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Living Through A Reno

Designers Advice with Alyssa Sutherland

I am an interior designer so its not news that I help people design their homes, renovate their homes as well as renovate my own homes. So the renovation process is something I'm quite familiar with and it's something I actually enjoy!

It's quite chaotic, it's quite stressful, it's quite uncomfortable but it's something I think worth experiencing, and with a lot of my clients who have lived through renovations I can see how it's worked, things that don't work and I am here to just give you a little bit of a push, and don't let anything hold you back.

And look some people will swear by never living through a renovation, but I think with the right tools (pun intended) in place, you can ensure your renovation journey goes as smoothly as possible.

Let's get into it!


First things first, you need to list out ALL the desires you have for your project, then re-order them in a realistic priority list. This will help you to stage the project in a scope of work schedule that is feasible and makes the most sense, whilst also allowing you to budget accordingly.

Take note of the word "realistic" here, a-lot of people are keen on getting into the aesthetic changes of the space like painting, tiling, wooden floors and gold taps, but those things aren't going to be fun when you are doing them the second time round because you didn't prioritise the "boring necessities" first.

So how do you know where to start? Well, let's look at hiring a building / pest inspector to do a site analysis and report on your home, this can be done on an exisiting property you own, but also is something that is available to do PRE PURCHASE if you do have your eye on a potential "flip".

This process can save you in the long run, let me tell you, you are better finding things wrong at this point than when you are too far down the track, and we don't want you ripping down those beautiful mosaic marble tiles to tend to the leak or rotting timber in the wall now do we....

A great example of a first priority is getting the home "re stumpted" (this of course only applies to an older home that is on stumps, where over time the ground has moved leaving the house to become unlevel. Your new flooring and kitchen joinery is NOT going to work when your floor isn't working. First step, check!


As mentioned in step one, once you have set out your priority list you can jump into the stages, if you are living through a reno, you are going to need at least one wet area functioning at a time, somewhere to do your dishes, have a shower and go to the toilet...

A smart way of thinking would be to do one bathroom at a time, or when you are renovating your kitchen, be sure to have a laundry that can turn into a temporary kitchen etc...

Breaking down the build into stages creates a schedule, and keeps all parties on track, limiting you from getting carried away on other areas, spending money in the right spaces and most importantly, keeps you feeling as comfortable as possible in your home despite the circumstances your living in.


Once you have your stages set out, you can save and budget accordingly, send your project out for at least 2 quotes and know what you are in for, with each stage (hopefully)!

Remember to be considerate of the functionality and priority list when budgeting, you are going to have to set your costs accordingly, which may come at the sacrifice of aesthetic features. Think about how you NEED the home to function, before how you WANT it to look.

Also consider where you can making cost upgrades for better quality items, refer to my blog on "TOP 5 UPGRADES you should consider when building" this is going to be important if you are renovating an older (colder) home...

Its all about what goes in the walls, that counts!

This takes me to CONTINGENCIES, a little stash you are going to want to have for emergencies.

Now, when you are building or renovating, hiccups will come along the way, its inevitable.

So in order for the job to move along steady, with the inclusion of hiccups, you might be faced with having to fork out extra cash to get something fixed, extended, removed, added or for that dreaded word "VARIATIONS" ( IYKYK )....

You never know what you might find in the walls or floors, or on the roof or in the ground, that may end up throwing a spanner in the works to your nicely set out budget...

Being on a time crucial schedule, you will have times when you have to quickly change something or quickly pay for something, then and there, for the project to move on as seamlessly as possible.

Simply out, you have to have the contingency fund readily available, if you don't, and something comes up unexpectedly and you don't have the funds to get an immediate resolutions, then you're going to be the one left without, or delay the project, as your trades won't want to proceed without knowing they are getting reimbursed.

So stash some extra cash aside for the 'just incases' and hey, if you don't end up using it then LUCKY YOU - go buy that big beautiful artwork ;)


You want this project to be tight and turned over asap.

Preparation is the best way to save you time and money and how do you do that, YOU ASK FOR HELP.

Do not expect to do this all on your own, hence why construction teams are full of multiple hands on deck.

"It takes a team to build the dream."

It might sound like a bit of a self plug here, but a designer is really a key player in helping with project preparation. They understand the process, what happens when, and how to have documentation, fittings, fixtures, lighting etc on site at the time the given trades needs.

A great example is getting all your tap-ware ordered and onsite to your plumber at the rough in stage, they can work out heights, locations, and drainage systems right from the get go so you aren't ripping tiles off at fit off stage.

Same goes for your electrician, whilst you might not need to have that beautiful pendant on site at frame stage, its about KNOWING where you are having pendants, fans, sensor lighting, wall lighting, GPO's all that good stuff so they can nut out that rough in perfectly.

Again a designer can help you create your perfect lighting and reflected ceiling plan to hand over to the sparky, to make their job simple. BUT I do 100% push a walk through with your trades at those stages to ensure everyone is on the same page.


Finally, it is so important to acknowledge you want to have good, reputable trades on site, not just any random, because they gave you the cheapest quote.

Know who you are dealing with, hiring people who you know and trust is important because these people are coming INTO YOUR HOME, at very early hours of the day, they are going to see you in your pjs, trust me.

If you aren't equipped with a handbook of great local trades on standby, this is again where having a designer on board can help you choose wisely.

I know for me I have a very particular handbook of trades, draftsman, suppliers and more that I like to deal with, for obvious reasons, and I would never recommend or bring on a trade into one of my clients homes who I didn't know, trust and of course rate their quality of communication, workmanship and consideration for their work.


SO, If you are thinking about renovating your home, get in touch and let's kick start this process together, ensuring you are in for a smooth and exciting journey!




Listen Now for a deeper dive on all things "Living Through A Reno" on my podcast "Catch Me Outside My Comfort Zone!

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