As a Melbourne-based interior designer, I’ve helped a huge range of people from all different backgrounds, with different personalities and different styles. I have really encountered all types.

One question has stood out to me over my 16 years: when it comes to the big job of renovating and redecorating your family home, what separates my good clients from my great clients? In other words - what do the people with the patience, values and persistence to make it work all have in common?

Whether you’re working with a designer like myself, or going it alone, these five ground-rules for renovation success will help you to assess your own ideas, think big, and ensure your project is a total success.

1. Quality over Trends

Regardless of how good naked lightbulbs and lumberjack benches look at the moment, you should consider what will last, in terms of both style and practicality.  

It’s like buying a car. Will you still want to be sitting in those bright red leather seats, a few years down the track? Do you mind the expensive servicing your vintage Beetle requires, five times a year?

Smart renovators prioritise the quality and durability of their chosen design - it assures that all the hard work you put in will stand the test of time.


2. Keep it simple

It’s great to be excited about your project and involved in planning every little detail.

But there are times when having a hundred ideas for a single five by five metre room can seriously reduce the chance that your space will be furnished, polished and complete by the time that you need to open your doors to your friends and family (or just yourself).

The truth is that you simply can’t have a bauhaus-influenced wallpaper, a pop-art inspired tabletop, three different kinds of hanging lights and that elegant mid-century kitchen fitting - all squashed together. Unless eclecticism is your vibe, that kind of aesthetic frenzy not only takes more time to research and source - but also impinges on your budget, your spatial requirements and your sanity.

Your project will run so much smoother once you accept the limits of time, space and money - then decide on a simple plan.


3. Trust your team

People work with designers because we know what we’re doing! We can see if something won’t work - functionally or aesthetically.

When I have clients who trust my opinion, trust my sense of space and how it all aligns with their budget, I feel that we can truly work as a team.

Whichever designer you choose, you'll need someone on your site to politely let you know that your fantastic interior greenhouse idea won’t work with your fantastic 14th century dining table. Experience talks, and a great designer will guide you in the right direction without hurting your feelings.

Let’s have a conversation, not a dictatorship! This brings me to my next point.


4. Communicate

When we think about "project management" for a big renovation, we usually think about spreadsheets, budgets and timelines.

We don't often think of team communication.

The best projects I’ve ever worked on all came from great communication between clients, designers, suppliers and contractors. Getting everyone on the same page will help you do everything better.

Whether you're on your own or you're working with a designer, you've got to keep track of what everyone is doing and keep everyone up to date for the project’s entirety. You'll all have a much better time if you do.


5. Conscientious

In this day and age, we absolutely must be conscientious about the impact our project has on the planet - but that doesn't mean we have to live in boring spaces!

So we install sustainable appliances, solar panels and so on. This is great! But how can we make it look good? How can we balance the sustainability and cost-effectiveness of a design with its aesthetic beauty?

This is the challenge that the truly great renovators tackle head-on, and the environment and their homes are better for it.