DIY design and decoration is a catchphrase of our day. In reality it’s all about gaining new skills and learning about being bankable; you can make some pretty expensive mistakes without reading, researching or thinking about what you are doing before you start.
Better to settle for a smaller ‘jewel box’ initially and plan to develop its good bones, and then slowly fill it with the jewels you gather to reflect your spirit. Such an interior will provide you with a great deal of satisfaction and pleasure for you and your friends and family, as they gain an interesting insight into your journey in life.
Do not end up with a grand mansion where you have to do all the cleaning and maintenance yourself and not have time to enjoy life.
You also need to be able to pay off your mortgage before retirement, so take care about how you go along. Upsizing and downsizing always hits your pocketbook, there is no one size that fits all.
Who wants to live or work in a space that makes you suffer? Any room that looks like a million dollars will be worth nothing at all to you in the long term if it is not comfortable.
A budget is essential, one based in reality. And please, check out what tools of the trade you need prior to making your plan. They have to be paid for, and while they may last years, there’s also an initial cost to be added to the equation.
Think also about your own time factor in terms of your profession; ask yourself.
Would you earn more money by working extra hours yourself than you will save? If so, doing it yourself may not be the answer and you should hire a designer like Thomas Hamel in Australia, who will help you to develop your style.
Then there is maintenance, I know not fashionable… but there it is, it always remains an issue. Using expansive areas of glass means that it has to be kept clean, which can be costly if you haven’t the time to manage it yourself.
Also when using glass, only use it where the aspect doesn’t mean you will bake, unless you add blinds – it may not be worth it either.
In DIY the main consideration to remember is that nothing ever goes according to plan!
Adding a contingency is essential; when I was decorating professionally I suggested to the client we add 15% to the total cost and put it aside in case we needed it.
If everything went well, then you only have money left over for a holiday, the one you may find you need whether you DIY or not!
There are no rules that say what rooms should be used for.
Remember layout is the key to purchasing a home in the first place, one that will give you the bones and flexibility you want to suit your own lifestyle.
There are also jobs you will need professional help for so be realistic; roofers, plumbers and electricians should be factored in. You don’t need to fall, fry yourself or flood the house.
It can be very costly and I don’t mean just money. I knew someone who broke both heels falling off a roof renovating, and never walked without pain again. So make sure all your insurances are in place.
Also don’t forget the costs of hiring a skip for the rubbish and its removal. You may need a few of these while the job proceeds, and costs can mount up.
Think beyond what the rooms you are looking at during an inspection are being used for at the present, and then develop a house floor plan layout that will suit your own individual lifestyle choices.
Assess the potential of any room before you start planning a decorative scheme – size, proportion, natural light, special features and, most especially what you can see outside the room.
Colour accents in the garden that continue your theme inside will extend it, allowing it to be integral to nature.
For heritage houses architectural details like picture rails, cornices, skirtings, windows and doors form the framework of the room and are elements of the original design intent.
Removing them is not always wise. If they can be retained and restored where possible, they will provide a solid foundation of detail to build on as they create interest, a sense of order and balance.
There are plenty of historical cottages such as early work cottages that have great eye appeal on the exterior but have hopeless layouts.
For these it is best to retain the external integrity of the architecture but then re-arrange the interior layout for a contemporary lifestyle.
Homes or apartments need to be kept clean their lines straight with wide expanses of glass and open tread staircases all of which are entirely in keeping with their design intent.
A room with a view needs other small focal points of interest but the major view will generally always insist on you’re facing it. A room without a view is a canvas to be painted upon.
In Australia in the north of our country where it is sunny and hot for much of the year, heritage houses are often raised with additional rooms beneath the house.
These are often darker and best used for nighttime occupation such as bedrooms, media room, or a home office where you want peace and quiet.
Upstairs well-lit areas are more useful for daily living, having visitors, dining and family gatherings. If they are unique or have documented historical interest they should retain their architectural integrity inside and out.
Today’s choices in colours and surface finishes are very exciting.
Colour your world by all means, but if you keep your surfaces in a neutral palette and then by simply changing colours on accessories every few years you will gain a whole new feel and excitement to an existing room and its furnishings.
There is so much written about colour that it is beyond this document. Colour creates atmosphere.
Bright colours that are sunny and happy are good in rooms where the family gathers because it helps to stimulate conversation.
In offices bright colours can stimulate the staff to achieve better results provided they are not too strident.
Restful muted colours are good for areas where you want contemplation and concentration, however even in those areas one bright wall will often inspire, especially if the occupant is creative.
The best atmosphere for creative people is in an area where they can see the outside and also have access to it, for example through doors onto patios and balconies with a view.
Floors and Ceilings are the two largest surfaces in any room. You can increase or reduce their height visually with colour. You can also add interest in a house with bland features by using texture.
There are many types of wallpaper around now that are just plain and ready to take paint so you can have pattern and texture with the colour you want.
You can also apply fabric to pad and accent walls – it is both softening and warm.
Neutral palettes are the norm…but if the ceiling is high and the room has lost architectural details such as a picture rail you cannot hope to restore perhaps rag it with a dark colour of the same tone brought down randomly onto the wall.
Then merge it into the complimenting plain coloured wall paint, for which you can adjust the balance and add interest.
For furniture the choice is amazing and rules are meant to be broken.
For instance, you can put a very large piece of furniture like a wonderful bookcase into a small room if it serves a purpose.
Then you can create interest and balance its height and proportion with a feature wall of art and objects.
Select antique pieces can also provide a focus, working well with slimline streamlined interiors filled with contemporary furniture.
It’s all about the choice and style.
Protecting room furnishings with UV finishes to the glass areas of your room is a must. These can also be supplied tinted very subtly to reduce glare off water or bright surfaces.
Venetians, louvre shutters or plantation shutters are a wonderful choice for tropical and sub tropical climates because they allow for adjusting the breezes and the sun.
Upholstering your lounge in one fabric and having a second pair of loose covers made to go over that gives change without too much effort.
One set of covers can be designed for a ‘winter’ look, the other for ‘summer’. You just have to find a date of the year that suits where you live and make the change of season to suit your self.
In small areas laying tiles diagonally without a border so they disappear under a wall inside or neighbour’s fence outside, creates space.
It is good to have light coloured tiles treated to resist ingrained dirt in high traffic areas.
If you can flow tiles from the outside to the inside with unbroken lines it does provide a wonderful transition and sense of order and calm.
What a contentious issue storage has become, and now and again you will find you must cull your possessions and pass them along. It is integral to a happy life.
Basically well thought out storage in hallways kitchens-bathrooms-bedrooms should be able to accommodate most household requirements.
Wardrobes in bedrooms should always be ventilated if you want your clothes to always be appealing to put on.
A box room [similar to the use of the old attic in the roof] that takes suitcases, bikes, Christmas decorations, sporting equipment seems to be one of the great luxuries of our time…one that most people would like to make an essential.
Similarly a walk in pantry in a kitchen that can hold all the equipment required for home entertainment purposes.
If you are to juxtaposition works of art on your wall, eye level – looking in at the middle of the work is preferable, although you can layer them on one feature wall like a mini gallery.
Most people, especially men love symmetry, so it’s always important for a man’s office to arrange what he is looking at in an orderly fashion on the walls, whereas behind him you can make an asymmetrical arrangement.
This would suggest to the onlooker that while he likes and prefers order, he is also ‘flexible’, very important in his work environment.
Less is definitely more, so when in doubt don’t.
However, if you can’t help yourself, develop the ‘eclectic’ look, one that suits your passionate pursuit for purchases.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016
All Interior images courtesy Thomas Hamel, Sydney