Decorating tips for first time buyers

Decorating tips for first time buyers

Moving into a new home is very exciting and, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be filled with ideas, throwing your arms around wildly saying ‘…..and we’re going to do this, and we’re going to do that… it’ll be fabulous.’ Which, of course it, will be - providing you approach it in the right way.

Gordon is one of the experts Aviva has partnered with at lovehome.co.uk. Here he shares his top tips for new homeowners.

Designer and presenter, Gordon Whistance

Decorating an entire house can be daunting, but breaking it down into bite size chunks will ensure it's much more manageable.

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Step 1: Isolate your style with a mood board

The first thing you must do is ‘isolate your style’ – also known as the ‘discovery mode’. Simply compile a file of photos, magazine cuttings, brochures, paint colours, fabric swatches and sketches that best represent how you want each room to look. If you feel you’re copying someone else, don’t worry – having a picture of a completed room provides a very useful goal - you don’t have to re-invent the wheel.

When all of the images are laid out you’ll see your own style emerge. Then, edit and refine so you have a clear view of how you want each room to look. This will become the mood board for the room and will always be there when you need to remind yourself what it is you’re trying to do.

Step 2: Write it down and cost it up

Next, list of everything you need to do and buy - from choosing colours, flooring, lighting, furniture, window treatments, accessories - the lot. Then, put a name/supplier and a price next to it - you’ll be able to see at a glance who’s doing what and how much it will cost. This is especially useful when talking to trades like electricians and carpenters as they’ll be able to see what needs to be done at a glance. Knowing which of your family and friends can help is vital - a case of beer or a bottle of champagne is often a lot cheaper than a daily rate. Just bear in mind you may have to reciprocate at some point!

When it comes to costing up work like carpentry, electrics, plumbing and plastering etc, never skimp. A job well done will last longer than any of us and will save you money in the long run. If costs are spiralling, don’t panic too much - there’s no law to say it all has to be done in one hit – spread out the work, think long term.

If DIY isn’t your thing and you’re nervous, speak with the people doing the work and discuss options for keeping costs down – stripping wallpaper, sanding woodwork and removing rubble are all jobs that don’t need specialist skills.

There might general items you'll need to be budget for at this stage, like waste skips - particularly if you’re taking out old kitchens or knocking down walls. Skips aren’t expensive and will save your car from being wrecked (if it has to go on the street you may need to get a permit from your local council). It’s also useful to know most local councils have a collection service that will take away larger items like old baths, fridges, washing machines etc. Around £20 should pay for the collection of up to four items.

Step 3: Prioritise the work

When you know how you want it to look and how much it will cost, you will then need to prioritise the work. Thinking about the natural order of work is crucial as there’s nothing more annoying than realising what you’ve done needs to be undone (eg: having a room plastered then realising you need to channel in new electric cables to light switches etc). Think of it like a cooking recipe – one thing automatically comes before another for the end result to be a success.

Step 4: Getting the work done

So, now you know what you want and how much it will cost, the next stage is getting the work done!

When it comes to doing work yourself, be realistic. Only you will know your limits but if you’re looking to expand your skills, try out new things on a small scale – do a test patch first; strip one wall in the smallest room; prep and paint one side of one door; replace a little bit of skirting board – if you’ve never done DIY you’ll get an idea of what you can do, and whether or not you enjoy doing it enough to put your own name against more things on your cost/job list.

It’s worth noting that most trades people have a few jobs on the go at any given time and will try and juggle your work with others, so it’s wise to establish start and completion dates from the outset.

By being methodical and focused, redecorating your new home should be enjoyable and achievable – and as the rooms get completed one by one, you’ll see all the decision making and putting the schemes together (the real hard work) really pay off.

Re-decorating a new home is an opportunity to live as you really want to – a journey of self discovery and learning that will make you glow with pride when you look at the end result.

Step 5: Quick fixes on a budget

Sometimes a complete redecoration isn’t an option, but there are things you can do that will freshen up a home without breaking the bank. Although you’d be kicked out of decorating school for doing it, painting over existing wallpaper is a very easy way to temporarily freshen up a room. But, be warned - cheaper wallpapers are prone to bubbling when over-painted but should flatten when the paint is dry. It's wise to do a very small test patch first to be sure the paint adheres and doesn't craze or crackle when it dries. Also, be aware that painting over wallpaper can also make stripping the wallpaper harder in future.

If the paper is a bit on the wild side, it might be worth considering only painting three of the walls thus giving you a feature wall – cheeky! If the existing carpets are looking (or smelling) a bit sorry for themselves, you can easily hire a carpet cleaner at little cost, which will make a huge difference - providing you can live with the pattern you uncover! If the carpet design is more than you can bear, then getting rid of it completely and painting the floorboards will immediately change the room beyond recognition – be warned: the new floor will make you re-think the way the room is dressed so make sure you give yourself time to re-jig your accessories too.

It can also be really useful to get a fresh perspective. Consider inviting a friend round and letting them move things around and style a room - it could really open your eyes to new possibilities.

As a lover of wall art, I'd also recommend investing in some good pictures. Given a big blank wall, nothing looks better than a large, well-framed picture or poster. It can really brighten up the space.

Here are my top 10 quick fixes:

  • Change the wall colour – it takes half a day and will make a huge difference.
  • Change the curtains – hang them from floor to ceiling, wall to wall for maximum impact.
  • Steam clean the carpets – refreshing the original colours will give them a new lease of life.
  • Dye cotton loose covers – Changing the colour of your furniture will cost a lot less than buying new ones.
  • Paint furniture – painting an old chest of drawers costs little and looks great. Don't forget to sand it down first, particularly if the furniture had been polished previously or the paint won’t take.
  • Buy good art – readily available and hugely varied – finding a piece to suit your budget and scheme won’t be difficult.
  • Sand down and paint your floorboards – it’s very on-trend and will cost a lot less than a new carpet.
  • Invest in some new lighting – this will make a big difference and can be used elsewhere in your home when it’s completed.
  • Replace the kitchen worktops –simply changing the tops will refresh the kitchen without the major expense of re-doing the entire room.
  • View your home through the eyes of others – it’ll make you see where you’re going wrong, and provide a fresh perspective.

Step 6: Stay focused

Whether you’re completely re-decorating your new home or just want to freshen things up a bit, the most important thing to remember is to stay focused – it’ll save you time, money and frustration.

If you have specific worries or need decorating tips, I am always here to help – just go to Ask The Expert and we could answer your question.

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