A spacious home in a great location at a good price is one that usually requires some work. Omeshnie Naidoo chatted to decorator Bianca Howard about renovating within reason
There is a great deal of gratification that comes with renovating an old home, restoring it to its former glory, retaining its original charm and characteristics, while giving it a bit of a make-over.
“If you are going to completely overhaul a house, you might as well build a new one. Buying to renovate requires far more tact,” say Mark and Bianca Howard, who purchased a grand old house some months ago.
They decided to keep the arched windows, restore the lovely curly burglar guards and keep the high ceilings to match the period in which it was built.
With Bianca being a seasoned decorator, they made some savvy and cost-effective decisions about how they would upgrade.
She shared the top 10 lessons she learnt from the renovation:
1 People are often attracted to beautiful, old houses for their high ceilings but often land up confused about what to do with them when decorating. Opt for wider cornice and skirting and provided you’ve got a drape with a big drop, take your curtain rod all the way up to the cornice. Also forget about taking built-in cupboards up to the ceilings. After all your cupboards need to be within reach.
2 Built-in kitchen cabinetry can eat up most of your budget. Consider ready-made units or a repossessed carcass that you can add modern doors and handles to. Splurge with statement countertops.
3 Big spaces can tend to feel sparse. Rather than overcrowd with many little pieces, opt for lavish, chunky ones instead. We made two giant arm chairs with ottoman foot rests in the living room to languish on and custom-built a large coffee table to fit the scale of the room.
4 Avoid rushing out to buy furniture to fill the space. The trend today is towards layered, authentic and individualistic homes. Wait until you find a piece you love.
5 Don’t be hasty to throw out your old furniture either, especially when it comes to family heirlooms. They don’t make them like they used to. These can be restored and fit into a trend to showcase contemporary and antique pieces side by side.
6 If you have to fill the void immediately consider painting an accent wall. You can use colour to instantly close a space or add wallpaper and artwork to make the space cosy and inviting.
7 Almost all modern houses are open plan. We chose to remove the kitchen and dining room walls to give our house a modern, open and airy feeling. We then used furniture to divide floor space and designate zones. This ensured plenty of natural light.
8 You can go wild with lighting in a big house, with a high ceiling, but do consider where the trusses lie before you buy pendant lighting or anything that must fall over a specific spot. A larger fitting will ground a room but do practise restraint and avoid doing this in every room.
9 Old houses in our city do tend to have magnificent old wooden flooring. If you can restore it, great, but if not, there are plenty of innovative and cost effective options on the market. We bought vinyl planks for the kitchen that look like the real deal without any of the necessary upkeep. It also flowed nicely with the original wooden floors throughout the rest of the house.
10 Last, never ever ignore the basics. Always look carefully at electrical wiring and plumbing before you buy and ensure you spend on these things before you splurge on cosmetic enhancements. We added an en-suite bathroom to the master bedroom because we had to have it, but if you’re on a tight budget make use of existing plumbing.
* Bianca Howard is the owner of Slinx Interiors based in Hillcrest.
She was awarded the prestigious Designer Spotlight feature stand in collaboration with Home Fabrics at Decorex Durban 2016 which takes place at the Durban Exhibition Centre from March 18 to 21. Tickets cost R75 for adults, R65 for trade, pensioners and scholars and R20 for children under 12.