3 things I wish my clients knew before starting their renovation plans

Our award-winning interior designer Steph O’Donohue deals with dozens of clients every year who come to smarterBATHROOMS+ with hopes and dreams and leave with a beautiful, transformed home.

However, as Steph experiences time and time again, there are a few areas where her clients’ ideas and expectations aren’t quite realistic. When she told us she wanted to share three things that she wished all of her clients knew, we were all ears. Here’s what she had to say:

1. Minimalism doesn’t necessarily mean cheap

“Clean, sleek lines” is what my clients tell me. “I want clean, sleek lines.”

The most common misconception I come across is that minimalism is a cheap look to achieve. While a living space made from single sheets of materials, no joins, no handles and no grout lines has a beautifully simple aesthetic, it is a very precise and often very costly style to build.

No handles on cabinetry mean expensive opening mechanisms. No joins in the stone means buying oversized slabs and employing an expert stonemason. And no grout lines means either jumbo tiles or porcelain sheets, again requiring a costly stonemason.

Some of the simplest-looking spaces I have worked on have been the most expensive due to the immense detail and meticulous planning required. If your heart is set on minimalism, don’t worry – it can be done. Just make sure you get the best of the best to design and build and be prepared to pay for those clean, sleek lines.

2. Never ever do DIY tiling

Tiling can have a determining impact on a room’s aesthetic and as such, it should be treated as an art form, from planning to finish. I have seen far too many new bathrooms that look great until you put your glasses on. Once you notice a crooked tile or uneven grouting, you won’t be able to unsee it.

So, for starters, make sure you drop all ideas about doing it yourself. Next, make sure you find a tiler that plans the space, tile by tile, to ensure the placement of cuts and grout lines is nothing less than perfect.

Another reason to bring in the expert is that tiling and grout are the first defences against water damage. An expert will use epoxy grout correctly to ensure the finish lasts for years and helps prevent mould growth. Finally, a tiler will get the job done a lot faster than you can! So stick to your day job and let the tilers do theirs.

3. Tight budget? Go big!

That might sound like a contradiction, but trust me, it works. If you have a tight budget or you’re struggling to come up with a suitable design, simply pick one element of the design and go big!

Take this literally and bring in an enormous mirror to give the room a wow factor. Got a high ceiling? Find the biggest pendant light your electrician can lift (tip: find a muscular electrician) and fill the room with an object so demanding of attention that it develops a personality for itself. Or in the kitchen, install a big, beautiful splashback. Who is going to look at your simple cabinetry if your splashback is made of handmade artisanal fish scale tiles in gold?

If oversized isn’t your style, go big through repetition. Take one design idea and repeat it in as many ways as possible. Do you love penny round tiles? Great. Now pick a round basin, rounded tapware, a round mirror and make sure your towels have circles on them. This gives the space a cohesive, thought-out feel where every design decision is deliberate.

With some sound advice from one of Victoria’s best designers up your sleeve, you should be savvy and confident enough to start planning your renovation.

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