DIY advice from Houzz: How to start a home renovation project

By KentOnline reporter

Full article first published on Houzz

Eva Byrne, Houzz contributor

Doing work to your home can be a daunting prospect. Your mind may be reeling with ideas. You may be bamboozled with advice from family and friends. You may be grappling with big questions, such as: should we stay or should we move? Should we extend or simply tweak the space we already have?

The biggest obstacle can often be simply knowing where to begin. If this is the case, it’s time to step back, gather your thoughts and apply a little objectivity to the process. Whether you’re planning a whole-house makeover or a fundamental reorganisation, here are some ideas for how to go about creating a home that meets your needs in the best possible way.

Photo by Ambient Architecture
Photo by Ambient Architecture

Plan a methodical makeover

Where major work isn’t required but the whole house needs a facelift, work systematically through each room to establish the extent of the work and outlay required. Start in the hall – it typically needs more thought than you might imagine – and work logically from there.

Think methodically about each room in terms of floor, walls, ceiling, lighting and furnishings. Prepare a list both of items to be purchased and building or decorative work to be done. You’re aiming to create a priced inventory of all the work to be done and items to be bought.

You may find it useful to create a shopping list – with relevant dimensions – on your phone for handy reference on the go.

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Photo by DMVF Architects
Photo by DMVF Architects

Start with issues, not solutions

If significant alterations or even an extension are envisaged, take time at the outset to reflect on what’s propelling you to undertake the work in the first place.

Think specifically of what your issues are in terms of space, light and storage. Exploiting each of these elements to their fullest is key to achieving a home that fits your needs like a glove. Whatever your space and budget, there’s an optimal solution for each part of this home-design trinity.

Bear in mind also the present and future life stages of the household – from toddlers to schoolchildren to young adults – and how your home will need to respond to each.

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Photo by Black Fox Interiors
Photo by Black Fox Interiors

Compare what you have with what you want

Where your issues relate to use of space, start by preparing an inventory of the rooms you have now and how they’re used. Next, itemise the spaces you’d like to have and the uses you need to accommodate. Imagine you’re writing the brief for your ideal home.

Comparing both these lists should identify any ‘gaps’ that need to be filled. The challenge then is to see if your existing home can be rethought to meet these needs.

For example, can the extra living room you’d like be accommodated in a first-floor room? Or in a loft? Can the guest bedroom double as a home office? Be broad in your thinking to achieve best use of your resources, both spatial and financial.

Photo by Brian O'Tuama Architects
Photo by Brian O'Tuama Architects

Maximise your existing space

If you feel you need more space, first check that the rooms you already have are working sufficiently hard before reaching to extend.

Perhaps you even have an unused room. Could it be reinvented and put to work in a different way? Is it actually a ‘problem’ room (see below) with issues of light, warmth or arrangement that need to be solved before it can be put to any use?

Could the dividing walls between the rooms at the back of your house be removed to create that coveted kitchen/dining/family room?

If you do decide to extend, make sure the existing house and extension flow and that, between both areas, your needs in terms of space and storage are fully met.

Photo by Dorman Architects
Photo by Dorman Architects

Boost natural light

If light is your main concern, a light-filled extension might seem a tempting vision. But bear in mind that such an extension may reduce light in your existing spaces.

Large windows to even the tiniest of external spaces can transform the light levels in any room. So too can roof lights, always a powerful source of light.

Where space and planning controls permit, a garden room, like the one in this photo, can expand your space without impinging on the quality of light in the main house. Depending on the orientation of your home, the garden room may even enjoy better sunlight than the main rooms.

Photo by Charlie Kingham, London
Photo by Charlie Kingham, London

Manage your storage

Your aim throughout the house should be to achieve storage that’s both convenient and appropriate to what’s being stored.

You may despair of your existing storage, but before ripping it out and starting again, ask yourself: could it work harder?

In the kitchen, for example, rearranging the contents of existing drawers and adding additional cupboard shelves can free up valuable space. This thinking can be applied to wardrobes, linen cupboards and all other special storage areas around the house. Your main outlay here will be time, not money.

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Photo by Domus Nova
Photo by Domus Nova

Turn a ‘problem room’ into a successful one

If there’s a room in your home that’s shunned and avoided, you may well have a ‘problem room’.

However, there’s always a reason why a room’s not used. It may, for example, be physically or acoustically cold, uninviting in its furniture arrangement or just dark and gloomy.

Set about finding out what it is that doesn’t work in your problem room, explore possible solutions and get costings for the work involved. Could you take down a wall, as in this inviting, open-plan space? Even moving a door or a radiator can transform a room – and for a fraction of the cost of an extension.

Photo by
Photo by

Seek professional advice

There’s no end of advice available when undertaking work on your home. Everyone around you will have an opinion and you’ll find a huge volume of inspiration from a variety of sources.

The downside is that, amid all this, you risk becoming addled and even paralysed, unable to figure out what it is you need to do and how to do it.

If you do find you’re out of your depth, seek expert, paid guidance. A good professional will advise you on how best to spend the money you have and help you to avoid costly mistakes. The earlier you involve a professional in your project – even if it’s just for a one-off consultation – the better.

Find local professionals that can help with your project

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