Home Renovations – Tips on Surviving the Process

As a designer, I always get the same questions:  Where do I start?  Do I need an Architect? An Engineer?  But especially,  How do I survive the process? Here are some answers to common questions from people considering a renovation project


Move out! Of course, this is something that most of us can’t afford to do, even knowing that with any renovation there will be considerable inconvenience   But there are some things you can do to ease the process. Designate rules of the house for the workers:  which bathroom to use, which door to come in and out of, where to dump trash.  Make sure they clean the job site daily. Come to an agreement on starting and quitting times, including any weekend work days. Whatever you do, the process will be difficult. But it is a short term inconvenience for a long term benefit. (And who knows – you may even get to like the radio station they listen to!)


Yes, it will, but there are things that can be done to cut down on the mess. Move everything out of the areas to be worked on. Cover all furniture in the vicinity or transportation path of construction.  Make sure your builder adequately protects flooring and furniture.  And confirm that they are using good dust seal materials on all doorways leading to the work area. Dust is the absolute worst part of this whole process and whatever you do, expect to be cleaning it away for months after the project is completed. However, if you have followed the steps above, particularly insuring that the builder has properly sealed all work areas, you will have done everything possible to minimise the amount of cleanup.


The most difficult home renovation to get through is the kitchen. You can expect to have your appliances out of commission for a good long while, 4 weeks if you are lucky, but 8 weeks or more depending on the size and complexity of your project. Takeaways or eating out every night during this time can not only break your budget, but will ruin your health and your waistline! So here are some survival tips.

If you can schedule the project during months when the weather is conducive to outdoor cooking, this would be ideal. Invest in a great barbecue, if you don’t already have one, along with a great bbq cookbook. You can make just about anything on the barbie, even pizza and dessert! But any time of the year, set aside a room in the house to be your temporary kitchen. Have the builders move your fridge in here, along with your microwave, toaster and any other small electrical appliances. If it’s not bbq weather and you have a wood burning fireplace, be adventurous and experiment with roasting some sausages or other meats there. Unless you have a large, useful laundry sink for washing dishes, splurge on disposable dishes and cutlery for the duration, as trying to washes dishes in a bathroom sink or tub will get very old, very quickly. If you have a large freezer, the weeks ahead, start preparing dishes that are suitable for freezing in large quantities, and then store in aluminium containers in meal size portions. Whatever you do, it will be inconvenient, but you can minimise the pain and try to have some fun in the process!


A professional designer can be a very important addition to your renovation team. And one of my specialties is Project Management. In addition to producing all of the drawings and helping you source your products, I can also help run the process from beginning to end. And at a fraction of the cost you would be charged by an architect or specialist project manager!

In addition, to helping you narrow down the dizzying array of products choices and saving you money by passing along trade discounts, I receive all products you purchase through me, handle any problems that may arise and assure that products are available when needed for installation.

For a busy person trying to live through a major renovation project, such as a new Kitchen or Master bathroom, it helps to have a coordinator. I speak both yours and the contractor’s language and am therefore ideally suited to help you manage the fine details that will keep the project running smoothly and on schedule. With this kind of help, you can concentrate on taking care of your family, while I manage your project so that it runs smoothly and on schedule!


By |December 26th, 2011|Blog|0 Comments

Home Renovations – How to Get Started

As a designer, I always get the same questions:  Where do I start?  Do I need an Architect? An Engineer?  What about building consents?  What about Builders?  How do I survive the process? Here are some answers to common questions from people considering a renovation project.


The first step for even the smallest project is to have a plan. This plan should be very detailed and written down, with drawings and illustrations as needed. Try to think through all of the smallest details to address on your plan. For example, in addition to choose light fixtures, think about switches and outlets. Where will the light switches go, do you want them turned on in one place or two, and which lights will be controlled by which switches? What about electrical outlets, how many do you need and where will they go? What style and colour should they be? What about trim, for doors, windows, baseboards and ceilings? We tend to think about the big things, but forget about the multitude of small questions that will arise during construction. If you are doing your own designs and drawings, make sure to take very accurate measurements, and then re-check everything at least two more times. Being off by even a few millimeters when you order products can create major problems and huge unexpected expenses.

For all products that require installation, purchase and take delivery of everything before work begins. For items that are too large or impractical to have delivered in advance, have them pre-purchased and stored for you, ready for delivery on request. The biggest delay in building projects are caused by products not being on site as required. If you have everything lined up and ready to go before starting, your project will proceed smoothly and be finished in the minimum timeframe. And confirm that your builder follows the same practice. If you have done your part, you don’t wan things slowed down because he hasn’t done his.


The best way to find a reliable builder is on referral from someone you trust. Direct experience from someone who has worked with a builder is a good starting point. Ask for names from any other professionals you are working with, such as your architect or designer, or vendors you are buying products through. But regardless who makes the recommendation, be sure to check references.  Ask for contact details of former clients and completed projects. Call a few and ask some important questions. Was the builder on time? Did he run a clean jobsite? Did he come in on budget? How was his work crew to get along with? Ask to look at examples of work done on projects similar to yours. When inspecting these projects, make a point of looking past the shiny new fixtures and fittings to try and ascertain the overall quality of the workmanship. Clues to look for are smooth walls, clean cuts on any timber finish work, level installation of work done by the builder. Be sure to have a friendly chat with the homeowner, asking important questions about their satisfaction with the process and the results. Get quotes from 2 – 3 different builders, making sure that the quotes include good details and explanations on the scope of work being quoted. But be careful not to hire on price alone. The least expensive may not be the worst builder, just as the most expensive won’t guarantee the best outcome. Do all of this research with due diligence. But in the end, go with your gut. All other things being equal, make sure the builder and his employees are people you feel comfortable with. You will be spending a lot of time together!


With completed plans and final decisions on all your product choices, you will be in a position to get the most accurate quotes from all of your vendors, including the builder, sub contractors and cabinet maker. You will have determined the most accurate budget possible, but always factor in at least an additional 10% for the unexpected, particularly when you are opening walls and getting into foundations. If your builder doesn’t advise this himself, that’s a red flag. Any quotes from builders or subs should include a detailed description of work to be performed, a payment schedule and guarantees. Invoices for product purchases should clearly specify model numbers and description, state  return and warranty policies, along with the process for resolving any errors. A small mistake can lead to major headaches and difficulties if it is not clear who is at fault and who will be financially responsible for resolution. Then make sure that you follow these policies. If a product purchase invoice states that any errors must be reported within a certain time period, be sure these policies are followed to the letter, either by you or whoever has been designated as project manager.


A professional designer can be a very important addition to your renovation team. And of course I will recommend myself as your best choice! I can give you all the information you will need to proceed, including all necessary drawings and builder referrals. As a qualified and experienced design specialist, I can often take the place of an architect, particularly on interior renovations, and for a fraction of the cost! I will create a plan, procure building consents and produce all design and technical drawings to complete the installation, including specialty items such as mechanical and electrical plans.

In addition, I can help you narrow down the dizzying array of products choices and will save you money by passing along trade discounts. I will help you weigh the relative merits of different product lines, and save you money by suggesting products that offer the best value and durability.  And as a designer, I have sources, and product choices, that are not available to the general public.

For a busy working person trying to live through a major renovation project, such as a new Kitchen or Master bathroom, it helps to have a coordinator. Designers speak both yours and the contractor’s language and are therefore ideally suited to help you manage the fine details that will keep the project running smoothly and on schedule.


By |December 26th, 2011|Blog|0 Comments

Cats are the best design assistants

By |December 18th, 2011|Blog|0 Comments

Musings on Colour – A Personal Perspective

Anyone who knows me will have heard me complain about white, or even worse!, beige walls. This is not a new thing. Even before I became an interior designer, colour in my home environment was a very important thing. In a long ago rented apartment, I painted the cabinet doors and drawer faces of my white kitchen a lovely robin’s egg blue. A lot of work for an apartment I lived in for less than 2 years, but it made me smile every time I walked into that room.

If you are reading this, then you already know that I am from San Francisco, living in Auckland, coming on three years now. It’s a transition, some good, some more difficult. I deal with it. But I did not expect is to be so confused about colour! It was something I didn’t think about at all until last year when we bought our house. A big house, two floors, lots of wall space. Painting would not begin right away, I had some time. But that time is drawing near. As I work out all the details (just in my head, soon to go on paper), I have been thinking about what colours we will paint the walls. And here I am not only stumped, but very upset about being stumped!

For me, colour has always been instinctual, whether in the clothes I wear, the choice of toe nail polish, or paint for the walls of my home. Especially those wall colours. I have always known, in every instance, what colours I wanted and where. The exact shades were down to sorting through paint chips and trying the choices out in different light. But I have always had a good sense going in whether this wall would be a red, while that one a yellow, and this one a green and so on. But since moving into this house, I have had no sense at all, and that has been weighing on me. Keeping me awake at night. Really. And that indecision has had me wondering – why don’t I know, the way I always just know?

In the article about Home Magazine’s 2011 Home of the Year, the writer says, “Views are the blessing and the curse of many New Zealand homes. Our remarkable landscapes command attention, but many of our homes cower mute and inexpressive in response”. How very true, and this is the realisation I had finally come to. The writer is referring to architecture, but it applies as well to interiors. We have so much of the outside inside, with our fully detached homes and big windows on all sides, that the outside always has to be considered. Wall colours, even window coverings, are frames for views that are like huge paintings on our walls.

In the Northern Hemisphere, even in sunny California, most of the homes are all about the indoors. There is just too much world out there that we want to get away from. All but the very rich have views of concrete sidewalks chock-a-block with parked cars, and ugly rooftops. We are packed in on small sections, in cities like San Francisco, houses are up against each other, so that windows are only front and back, not on the sides, and an occasional skylight if one is lucky.

But here, it’s also about the light, which is so very different, that harsh, bright southern light that intensifies every colour. Subtle warm shades just won’t do for framing those bright green trees and intense blue sky. In New Zealand, especially North Island, and especially Auckland, with our water views all around, and green, green, green spaces, it will be about how I can create a unique interior that lives in harmony with the exterior. Stayed tuned for the results. Who knew that even paint colours would be such a journey?

By |December 18th, 2011|Blog|0 Comments

A Better Window Covering

Don’t you just love Before and Afters? I do. But in the magazines you see a small black and white “before” photo followed by many glamorous  “after” photos. It always looks like the room has been made extra messy, or the model has just rolled out of bed after a rough night! I will be posting before and afters as I begin the process of renovating the big house we bought last year. But I promise not to mess up the rooms or be photographed as I roll out of bed! And if I can manage not to forget before the sledgehammers go to work, I will take enough detailed before shots so that the afters make sense.

So here, entry number one in the renovation chronicles. A very small one I admit, not a renovation at all. But this small thing has made a big difference in elevating the first impression of our home, the entry.

Our house, in a leafy suburb of wide residential streets in central Auckland, has huge windows all around. Especially in the public rooms. Wide sliding doors on two sides (soon to be three) open onto decks. Long and, in many places also tall, windows feature in every room. There is even a second stack of long windows along the front of the house. This amount of glass, and view of the outdoors, will affect every aspect of my interior design. It has already contributed to my confusion about paint colours, but more on that in a later post.

While I try to be patient about the design process, what needed quick attention were the horrible, ancient aluminium Venetians on every window, big, small or sliding. Some have been replaced with beautiful, off white painted Venetians, wide 60mm slats, which look so elegant. Venetians gave me not only the look I prefer, more of a warm, furniture look than roller blinds, but also the function I need, the ability to adjust privacy, light and air flow. We have nice, deep recesses at all windows and sliding doors. Except at the entry. Here was a challenge!

Our house is built in classic mid-century modern style, very open plan, with the entry, lounge, and dining area all flowing into one big space without visual obstruction. So all the blinds are the same. At the entry, just next to the front door, there is a big window, a single large glass panel. But, no recess. If I used the same blinds here, they would be sticking out into the room, into the walkway, and would just look wrong. Solution? Well, curtains of course. But I wanted the light and the openness, so I went for sheers. And not just any plain sheer, no, these are gorgeous!


Not so terrible, right? Except that 99% of the time, the blinds were shut and looked like this:

Yes, very Yuck! Here, then, some photos of the new look:sheer curtainssheer curtains, circles designThese are the times that photos don’t seem to do justice. The fabric, by Baumann from James Dunlop (colour Cosmo), is surprisingly durable for one so sheer. The colours are rich with wonderful depth, and the whole effect transforms the space. But this is just one element. Still to come, dramatic, bold colour on the walls to play off what may now seem to be a too harsh contrast in the dark fabric.

And never forgetting the function and the practical, the window has had a new tinted film applied. This film gives 90% UV protection so the fabric won’t fade, and is mirrored on the outside. So now I can have my view always, while maintaining privacy. And it looks so nice  ;-)



By |December 17th, 2011|Blog|0 Comments

Just an old fashioned girl from San Francisco

I’m an old fashioned girl. My Blackberry is just a phone, my i -Touch is just for music and I hand write appointments in my calendar book. So this blog will be like they were in the beginning. The word “blog” stands for “web log” and the early ones were online journals. The author, usually an anonymous nobody, would spout opinions, observations and feelings, about anything and everything, without regard for the audience. In fact, many never had, or expected, much of an audience.  Then they started to catch on and they changed. Today, blogs have morphed into everything from a full website in blog format to, most commonly, a  “News & Events” section for current topics and product information.

I expect to have some of that. But mostly, I will be musing on a personal level about all things design.  As they relate to my journey, my adventure if you will, getting established as a designer in my new country.  Along the way I’ll be renovating my own home and will document that process here. And I’ll try to refrain, but there may be some ranting and raving along the way. Like, why are New Zealand kitchens so boring?!! And why is there so much white everywhere?!!

Oops, sorry. That just slipped out.  Amongst all the wonderful and glorious things about living here, sometimes a girl from San Francisco can have a tough time in the world of New Zealand design. Perhaps you understand. If so, I hope you will keep me company on my journey. And I would love to hear what you have to say too!





By |October 29th, 2011|Blog|0 Comments