Easy renovation done the right way

The Prague Post

Make yourself at home with stylish, cost-saving touch-ups

If your home is your castle, of course the interior should be fit for a king (or queen). Whether you’ve just moved in or you’ve been there for years, at some point you may be ready for a change. While there is no end to the variety of things you can do to give your home a new look, there is also no limit to the price tag of a renovation if you don’t know what you’re doing. We’ve consulted some professionals for tips on design trends and how to get the most bang for your buck when redesigning your home.

“I think you have to shop around for a good architect. It’s very important to get references for builders and architects,” said Regina Boquin, architect at Design Concepts. Boquin worked in the United States and Switzerland before moving to the Czech Republic 13 years ago, joining an architecture firm and working mainly on office buildings and shopping centers before striking out on her own. She now focuses on house and flat renovations and says the key to a successful renovation is finding an architect who you can easily work with.

“People have different tastes: traditional, modern. If an architect isn’t on the same wavelength, it won’t work,” she said. “You have to like the same things, have similar tastes, and be able to communicate well. Personality is important.”

Alexis Aldridge is creative director of A-Squared, a design agency that works on hotels and show rooms in new developments, and she agrees that communication is key.

“We are interior architects, so we think spatially and look at the space from all practical and aesthetic elements and help the client assess how they can get the best use out of that space,” she said.

In her dealings with clients, Aldridge has noticed a move away from neutral, orderly designs toward more vibrant colors and individualism. She herself is a big believer in color, and currently loves working with pastels like soft green, lavender and butterscotch. Boquin too is into color, confessing her love of taupe.

“For example, in an 80 square meter apartment, I might want to do one wall in a dark taupe, cream on another, then brighten it up with a pink or olive green couch,” she said. “I love mixing styles.”

Different spaces call for different measures, however, and your pocketbook may not necessarily be in sync with your exquisite taste. If you are in need of a total reconstruction, Boquin warns it can be very expensive, especially in older buildings. She also says that in old buildings blueprints often can no longer be found and you have to start completely from scratch. If your walls are solid, maybe you just need some freshening up with a few choice new pieces, or other simpler options.

“It’s not just about making the space clean and comfortable but making the best use of the space,” Aldridge said. “We keep what is best, move elsewhere or get rid of what doesn’t suit, and suggest color and attractive fabric like new curtains and reupholstering.”

This type of refreshing is an extremely cost-effective way of giving your home a bright new look. Aldridge shares the example of the presidential suite at the InterContinental Hotel, which they recently redesigned.

“The suite was full of furniture and quite ugly. We did a visual layout, advised what to get rid of and took out about 50 percent of the furniture. That alone made a huge difference, along with the reupholstered armchairs and sofa,” she said. “The cheapest forms of interior design are paint, placement of furniture and reupholstering.”

Another factor that can greatly impact your final price is the choice of materials. Don’t forget to look locally. Boquin says there are high-quality Czech materials that are cheaper and usually available immediately, as opposed to foreign materials that have to be imported. She gives Czech tiles as an example, saying they are high quality and there is a huge price difference between the local ones and imported tiles from Italy.

Boquin says that if you have a limited budget, it’s best to go to a manufacturer, not a carpenter; because they can suggest cheaper substitutes carpenters usually won’t want to work with. “Something made of solid wood costs so much more. You could have a veneer – it’s real wood, but just a layer.”

She adds that the kitchen, which can be very expensive to renovate, can be cheaper if you shop around.

“There are so many kitchen manufacturers and so many price ranges,” she said. “You can get away with a lower-priced kitchen and still have a nice one. Everything made to order is very expensive.”

There is a plethora of ways to save money and still have a beautiful space in the end. Aldridge often shops at IKEA, buying a bed for example, and then dressing it up with interesting fabrics and cushions. “It’s all about color and fabrics,” she said.

Even as they divulge their money-saving tricks, the women agree that a lot of money and time can be saved in the long run by not cutting corners when choosing an architect or interior designer. Boquin works with several different builders, because she says their prices can vary a lot, and Aldridge buys everything wholesale.

Whatever your budget and regardless of whether you tend toward the modern, the classic, the colorful or the neutral, Aldridge believes all people want the same thing for their home:

“People want beauty, whether it is beautiful cheap, beautiful expensive or beautiful simple.”
DIY design tips

Don’t try to save money by skipping the architect. Boquin says mistakes with dimensions and locations can be expensive to fix later
Aldridge says the four key elements of a fresh look are walls, windows, lighting and placement
Protect yourself from surprises by having all contracts translated into your language by a professional. Bouquin admits it can be expensive, but says it’s much better than relying on an explanation
Lighting is one way to change the whole feel of a room on the cheap. Aldridge says ambient lighting that sits all around the room is much more pleasant than overhead lighting