Cover Large windows and full-length doors allow natural daylight to stream in (Image: R Architecture/Unsplash)

Renovating can seem like a daunting task for first-time homeowners—these tips and tricks can help make this rite of passage a little smoother

Bringing your dream home to life is a thrilling process, but it can also be overwhelming due to the complexity. While home design shows such as Netflix's Dream Home Makeover make it seem like it takes approximately 45 minutes to renovate an entire house, the reality is that there are many considerations to factor in throughout the renovation process.

To help make the process easier, theTatler Homes editorial team has gathered their top tips to keep in mind as you transform your new abode. 

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1. Lighting matters

I’m a big fan of natural light in a home and believe it can change the mood of a house. So one tip before embarking on your renovation is to seriously consider the amount of natural light your home receives. Ask yourself if you need to add or relocate more windows or openings such as full-length doors to the space and if so, what kind and if that’s structurally feasible. Or perhaps you may need to seal up some windows, especially if it lets in too much light and heats up an area too much.

Also consider what you’ll be using the window for. If you have a killer view to highlight, choose a fixed (or picture) window for an unobstructed perspective. Louvers or casement windows that open fully are ideal if you want to encourage air-circulation or cross-ventilation. Lastly, maintenance is also a factor so before you decide on materials for your window frame, it’s wise to gauge how much time you are willing to spend on keeping them in good shape. Wooden frames have a rustic charm but need to scraped and painted periodically while vinyl is virtually maintenance-free.

—Jennifer Choo, Editor-in-Chief, Tatler Homes Malaysia

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2. Always do a paint swatch test

While Pinterest and Instagram make it so tempting to choose the hottest and most popular shades of the moment, unlike the clothing you wear, the colour on your wall will stay with you until you decide to move out or embark on your next home renovation.

Save yourself the hassle of another paint job by opting to do a swatch test when you're picking unusual shades, especially for bright hues like sunny yellow (seen above), the trendy Very Peri-inspired purple or millennial pink. These hues may also appear differently in real life compared to how it looks in the catalogue.

Doing a swatch test may also give you a better sense of how much you may love (or loathe) the hue, and how timeless it will appear, particularly if you and your family members have different colour preferences; a bright colour may look nice in a restaurant but seem a bit too much in your home interior when you have to see the shade every day. Observe how the colour appears in your room throughout the day. The way the paint colour appears in your interior might differ based on the ambient lighting and the amount of daylight your room receives, so a swatch test will ensure that it actually is the right shade that you want, and to adjust your lighting requirements accordingly. 

Hong Xinying, Regional Managing Editor, Tatler Homes

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3. Be realistic with your timeline

It’s a common misconception that renovations in small apartments will take less time compared to work done in bigger homes. This is, of course, not a hard and fast rule—it depends on what you’re having done, after all.

If you live in a tiny apartment like mine, you will do well to adjust your expectations accordingly. In Hong Kong, where apartments are notoriously small, the reason remodelling tiny flats can take much longer than what you might expect is precisely thanks to the lack of space. While a large home can accommodate several contractors working on different spaces at the same time, a small apartment can only have so many people in it at any given moment.

Meanwhile, without the luxury of space, it’s also not always possible for large items to fit through your front door. Custom-made furniture that addresses small, awkward spaces—popular in pint-sized homes in the city—often requires assembling inside the home. This can add considerable time to the renovation process.

— Andrea Lo, Editor, Tatler Homes Hong Kong

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4. Do your research

Home renovations can be daunting, particularly deciding on where to spend and where to save. I strongly suggest not scrimping on big-ticket items that are difficult and messy to change such as your tiles, flooring, bathroom fixtures, and cabinetry. Choose a style or finish that you truly love and can be versatile as your taste evolves with time. Look for materials that are durable, easy to clean, and need minimal maintenance.

I originally went with solid oak wood flooring for my place, and sincerely regret not installing engineered wood instead given the humid climate in the Philippines; natural wood is susceptible to pests such as termites. Do your research, listen to the experts, and be open to new technologies that provide long-lasting and great-looking solutions. Ideally, these installations should last you a lifetime.

—Stephanie Zubiri, Editor-in-Chief, Tatler Homes Philippines

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5. Consider the pros and cons of built-in furnishings

Carefully contemplate on the merits of built-in joinery and furnishings before you make the long-term commitment.

On one hand, these custom-made elements are the ultimate storage solution, efficiently hiding away clutter while displaying precious mementos and objets d'art. Built-in shelving and furniture also conceal awkward corners and create added functionality to nearly every square foot in your home—whether it's storage built under a staircase or a bespoke headboard that doubles as an architectural statement. Plus, these bespoke elements will definitely blend seamlessly with your home’s interior design.

However, these permanent solutions are definitely not for the commitment-averse, so it's important to plan ahead. For a young family, loose furnishings in the children's bedroom may be preferable as these can more easily adapt to your kids’ changing needs over time, from the toddler age to their school-going years. Besides the steep costs, built-ins are also lasting fixtures that limit the flexibility of your space compared to furniture pieces that you can swap out when needed. Take it from me—I'm currently looking to renovate my study but the built-in bookshelves and cabinetry are a major inconvenience, and tearing them down is an added cost and hassle to consider. 

—Cheryl Lai-Lim, writer, Tatler Homes Singapore

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