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Where to Save and Splurge in Your Home Renovation

When renovating your home, there is always a tension between splurging on statement pieces and saving money by cutting back on items that won’t be the center of attention. It’s the hidden heroes that home renovators and budget hunters love the most. Here’s what our experts have to say about where you should spend your hard-earned cash, and where you should save.


Reno Kitchen HTL

(Photo Credit: Derek Swalwell for Homes to Love)

Spend: “Aim for a well-designed kitchen and spend the money where it works best for you,” advises interior designer Stewart Horton of Horton & Co. Design. “If you 
are a keen chef, you’re better off buying the best and most up-to-the-minute appliances. If you’re not a big cook, you could devote a larger chunk of the budget to beautiful finishes, such as stone countertops or backsplashes.”

Save: Don’t scrimp on your kitchen layout to squeeze in luxe fittings, says architect Amelia Lee of Undercover Architect. “Plan the size and layout you want, knowing that you can upgrade the countertops and doors down the track.”


Spend: Access to natural light should never be compromised, says Lee. Ideally, your home’s design should take into account how the sun moves across the property, with window locations and glazing to suit the location and climate. “Make the most of the light naturally available so that your home looks and feels great,” she says.

Save: Splurge on one top-quality decorative pendant light in an area with maximum exposure, such as a dining room. The other lights can be affordable, standard designs.


Reno Living Room HTL

(Photo Credit: Maree Homer for Homes to Love)

Spend: Flooring has a huge influence 
on the look of a home, and it’s not easily changed. Whether you’re looking at tiles, timber, or carpet, choose the best option you can afford. “A durable, good-quality floor will not only wear well, it will also
 stand the test of time and, hopefully, 
remain beautiful forever,” says Horton.

Save: When selecting flooring, choose readily available sizes and colorways. Anything outside of the box will almost always cost more, and could also prove harder to match if you need more later.

Architectural Details

Spend: The right combination of wall moldings, such as architraves, cornices, and baseboards can potentially elevate even the simplest of spaces into something special. “If you’re doing a traditional renovation, invest in quality timber moldings or cornices outside of the standard ranges,” says Horton. “For modern homes, invest in elegant shadowline details. Minimalism is more detailed than you think.”

Save: To keep costs down, choose narrow-but-decorative architraves and wider-but-plain baseboards. Using timber or painted paneling on a wall is also an effective way to create more interest in a room.


Reno Lighting HTL

(Photo Credit: Annette O’Brien for Homes to Love)

Spend: It’s true that you can never have too much storage capacity, so take care at the planning stage to build in seamless solutions for every member of your family. Consider, for example, a butler’s pantry to hide the less pretty kitchen paraphernalia, perhaps a space for schoolbags and sports gear in the laundry, and drawers for each child’s homework. “It’s about building in ease 
to make daily tasks happen conveniently because everyone knows where things are kept when they need them,” says Lee.

Save: Rather than paying for bespoke interior fittings, the insides of custom built-in wardrobes, cupboards, 
and pantries can be easily outfitted with affordable pieces from hardware stores.


Spend: Domestic kitchens used to be dominated by boxy refrigerators and dishwashers. Today, however, integration is firmly in fashion, so you should consider spending a little more 
to tuck those hardworking appliances behind woodwork. You could even go the extra mile and supplement disguised appliances with a pop-up range hood that’s built into the countertop.

Save: Integration isn’t cheap, but 
you can go some way to achieving the 
look with an inexpensive feature such as pop-up power outless, which are cleverly concealed when not in use.


Reno Electronics HTL

(Photo Credit: Tess Kelly for Homes to Love)

Spend: Considering the tech needs of your family, now and into the future, is important. So before you start renovating, look into the latest wireless technologies and integrated sound and security systems, as well as ways to hide cables, antennas, and the similar things. Ensure the modem is in a spot where your whole house has Wi-Fi coverage.

Save: All-in-one systems means fewer cables. For example, you could watch TV and movies, or stream music services, through a games console (when the kids aren’t playing Minecraft). A Google Home or Chromecast device can also reduce the amount of cords required to access music and video content, slideshows, and games.


Spend: Planning your home’s layout to suit its climate, location, and orientation through passive design will save you money in the long run, says interior designer Kristy McGregor. Figure out the insulation requirements 
of your home, take advantage of any cross-ventilation, and keep your power consumption and bills in check.

Save: Plant shady trees on the northern and western boundaries of your property. If you’re in a warmer climate, opt for a lighter roof color to reflect more of the sun and save energy on cooling.

Beware of hidden renovation costs.

Experts concur that you should set aside a contingency of at least 15 percent of your renovation budget for unwelcome surprises such as termites or asbestos. Other things to consider:

  • Consultant and approval costs: Surveyors, draftsmen, engineers, designers, certifiers, and pest control.
  • Land restrictions: Homes in wildfire and flood zones, those on steep blocks, or properties with stormwater drains will probably have restrictions on what can be done to them. Complying with these is likely to affect your bottom line.
  • Window furnishings: Custom-sized or unusually shaped windows and glass doors will call for custom dressings.
  • Equipment hire: Specialist equipment — concrete cutters,
 cranes and diggers, for example — may incur an extra cost, 
and you might also be charged to store them.

Disguise functional pieces.

  • Underfloor heating: It will deliver unrivaled joy on a winter’s morning and reduce the need for other heating.
  • Exhaust fans: Bathroom fans now come in a wide range of shades and finishes to blend in with your tiles or color scheme.

This article was written by Australian Home and Garden editors. For more, check out our sister site, Homes to Love.

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