My apartment has recently been renovated from scratch, and hopefully I’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way. Today I want to share with you ten tips for remodeling or styling your home. Since I live in Israel, it’s probable that the resources available to me are different from those available to people in other countries, but I hope this will be of good use to you all the same!
Tip #1: PINTEREST!
pinterest has been (and still is) a valuable tool for forming a concrete style I want to follow and am able to translate into action and apply. Pin not what you think is pretty or cool, but rather pin what you would actually want your home to look like – rooms you would really want to live in, colors you would really like to use for your walls, furniture you would actually buy and use, etc. You’re welcome to see my pinterest boards here – they are divided according to rooms: bathroom, living room, bedroom, kitchen, workroom. I also added some boards for specific topics I was researching, such as renewed furniture and parquet / laminate / wood floors and color, and a very useful board that I call great ideas.
After pinning for a while, you will see a pattern emerge, such as “hey, I love open shelving above the sink in the kitchen”, or “I love this particular bathroom and I’m going to use it as a guide for my bathroom”. You’re not “copying”. You’re creating a collage of bits and pieces from here and there, with somewhat different materials and budget. Trust me – it will not look identical to what you saw online, even if you try. It will still be “yours”.
Tip #2: Maintain a spreadsheet of your budget
This is one of the first things you need to do when renovating – determining your budget and breaking it down to categories and subcategories. Take into account that you will spend 10%-15% more than planned, even if you try really hard to stick to your budget. It can be hard to create a budget spreadsheet at first because you don’t necessarily know how much things cost and what exactly you need in order to redo a kitchen or a bathroom from scratch. Ask your interior designer or carpenter or another person who knows, and make sure nothing is left out. Update the spreadsheet (you can use excel or a spreadsheet on google drive) and update it whenever you’ve bought anything. Consider VAT as well as delivery and installation costs. Don’t leave anything out! When unsure, write a high price rather than a low one, and stick to the budget. If deviating from the budget, better to do so later rather than sooner, when you have a clearer view of the end of the project. Choose where to save, and where to spend more. Be meticulous and do your market research – you don’t need to haggle in order to get a good price, you only need to look harder till you find it. Keep in mind that a beautiful home is sometimes a matter of the right color combination and layout and style and personal items, rather than expensive and fancy and brand name materials. Use your innovation and ingenuity rather than your wallet 🙂
Tip #3: Pay attention to detail
(these are actually lots of tips compressed into one…)
- When installing a hanging light fixture, consider any doors (room doors or closet doors) that need to be able to open without bumping into them. After having a closet installed in the small work room I breathed a sigh of relief that I could, luckily, open the door without hitting the hanging light fixture. I hadn’t thought of that! I used a lighting fixture that’s adjacent to the ceiling where there’s a utility closet recessed into a niche in the wall. I had a lovely light fixture for the bathroom, and had to significantly shorten the cord because the bathroom door opens right under it.
- Standard widths and sizes – if you have niches in your house, consider standard closet widths. In Israel, standard closets, which are much cheaper than built-in or made-to-order closets, come in widths which are multiple of 40 cm. Make sure your niche works for the standard widths, and you’ll save a lot of money and trouble.
- Hanging toilets with hidden installation are so much more convenient to clean around compared to toilets posted to the floor or ones with the exterior installation.
- Buy a sink that is not too big and not too small, leaving enough counter top room. Make sure the sink doesn’t look too bulky but also isn’t too small for its purpose. Carry a measuring tape with you, and measure sinks whose size you like at friend’s houses or anywhere really 🙂
- Buy a faucet that matches your sink size. I think the stream of water should land approximately in the middle of the faucet rather than too close to you or too far away from you. Take note of the angle of the faucet (does it face directly down, or at an angle towards you?). Buying the right faucet the first time costs the same as buying the wrong faucet. It really helps to know what you want, so check out what other people have and what styles are there before you are pressed to buy. Check whether your faucet will be mounted to the wall, to the sink itself, or to the counter top – this affects plumbing and construction.
- Getting a standard shower or standard sized bath (or a standard anything) is much cheaper than getting ones custom made or of irregular sizes – plan your home accordingly.
- Tiles need to be cut in diagonal and tilted in order to allow for proper water drainage in the shower. In retrospect I would have gotten those fitted pre-molded shower basins (is that what they’re called?), with the drain close to the corner rather than right under my feet. Today, when I take a shower, I am constantly stepping on the diagonal tile cracks, which is not as pleasant as stepping on a nicer surface.
- Consider window openings and ventilation. In retrospect I should have gotten a bathroom window that opens “kip style”, which can be opened for ventilation without compromising privacy. Consider which windows you can leave open while you’re out of the house. I can only leave open the kitchen window, where there are bars on the window. So when I come home at the end of the day, the house is insufficiently ventilated to my taste.
- I’m glad I had my washing machine and (nonexistent) dryer placed in the kitchen rather than in the bathroom, because I have a lot of space in the kitchen and not so much in the bathroom. Also, preparing a closet where the washing machine fits well is a space saver and I think it’s more aesthetic rather than placing a washing machine out in the open or even in its own utility room.
- Consider installing sound-proof material inside the walls (or as an extra layer behind a layer of drywall, for more privacy from neighbors, a noisy stairway, etc.
- If you have tiles on your bathroom floors and walls, make sure they can align perfectly on all walls, For example, my tiles are 30×60 cm for the floors and the walls, which made aligning them rather difficult. The solution is to get 30×60 tiles for the walls and 60×60 for the floor, or to get floor tiles that deliberately don’t align with the wall tiles.
- Calculate and re-calculate how many tiles you’ll need – a common mistake is ordering too much or too little tile, which can be a big headache if you need to order an additional batch from overseas. The way to calculate tiles is to simulate how you’d like the tiles to be laid out on each of the walls separately. Any fraction of a tile should be counted as a whole tile. Then add 10-15% for damaged or broken tiles, for panels along the wall, as well as for extras for the future.
Tip #4: Follow up on inspiring design blogs
I highly recommend downloading the feedly app (or using feedly online), to follow up on your favorite blogs. These are some of the best design blogs where I’ve found actual ideas to use in my home.
I also recommend following your favorite design blogs on facebook, as well as finding inspiring interior designers to follow on facebook. For example, I implemented this simple and relatively cheap dish-drying rack solution in my home after interior designer Merav Sade posted a similar photo on facebook.
Tip #5: Less is sometimes quite enough
- My kitchen island seats four, so I don’t need a dining table. I concocted a tiny 60 cm (23.5 inches) diameter table for having coffee or a light breakfast. It seats 2-3 people and doesn’t clog up the space.
- I thought of getting a piece of furniture to place under the window in my bedroom, but discovered that I had plenty of closet space at home. No need to buy unnecessary furniture, take up space, and waste money.
- I bought a good brand of stove and gas range, but from the lower price range. No need to overdo it, unless you absolutely know that these appliances aren’t enough for you.
- At first I thought of getting fancy Belgian-style windows, but then realized I prefer the simple white classic aluminum frames, which are cheaper, more durable, and create less visual noise.
- I’m thinking of getting a colorful handmade rug for the living room. I think a small one will suffice for adding color and a cosy feeling – that should save a bit of money and make maintenance and cleaing easier, compared to buying a really big one.
- I thought of painting all sorts of walls at home with all sorts of colors and textures, and even covering a wall with brick… But then I thought of the added price, and of the relative un-reversability of it (non-smooth walls), and decided to stick to a uniform color throughout the main area of the house. I’m happy with this decision.
Tip #6: Learn from friends and do your market research
Ask around at work or in your social circle if someone else has already gone through this process. They might have some useful tips for you, or recommend a shop or a solution or a handyman.
Tip #7: Know when and when not to use color
My home is basically neutral – grey floor tiles, cream walls, cream and beige kitchen cabinets, white counter top – but it is certainly not lacking in color! I had my kitchen island cabinet painted light blue, something which could easily be altered in the future. My kitchen island counter top is a gorgeous walnut butcher block, which add depth and beauty and it’s own sort of color. There are plants and ceramic vases on display. There will be photos, and colorful throw cushions and books and plants and rugs and such. A chair or a small piece of furniture can also have a bold or interesting color. These are much easier to control and change, as opposed to using bold colors for your formica kitchen cabinets or floor tiles or even your walls. It’s up to your preferred style, though, of course – this is just the strategy I followed :-). Color isn’t everything – so is texture and warmth. I prefer wood and ceramic over metal and glass. Detail vs minimalism should also be considered and used according to your preference.
Tip #8: Buy second-hand
I bought four beautiful wood chairs second hand, all for 350 NIS (about 100 USD) – the price of one such chair in Israel when it’s new. I’m sure in the USA and Europe there are lots of quality furniture on sale.
I got this renewed antique (1950’s) table for 600 NIS (170 USD). The top is oak veneer. New mid-range designer tables cost 2000-5000 NIS. I can always replace the top with a different piece of wood if I like. I love how light the table is and how it doesn’t clog up the living room. I don’t like furniture with chunky legs and tops, or huge pieces which block the way to the couch and can’t be easily pushed around.
Tip #9: Decorate gradually
Rather than buying everything at once, and then realizing things don’t work together, or that you don’t really like this specific color or wood type or style – buy gradually. For example, I bought a sofa and took my time finding a coffee table. I have yet to get an area rug, and I want to make my own media console (although I don’t own a TV). Ideas come gradually, leave yourself room to implement them 🙂
Tip #10: Do-It-Yourself
There are so many online resources for how to add your own personal touch to your home and have fun doing it, while probably saving a ton of money, learning a new skill, and creating a unique piece along the way. I sewed my own pillows and will (hopefully) sew my own curtains. I’ve already re-painted some pieces of furniture whose shape I liked but whose color I didn’t like. I learned that I can buy some timber for cheap and how much it costs, what are the different types of wood out there and their individual qualities. I even made a friend along the way, someone from work who was bit by the DIY bug and inspires me to do more 🙂 Making things yourself, though, is a learning process, and it’s not for everyone – if you aren’t intrigued and itching to make it yourself, maybe it’s better to buy it.
Hope this helps! 🙂