Sunday 26 January 2020

Interiors: Build on experience - how time spent on planning can keep you within budget

When it comes to renovating, one third of us go over budget but spending a little more on planning can save money in the long run

A stylish kitchen renovation in a Victorian schoolhouse from Houzz
A stylish kitchen renovation in a Victorian schoolhouse from Houzz
Rory Kelly
Renovate your kitchen with lots of upcycling
For bathroom renovations try striking tile work like these Artwork Royal Blue tiles from Original Style which contrast nicely with the copper bathtub
Complement a classic bathroom design with trendy bathroom accessories from Loraine at Home
Complement classic bathroom design with trendy bathroom accessories from George Home

Eleanor Flegg

Here's a scenario: You've finally got down to renovating the bathroom. The plumbing is done but you haven't had a shower in weeks. Just as you're rushing out to work, the builder arrives. You show him the box of oblong tiles. The sales assistant described them as the "Parisian bistro look".

"Which way up do you want these, love?" asks the builder.

He's asking if you want them positioned in portrait (short side up) or landscape (long side up). You stare at him blankly. It never occurred to you to wonder which way to orientate the tiles. As you scrabble for your Pinterest account, the builder takes pity on you. "Now this is the way that I always do it," he begins, launching into a long explanation about why his way is the best. You're late for work and the builder needs an answer, so you just say yes to everything.

Builders have an experienced eye and a wealth of knowledge about what works and what doesn't. But few of them have design training. Get the tiling wrong and you could be reproaching yourself for 20 years. Stall the builder while you do the research and you'll end up costing yourself plenty of money in builder downtime. It's probably not surprising to learn that more than one third of Irish home renovations go over budget, according to a new international survey by Houzz.

"People don't do enough research and that's where mistakes can happen," says Rory Kelly, interior designer (inset right). "In particular they're often unrealistic about the price of things. When they find out what it really costs, they're so shocked that they don't want to know. First they panic, then they put the blinkers on and push on regardless." One of the biggest mistakes that you can make is going over budget and that's what happens with almost a third of Irish renovation projects. Last year, the most popular Irish renovations were kitchens and bathrooms. Both are expensive ventures. The average Irish spend was €4,700 for a kitchen renovation and €4,880 for a bathroom. The stats come from the Irish Houzz and Home Report, part of an international survey conducted in 2016 by the online renovation and design resource.

Reassuringly, we're not the world's worst planned renovators. That would be the Russians - very nearly half of all their renovation projects (48pc) went over budget. And the country where renovations were least likely to go over budget was well-organised Denmark. In Ireland, nearly all the renovations (94pc) involved some sort of professional help: 36pc of renovators used a builder; 24pc used a kitchen designer or fitter; and 20pc employed an architect. A miniscule 9pc used an interior designer.

The report findings clearly show that as a nation we're just not doing our homework. Among the one third of Irish renovators who exceeded their estimates, 35pc of them didn't even know the price of the job when they commissioned it.

A hefty 34pc went over budget because they decided to change the design midway through. But the top reason for going over-budget (45pc) was that people bought more expensive versions than their original choices midway through the project. "People think they're not getting the best quality unless they're paying top prices," Kelly observes. "It's an Irish thing." Without knowledge of where value lies, the desire for quality can lead to overspending.

"It would be like buying a pair of Prada shoes and then thinking that you need Prada chinos as well, even though the Zara chinos are just as good as the expensive ones. It's the same with interiors." Most kitchen retailers include a design service but one that employs interior design graduates will give better support than one where the "kitchen designers" have no design training beyond using the company software. Architecture is a regulated profession, so all architects will have design training, but some of them tend to prioritise the exterior of the house over what's inside. Hiring an interior designer does add to the cost of a renovation but it may end up being an economy in the long run. "I'll always save a client as much as I charged them," Kelly explains. "That's irrespective of how much they're spending."

A family living in a three-bedroom semi in Clondalkin, for example, might spend €200 on a consultation but save a great deal more than this knowing where to shop. Similarly, the owners of a apartment could save thousands by knowing that the coveted kitchen island simply won't fit in their kitchen.

The Interiors Association have a list of accredited designers across the country. Once they've given their estimate, it is always worth asking how much they can save you. Using a designer won't necessarily solve your problems, but asking the right questions can.


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