"I find there's lots of places to get lost," says Toronto-based interior designer Jill Greaves.
"It is a fairly complex process and there's lots of decisions to be made as the homeowner."
Greaves has specialized in interior design for about 15 years. At the recent Interior Design Show in Toronto, she led a seminar on ways to draw maximum benefit from home renovation projects.
She has five things she wants you to think about before breaking out the tools — or cracking open your wallet.
1. Determine Goals And Inspirations. "If you want a new bedroom for a new baby or if you want your house to be more Zen, those are your goals and inspirations, and that should guide you through the process," says Greaves.
"You won't be happy with what you get unless you have some expectation for it and achieve that."
2. Space Planning. Whether it's a new build or a fixer-upper, Greaves says it's important to take note of the prominent features that distinguish your property.
"If you're looking at re-doing your living room, do you have beautiful light that comes in? Do you have a nice view of your backyard? Is the house already in a good location? Or are you trying to maximize the potential of the house?" she asks.
"Looking at your assets and determining how you can best use those .... that's part of the space-planning process."
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"If you have a certain budget in mind for your home and time, you need to communicate that to people you're working with," says Greaves.
Individuals with a small budget will likely be taking the DIY path and doing much of the work — and decision-making — on their own. But for those able to enlist a consultant, Greaves says clients should clearly communicate that the task needs to be completed within the timelines and budget agreed upon — and that there's no stretching beyond the margins.
However, if homeowners do decide to make a colour change or some other form of alteration midway through, they should be prepared to see potential changes in the completion date — and the final pricetag.
"That rolls everything back a few steps, and it will cost you more to make decisions twice."
Greaves says having a wants vs. needs conversation early on can determine which items on the project list are realistic and which fall outside of the realm of possibility. That said, there may be a way to shift funds form one aspect of the project to another to help fulfil the items on the check list — and on budget, she notes.
4. Finishes. Now comes the fun part — choosing the finishing flourishes that will form the "after" part of your reno.
Individuals ready to rip out their carpet or revamp their existing flooring have several options. Considering the installation of wood flooring may rank among them.
"A pre-finished floor versus the older style of unfinished floor that gets finished on-site, the cost difference in labour alone in installing that and finishing it is significant," says Greaves.
An unfinished wood floor that's finished on-site will take several days for the finish to harden enough to walk on — and is still a bit fragile for a week, she notes.
"If it's pre-finished in the factory, you can install it. There's no smell ... install it and walk on it right away and get moving so you save a week almost of time.
"It's an important part of the process to understand those things because if you have a crew waiting to do other work for one week or you have other accommodations, that's a week worth of cost."
When it comes to tiles and hard finishes, Greaves says there are some "beautiful porcelains" that are much less expensive than natural stones.
"You'll get a different look out of it. It can be very stylish and very contemporary or timeless as well; but you'll pay less and it will be less maintenance."
5. Furniture. Costs can quickly mount if you replace your love seat, armchair and sofa all in one go.
When opting to invest in the largest pieces for your space, Greaves says it's best to consider selecting classic shapes and styles which will have more longevity.
"Accessories are where you can go trendy with colours, with patterns, with bold, changeable items.
"Keep the larger pieces, the more expensive upholstered pieces or some of your cabinetry a bit more classic unless you have the budget to change those big things all the time if you want to keep on the trends."
Fresh linens, toss cushions, European shams and a throw over the end of the bed are the kind of pieces that will instantly alter the appearance of the bedroom more easily — and less expensively — than a full room overhaul, she notes.
If you are going to splurge or invest on a big-ticket item, considering selecting something that can be the centrepiece within your space.
"You can walk into a room with a beautiful bathroom with a freestanding tub ...and it will be beautiful, a great focal point and the highlight of the room," says Greaves. "Focusing your money on those highlights, those accents ... is going to give you a lot of pleasure out of what you're getting done.
"Nobody sees the chairs when you're sitting down for dinner — but everybody sees the chandelier. It's a great place to have an accent piece."