Home Makeover 101: Stare Down That Renovation Monster

Private Property South Africa
Antoinette McDonald

So you’ve purchased the pozzie of your dreams – but that 70’s kitchen and those puke green tiles in the bathroom are making you wish you hadn’t. Now you need to renovate but that’s going to cost a fortune, right? And you don’t have a clue what you really want. Then when you do start shopping for ideas, you realise that tiling the bathroom and buying a flat screen TV cost the same. Duh! It’s a no brainer. Flat screen all the way. Just kidding – a few changes to your living environment can make the world of difference and increase the value of your home. So, take the plunge but work smart. It doesn’t have to cost you your Christmas bonus for the next 15 years. We chatted with the pros (some of SA’s hottest interior designers and decorators) and got the scoop on this whole renovating thing. We asked them to flood us with the handiest tips for home owners renovating for the first time. From office spaces to small apartments – to the mansions in Sandhurst and Camps Bay – this crew does it all. Here’s what they had to say… Craig Stocker and Toni-Anne Van der Meulen run Storm Projects which is a turnkey company that focuses on the entire project from empty shell to handover for business or occupation. They’ve been in the industry for 25 years. Some of their latest work includes renovating the offices of DeVere and Partners near Sandton City, Honey Fashion Accessories head office in Meadowdale and Primedia in Sandton. Craig spends 80% of his working day on site to ensure that the finished product is as close to 100% as possible. “Unless a job is done properly, it’s not worth doing,” he says. Craig’s advice is to always ensure the best possible workmanship. Even if it means cutting back on the quality of the finishes. “I’ve seen numerous jobs where bespoke finishes have been trashed by bad workmanship. The Storm Projects team rank budget as the most critical factor when renovating. “Define your budget and make all your decisions from there. Too many people get carried away with the very, many options that are out there – then they make hasty decisions and this results in budgets that run over by 20-30%.” Craig also warns home owners about overcapitalisation. “Be wise. If you spend too much, you risk not making your money back when you sell.”

Storm Projects : Before

Storm Projcts: After

Onto the nitty-gritty. Craig listed his top tips for virgin renovators.

  • Get written quotes from contractors and make sure you’ve sussed out their workmanship.

  • Don’t shy away from cheaper finishes – just use them more creatively. For example, use a cheaper tile but lay it on the diagonal and insert a timber in-lay.

  • When it comes to specialist rooms like kitchens & bathrooms, concentrate on functionality and design above fittings and modcons.

  • Screed floors are not a cheaper option. Sure, they’re fantastic but they should only be done by a reputed person who will give you a guarantee. WARNING: Do not try this at home.

  • Wall papers are fashionable and relatively inexpensive. Don’t try hide cracks and bad plaster with wall paper. It won’t work.

  • Mirrors are the bomb. They’re a cost-effective way to create a luxurious finish. And they disperse light. Use them.

  • White paint can make a room look bigger but dark colors create depth and are much better backdrops for pictures and artwork.

  • If walls are not well finished, use a matt paint rather than paint with sheen.

  • If you have a dark area in the house (like a passage with no windows) – try a domed sky light. It’s effective and inexpensive.

According to Craig and Toni, the latest trends are eco-friendly finishes (natural materials like cane, wicker and bamboo), mixed textures (smooth floor tiles with woven rugs), wall papers, bold accent colors, and patterns (fabric, wall coatings, ceramics and rugs). Julie Soalheiro runs the beautiful Cabelo interiors store in the uber-funky Parktown North. “I love working closely with clients to realize their lifestyles and requirements so their home is a reflection of themselves and their lifestyle.” Her advice is that you should live in a space and get a feel for it before renovating. She also believes that hiring a professional to advise you is key. “It saves you money in the long run. This person should pick up on a whole host of things that you never thought of like, the placing of plug points and sufficient plug points. An interior designer will also work with your plans and plot furniture for you so you don’t end up with couches or tables that don’t fit the space.” Julie says she’s a fan of open plan. “If you’re working with a small place, break down walls and open up the kitchen, dining room and lounge area. Everyone always lands up congregating in the kitchen anyway.” Flooring is important too. “It’s the largest surface area and you want to make the right choice – so look at your lifestyle. Who lives in the space and what style you want to convey there?” Like Craig, she believes that renovating specialist rooms like bathrooms & ktichens add tremendous value to a home. “You can renovate these spaces at a reasonable cost but don’t skimp too much. It’s best to buy top quality taps, for example, and make sure they’re manufactured locally in case you need parts down the line.” Julie’s hot tips include:

  • Making sure your geyser is sufficient to feed all bathrooms adequately.

  • Incorporate an outside entertainment area if possible – it suits the SA lifestyle and adds value to your home and your quality of life.

  • Make sure you’ve planned kitchen renovations well. Enough cupboard space is so important!

  • Plan lighting beforehand. We add far too much lighting in our homes – it’s not necessary.

  • In a small space, keep the color palette neutral and add interest with textures like wallpapers.

    Julie feels that the colors for winter are shades of purple and lilac – which look great with browns and neutrals. And finally, up-and-coming designer Clair Drier from Cape Town lists making friends with the body corporate in your building as a hot tip. Clair runs the successful interior design company Flock Design. “Plan, plan, plan and plan some more. Walk through your flat/house 20 times with a list and make notes. This way you’re not likely to have ‘surprise’ costs later.” Her hot renovation and interior design tips are:

  • Kitchen designers always seem to leave out a broom cupboard so go over the kitchen plans with a fine tooth comb. If you’re going open plan – make sure it looks part of the house and not just a kitchen.

  • A deep skirting and cornice adds dramatic appeal to an apartment.

  • Allow for lots of clever storage space. Floor-to-ceiling BICs are good in bedrooms and bathrooms.

  • Scale and proportion are key and this is where a good interior decorator comes in!

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