Diane – an interior designer based in London until very recently – has over 18 years experience in home refurbishment. Prior to moving to Ramsgate in 2018, I had worked largely with the same firm of south London contractors on projects as diverse as wallpapering a bedroom, installing a wine cellar or stripping out a kitchen. Some jobs were single rooms and others have been a total reworking of the interior space, so having a good rapport with your contractor is a vital step in refurbishing your home. They have to understand how hard it is to make choices when you’re not really confident in what you’re doing – and should be able to guide you without making light of your inspiration, because a new homeowner is very enthusiastic and full of ideas. You should be allowed to embrace that as well as understand that along the way it is easy to make mistakes – which can come at a high cost.
I hope that you love working on your home but I also hope that you will grow to understand your limitations. No-one wants to pay for anything twice and some jobs are just better left to the professionals – and I don’t say that to discredit DIY. I love getting my hands dirty, but I know what I physically can’t achieve. So it helps to know what questions to ask.
And if you’re struggling for ideas, a good designer will be able to help you see the possibilities, because they will have seen a lot of what works – and what doesn’t.
Knowing where to spend the money is key. When you first move in, money is always tight, agents and solicitors fees chomp through the budget and you may need to purchase furniture as well, but do not try and cut corners with things like wiring and plumbing. Both of those areas are governed by strict regulations – and they change regularly. A good contractor will be up-to-date on this and will tell you what you can and can’t do within this framework. He will also explain the process. Anything that is hidden, as plumbing and electrics usually are, involves ‘making good’ (reinstating the smooth decorative appearance of the wall or floor.) So don’t be fooled, the price of the work should include the making good. If it doesn’t, don’t use that firm. Ask for recommendations, talk to your neighbours; good local tradesmen will be have a reputation – and will likely be busy, so be prepared to wait for them to fit you on the list.
I hope this blog will be of use to you. With moving house recently, I’m going through the same process and a lot of what I write about is the pain – and excitement – of my own experiences. If there are specific things you’d like advice on, please let me know!