induced by too many takeaways
Has your recommended five-a-day of fruit and vegetables dwindled to one every other day? Do you consider toast to be a balanced meal? If your kitchen is out of action due to building works, then weeks on end of ready meals, greasy takeaways and salty or sugary snacks can take its toll on your complexion, energy levels and general sense of wellbeing.
The cure: Short of shamelessly hustling for invites to dinner, and spending far too much money eating out in restaurants, there are other ways to make it through renovations without a healthy diet going completely to pot.
One smart solution is to plan a temporary kitchen before works begin, including mini countertop stove, mini fridge, paper plates and napkins. A microwave is a must, and don’t assume all microwave food has to be unhealthy: porridge, steamed vegetables and baked potatoes all do fine.
If you can, consider ‘reversing’ your daily eating plan – treat yourself to a healthy, cooked take-out lunch at work, then a sandwich with a tin of soup at the end of the day won’t feel quite so miserable.
Try to enjoy the liberation from the usual tyranny of doing the dirty dishes and stacking the dishwasher. Because living with renovations is sort of like camping, and camping is usually fun. Isn’t it…?
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