Architecture and Renovation

Renovation tips for tight budgets

Standing smack bang in the middle of the lounge room was a boat. Not a little model boat. This was a full size, aging, wooden boat like your granddad used to take you fishing in, with the battered old oars propped against it.

As home renovators go, this young couple was adventurous and, while the boat-cum-bookcase seemed like a great idea, it was just too big, taking over the home and crowding the tiny living space. But at least it wasn’t another yawn-inducing, vanilla reno job.

If you’re weighing up your renovation options don’t be afraid to add some flavour, some colour, some identity. Neutral is safe but it can also be pretty boring, right?

Whether you’re dressing your home up to sell it or making a new home feel more like ‘home’, here are some quick suggestions to get the most bang for your renovation buck (particularly aimed at people with tight budgets):

Emphasize strengths, downplay any shortcomings.

So, for example, if you have a tiny bathroom (and matching budget) just get it crisp, clean and clutter free. Spend the money where it can have most impact – enhancing the home’s strengths. If the backyard is deep then build a small pergola or Jamie-Durie-like seating area right at the back. This will quickly show off the size of the garden.

If there’s a great view or even a leafy outlook then ‘frame’ your windows with classy blinds or simple drop curtains. And don’t be afraid to leave window dressings off in some rooms. Do you really need them in the kitchen? Try a simple dressing across the top, it doesn’t have to be expensive. Pinch the ideas from design mags then put them together yourself.

Kitchens are important, especially benchtops and cooktops/ovens. And this is one area where a neutral palette is always best. Changing your kitchen colour scheme whenever your mood or tastes change would be extremely expensive. Colour and life are best added with your knick-knacks, recipe books or fluffy oven mitts (before they’re immersed in casserole sauce, of course!).

First impressions set a tone.

For houses, you can make a huge difference with a coat of fresh paint on the fence, replacing the rusty letterbox and a large pot-plant on the doorstep. All great value.

Apartment dwellers should clear all that clutter that lives on horizontal surfaces near the door, then find a nice piece of art or consider a feature colour for the entry wall. (Mirrors are overdone in our view – good feng shui or not.)

# We wrote this article for the real estate pages of