Renovating your home

Our guide to home improvements

We discuss some of the latest home design apps and tools, along with some tried-and-tested methods.

1. Find inspiration

You can start with interiors magazines such as House Beautiful and Homes and Gardens, while there are also plenty of places on the web to find inspiration for your new home. Pinterest has boards on everything from paint colours to floor plans, and many websites offer online planning tools, as well as decorating ideas.

The Houzz home renovation and design platform is filled with inspiring photography and room designs for anyone planning a refurbishment or makeover. It has collaborative tools to help homeowners with each stage of the planning process, from early inspiration to finding a professional. It also offers the ability to choose the furniture and furnishings for a project.

A key part of the planning process is to set a budget. Builders’ merchant Jewson offers a tool that helps you work out an approximate project cost.

2. Create a virtual design

It’s sometimes hard to visualise what your home could look like with a makeover, but there are several tools and apps available to help.

Autodesk Homestyler, for example, enables project planners to create professional-looking 3D visuals on their website and mobile app. You upload a picture of your room and use it as a canvas, adding and removing design features to see what options you have. The main website  contains a useful directory of architects, interior designers and garden landscapers, and the app includes picture galleries, interiors-related articles and advice.

Dulux has also created an online interior design service called Dulux Amazing Space. It uses a Q&A format to quiz you about your project’s purpose, style and budget. As well as suggesting wall colours, it uses your answers to inform its in-house design experts who can then suggest accessories, furniture, storage, curtains and blinds via online chat.

The Dulux Visualizer App, available on Apple iTunes and Google Play, goes one step further. Viewing your room through your mobile device, you can see – in real time – what it would look like in a range of different Dulux paint colours.

3. Using an interior designer

If you prefer to consult an interior designer rather than using online tools, there are plenty available, although this will add to your home renovation costs. Susie Rumbold, President-Elect of the British Institute of Interior Design (BIID), estimates there are between 8,000 to 10,000 interior designers in the UK.

According to the BIID, before contacting an interior designer you should draw up a project brief or at least a wish-list. It also recommends that you consider carefully what you want to achieve, make notes of all your requirements, include any problems that need solving, and work out your overall budget 1.

‘An interior designer will provide the invaluable and detailed knowledge of the ergonomics, spatial planning and the creative arts needed to create any good design,’ says Susie.

‘They will discuss the brief with you and, using their skill and experience, turn your ideas into a realistic framework for the project without imposing their own tastes, and taking into account your budget and time constraints.

‘A qualified designer will open your eyes to ideas and possibilities you might not have thought of and make the design process inspirational, educational and rewarding. Put simply, an experienced interior designer will make your space work.’

4. Work out the value

It’s worth having a think about whether your renovation will add value to your property when you sell it at a later date, potentially offsetting the cost of the project. According to the Barclays Mortgages Home improvement Report 2015, home improvements add on average £31,000 to a property if sold within 12 months 2.

‘In prime areas of London and, in particular, when the market is doing well, makeovers that substantially alter a property’s layout and create more space can add as much as 20% to a property’s value, depending on location and style,’ says Robert Chatwin of Savills.

‘Putting bedrooms in the loft is one of the most profitable ways of adding value (it can add 5% to 10%). In certain areas of the UK, such as London or the Home Counties, if you spend £50,000 to £100,000, you are likely to get your money back and potentially make a good profit.’ 

5. Get permissions

Once you’ve decided what you’re going to do to your home, think about planning permission and building regulations approval. These will depend on your local authority, the kind of works being done and where the property is located.

To determine whether or not you need permission you can check the Planning Portal . If you’re unsure, it’s worth contacting your local planning authority before you commit to anything.

‘The first thing I would want to know is whether the property is listed,’ says Mark Lawson, Partner – High Value Residential and Rural Estate at The Buying Solution, part of Knight Frank. ‘If it is, your project is a whole different ball game. Not only will you need planning permission, but also listed building approval, which can be much more complex and expensive.

‘The next thing to think about is any building restrictions in the area. If the property is in a green belt, a national park or an area of outstanding natural beauty, for example, that would affect your chances of a successful planning application.’ Mark says building control approval only kicks in once you've gained planning permission and have completed your plans. ‘You'll need your builder or architect to get the building control sign-offs at the right time during the project.’ It’s a good idea to get a planning consultant involved as early as possible to give detailed advice on local authority specifics.

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