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Tips to avoid pitfalls when revamping your home


If property is one of the biggest financial commitments you’ll make, then renovating and extending  – with costs ranging from $250,000 to well, the sky’s the limit – is likely to be your second biggest lifetime outlay.

From a rosy distance it appears an exciting adventure in architecture. But having seen hundreds of refurbished houses and met similar numbers of designers and clients, I’m aware of the minefield of mistakes that too often catch out the uninformed.

The first and most critical is:

Homage to modernism: Melissa Bright's Local House showcases her sustainable take on architecture.Homage to modernism: Melissa Bright’s Local House showcases her sustainable take on architecture. Photo: Peter Bennetts

Get real
About the site, the budget, the scale of additions and that any relationship with an architect or designer is a little marriage. With snags in council planning, it could take years, so best if you get on well.

Choose carefully
Track down a designer whose work you have experienced in 3D and have genuinely felt comfortable in. Don’t necessarily go for the trendy names you’ve seen in magazines because we inhabit rooms, not photographs.

You can often visit a designer’s own homes or their past projects to confirm, firsthand, that you really like their work.

Double Life House, in Surry Hills, Sydney, by Daniel McKenna, of Breathe Architecture.Double Life House, in Surry Hills, Sydney, by Daniel McKenna, of Breathe Architecture.Photo: Katherine Lu

Not all designers have taste
An aesthetic sensitivity is not inborn. I’ve been rendered speechless by a huge addition to a glorious Federation villa that was inspired by a sheep-shed. The interior fit-out gave a third personality to an irredeemably butchered house.

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