Industry experts share their renovating tips

Are you starting a renovation? Want some insider tips? We asked industry experts to share their top tips with us when starting out on a renovation.

So, here at HomeNotes we firmly believe in empowering the homeowner to get the most out of their renovation. For us, it’s all about forward-planning and understanding the process so that you can make the best decisions for your particular project. Renovating doesn’t have to be overwhelming – or stressful! But we wanted to ask a range of architects and experts working in the residential sector to give us their top tip for homeowners who want to renovate. Read on to find out what they said! 
Project by Outpost | Photo credit French + Tye

Top tip No 1: Bring greater resilience to your home

Thomas Housden – Co-founder of Outpost, an award-winning design and architecture studio in London.

As a studio we believe there is a need to think more fundamentally about how we are living. We suggest the No.1 tip when considering a renovation is to bring greater resilience into your home to the wider changes taking place, and the environmental challenges we face today.

We advocate the value of a ‘Fabric First’ upgrade to your property. A fabric-first approach literally means building greater thermal efficiency into our architecture and interiors. Adding insulation appropriately, like putting on a woolly jumper over your home to keep warm. We recommend the use of natural fibre insulation materials such as timber, hemp, cork and straw. These materials do not cost the earth and are healthy low carbon alternatives to standard insulation products.

At the end of the day your renovation still wants to look and feel good, but it is equally important your renovation is comfortable and a healthy space to live in.

Top tip No 2: Design for your best life

Paul Clarke – Co-founder of Mr and Mrs Clarke, the discerningly different estate agency

Something you may not have thought about, yet we think about it daily, is the value added.

Of course your new space will add a fresh outlook on your home, but what about when you come to sell your home? It’s one of the biggest transactions people do, but don’t let this put you off imagining the ideal space for you. 

The important thing to remember is people love to see homes, not houses. We see buyers being inspired all over again when they step into a thoughtfully designed space – whether it’s a gorgeous sweeping staircase, or a full re-do of your family room, the stories and memories you’ll create will long live into the future. 

People buy a lifestyle as well as bricks and mortar. So design for your best life and it will show! 

Top tip No 3: Get to know your house first

Jacqueline Green – Co-founder of Green + Teggin, an architecture practice in SE London specialising in residential extensions and refurbishments for first time clients.

My No. 1 tip would be to live in the house for a while, if at all possible, to get to know it. There is a temptation to rush headlong into an extension and/or refurbishment project as soon as you have completed the purchase, and in some cases, even beforehand.

However, once you have lived in a property for a while you often start to appreciate elements that you might not, otherwise, have done.

Don’t try to impose your ingrained habits onto the existing spaces, allow the spaces to remould your habits instead. By being a little more sensitive to, and respectful of, the existing fabric of a building rather than coming along with a fixed idea of what you want, you will end up with a house that has much more character and charm, and for less money.

Top tip No 4: Start off with accurate information

Adam Draper – Founder of Draper Studio, an Architect specialising in homes – new builds, extensions and refurbishments with interiors for living in.

When working with an architect, drawings are necessary. Get an independent measured building survey done at the very start and thereafter, all the information that will follow will be based on the most accurate information about your property.

Having accurate information for your professional team to work with will add greater certainty to your build outcomes and save cost and time overall. Measured building surveys are typically issued as PDFs and CAD data files for use with specialist drawing software.


Top tip No 5: Always work to a 1-2 rule

Angela Tranter – Co-founder of E12 Property, a property development and interior design company.

My No.1 Tip when advising friends, family or clients is always, work to a 1-2 rule. For every £1 you spend on your home renovations aim to add £2 in value (this is the basic premise, of course there can be flex a few percentage points either way).

Our homes are our havens, but they also tend to be our largest asset. Research how much value your renovations will add to your home by looking at houses which sold the most recently which had the level of work done to them before being listed.  A good place for this kind of information is, then work backwards from there. 

The above sounds like it should be common sense, right? Well, yes but from personal experience and client experience, it is easy to get involved in the whirlwind. Always take stock of your decisions. Take a step back and reflect. Ask a thousand questions if you need to. When you are comfortable and feel ready, go for it !

Top tip No 6: Spend time developing your brief

Kate Clare – Founder of Loud Architects, a creative architecture and interior design studio specialising in large country houses to compact London corners.

Our No.1 tip would be to spend time, in the beginning, developing your brief with your architect. This should include, what, where, how and importantly why you are doing the project! This document is the springboard to good design, rushing it too quickly could mean key elements are missed out resulting in frustrations all round. The brief is a document which can be referred back to through all stages of design. 

Once you have your brief you will need the budget to go with it. The budget and brief work together to create the overall master plan of the project. We use a quantity surveyor at every stage of the project from schematic sketches through to detailed tender submissions to assist the client’s understanding of budgets. We are a fan of spreadsheets which clients can access to keep a grasp on the design but importantly the budget. 

Have a great brief, formalise your budget – and go for it!


Top tip No 7: Design from the inside out

Audrey Whelan – An interior designer specialising in helping people to confidently make all the design decisions they are faced with when improving their home.

My No. 1 tip when starting a renovation is to ‘design from the inside out’.

Think about what you would like to put in the space – even down to what sort of freestanding furniture. For example have you always dreamed of a large L-shape sofa, or a long kitchen island with plenty of bar stools? 

That way, if you have scope to reconfigure any of the internal layout, or if you are planning to add an extension, you can make sure you are allocating the right size and shape of space to each area of the home. This approach also helps when you are finalising door and window locations, lighting points and radiator positions in your home.

Creating a vision for your completed home and your interiors before you even begin the building work can also help with the decision making around materials and finishes. Otherwise, choosing flooring, tiles, kitchen unit style and colour and worktops etc can often feel like a bit of a gamble without having a masterplan worked out.

Top tip No 8: Do what makes your life better

Ellie Rees and Rex Siney Founders of Brickworks, an intelligent and ethical approach to estate agency.

As owners of an estate agency that focuses on the art of home-making, we get asked questions about this all the time. So, when Homes Notes asked us for our No. 1 renovation tip, we already knew the answer: do what makes your life better. Be it more comfortable, convenient, or simply more beautiful.

This mindset is the opposite of figuring out what might be the savvy thing to do from a financial (or investment) perspective. Trying to second guess these things is notoriously tricky and often unwise because it’s a bit like predicting the future. And, actually, if you think it’s the right thing for you/your family, chances are someone else out there will feel the same.

This advice can be applied to almost any home improvement. Do you need another bedroom because you’d like a better place to put up your Mum when she stays? Then do it. But don’t do it because you want to add value per se. Are you a budding cook that yearns for a swoon-worthy backdrop to entertain your friends? Then do the side return extension you’ve been dreaming about, but don’t presume to see your money back. You might, of course, but that would be a happy coincidence.

If recent times have taught us anything, it’s that life is short and can be fleeting, so make your home the place that fits your life. Live within your budget; don’t stretch yourself and spend more than you can comfortably afford, but shape your home as you want it to be –– for you and the people you love.

Chesterfield Grove | Property available on Brickworks

We have created a FREE Renovation Budget Guide that unpacks all the figures of a project – from building costs and professional fees to those extra expenses that no-one tells you about. This will put your construction budget in the context of the whole project’s costs and make sure you’re considering all those added extras from the outset.

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