We asked local home make-over specialist Andrew Stenos from Integriti Projects to give us the lowdown on how to ensure things go smoothly with home renovations.
Walk down any street in Mosman and you’ll see a buzz of tradie activity – proof that home renovating is still one of our favourite pastimes. But how do you avoid the pitfalls and the entire project becoming a money pit? Renovating is definitely something you want to get right the first time.
Based on the lower North Shore, Integriti Projects has become a mainstay on the Sydney renovating scene, offering premium building, design and project management services. Seeing a gap in the market between great design and practical building, Integriti opened its doors five years ago driven by founder Andrew Stenos’ vision of excellent client experience. With dozens of beautiful projects under his belt, Andrew (pictured) is perfectly placed to give us his top tips to making a renovation go smoothly.
Q: What’s the first step people should take when looking to renovate?
Andrew: At the highest level, you should start with your inspiration. Get together a look book, which is so easy to do these days with Instagram and Pinterest, and you’ll be able to see your vision coming together. As the next step I suggest engaging with a designer or a design and build firm like Integriti. They will help you get things clear, get it down on paper, and establish the all-important budget.
Q: What will add value to a property and what won’t?
Kitchens and bathrooms are always the big decision makers. Wow people with a great kitchen and you can’t go wrong. As nice as it is to have a pool, they don’t add a huge amount of value, if any. And high-expense landscaping, with retaining walls, will not necessarily be recouped in resale.
Q: What are some basic tips for renovating that people might not know?
It’s really important to consider layout and flow of a home, and that’s where a great designer comes in. We often get rid of hallways, turn dead space into extra living space and it makes a huge difference to the overall renovation.
Q: Can you recommend anything that may save on the cost of renovating?
Invest in good design and, surprisingly, you can save money. If the design is right, you can easily pair it with a mid-range product. In a bathroom, for example, we love to use a high-end feature tile on one wall and a more cost-efficient tile in the rest of the room. Well-planned lighting makes a huge impact and is not necessarily expensive. Go for under-counter LEDs in the kitchen, and mix it up with some wall lights to form the backbone of your renovation. Another tip for saving money is to minimise the amount of custom pieces and buy pre-existing pieces where possible – for example, bathroom vanities.
Q: What would you advise creates the greatest impact in each area of the house?
In the kitchen, try to keep tall cupboards, like the fridge and pantry, to one end of the area. This gives you a much better sense of space. We apply the same principals in the bathroom – have your vanity, shower, utilities all staked in one line so you have a clear walkway where possible. Don’t overlook the exterior of the house. Choice of colours are important and you can’t go wrong with an oversize door in the same palette to make it a welcoming feature.
Q: Can you recall anything that really made a recent renovation special?
I loved a recent renovation where we took what was a smaller space, opened it up and gave it a boutique hotel feel. We knocked every dark corridor out of the house and focused on creating light, airy living spaces. As with all our clients we spend a lot of time working out how they live and were able to feed that back into the design process and create a fantastic experiential home.
Q: So often renovation budgets seem to blow out and people say it was a nightmare. What can be done to avoid this?
Again, things come back to design. If you are really clear about the design and scope of your project before it begins it means that your budget should stay on track. At Integriti we work on a fixed-price basis, when we quote it means that everything is covered and you can avoid the dreaded budget blow-out.
Q: What can home-owners do to make their renovation eco-friendly?
Becoming eco-friendly is obviously a big motivator for many renovations. We look carefully at airflow to cut down on air-conditioning. We also heavily promote insulation to reduce heating and cooling needs – it was often overlooked in older houses but is essential now.
Q: What are the current trends for Mosman?
We tend to find full refurbishments of houses that haven’t been touched since the 70s and 80s. Renovators are keen to adjust their landscaping, bringing it up to the value of the house. We’re seeing people spending a lot of money on the garden and pool, and restoring in order to uplift the streetscape. These are things that may have been overlooked in the past and homeowners now want it to look in keeping with the rest of the area.
Q: What styles are the most enduring and the easiest to resell?
Open plan living will always be here. There is a massive focus on bringing the outside in and tying the outside of your home to be part of the internal space. This means a usable deck and barbecue area for the summer.
For the North Shore, the Hamptons style is consistently popular. Beautiful shaker panels, nice natural stones – it’s not just a trend but definitely enduring.
What trends are coming through for the future?
We are continuing to see a movement towards the use of natural products – real stone and real timber in warm neutral tones. I’m beginning to think that the heavily patterned, geometric tiles were just a trend. In terms of colours, deep greens and emerald are very hot right now and blush pinks and apricot tones are at the top of the list for many.
To see more of Integriti Project’s work: