By Bernadette Janson, The School of Renovating

1. Stunning kitchen


The kitchen is still the jewel in the renovation crown and can make or break the value of your home.

An important aspect of the kitchen is its outlook. Eat in kitchens are undesirable to most buyers, preferring the more contemporary open plan. So before you spend any money, see if you can achieve this by removing or reconfiguring a wall or two. Of course this may require council approval but in most cases it is well worth the time and money.

When you make the decision to renovate the kitchen you’re committing to spending a significant sum of money and so it is important to get it right. A new kitchen is a once in 15 to 20 year purchase and often goes completely out of date before it wears out.

If the cabinetry is in good condition it might be worth considering a cosmetic makeover involving painting or replacing cupboard doors and handles. Benches can be transformed with stone veneers. The appliances, sink and tap-ware tend to really show their age and can be quite easily replaced, as can the light fittings.

If a new kitchen is in order, work on a timeless design. White is still the most popular and versatile colour. If you do want to spice it up, try some contrasting doors, wood grain is quite popular. Stainless steel appliances look more contemporary. Don’t be courageous with expensive permanent finishes, go for neutral colours in the splash backs, bench tops and cabinets. Add the wow and pops of colour in your styling. Light fittings are also a good opportunity to give the room some personality and as they are easy to change a decade down the track.

If you are replacing your kitchen, take a photograph before you remove so that you can list and sell or giveaway on eBay, gum tree or one of the many freebie sites. This will save landfill and save you in tipping fee.

(If you need some help listing your kitchen on eBay you will find some tips HERE.

2. Beautiful bathroom


The bathroom is no longer just a place to get clean, we look on the bathroom as an urban retreat where we can close the door on the whir of daily life, luxuriate and recharge. In other words make it as big and beautiful as possible.

Bathroom Rule #: Every house needs a bath.  A shower over the bath is preferable to removing the bath but it is ideal if you can manage both.

Walk through showers are quite elegant but require some planning and skill to contain the water.

Tiling should be in neutral colours; White 600 X 300mm wall tiles laid horizontally to the ceiling provide a very cost effective but elegant and luxurious look. Floor to ceiling wall tiles may not cost as much as you think. Tilers tend to work on a day rate and you may be able to get the extra tiling done for just the cost of the tiles instead of your tiler taking early minute. While large format floor tiles look great, they tend not to work well in the bathroom as the floor needs to fall towards the floor waste and this is difficult to achieve in a small room with tiles that are bigger than 300mm square.

For particularly small bathrooms go for a wall-hung vanity, being able to see the joint between the wall and the floor will make the room look bigger. In-wall toilet cisterns help conserve space as the right selection will save about 200mm on the depth of the pan.

Avoid feature tiles or borders.

3. Play with lighting

Lighting is a powerful way of taking years off the age of a house and adding value. Consider all three types of lighting. General or ambient lighting is usually achieved with down lights. Please don’t install halogen down lights. They are the blowflies of the lighting world because of their high-energy consumption and low globe life. If you can stretch your budget to LED down lights you will not only reduce your power use but will not have to change a globe for 15– 20 years (provided they are good quality fitting that doesn’t overheat).

Task lighting is important in kitchens and bathrooms so that there is a higher lighting level where the work is done. Accent lighting is what adds the wow. This can be achieved with pendant lights to add personality over an island in a kitchen, a statement piece over a dining table or hanging in a stair well. Another way of accent lighting is with LED strip lighting, which is a versatile way of lighting under mirrors, cabinets, kickers and stairs.

Don’t forget the outside lighting, down lights in the eaves and up lights in the garden are an effective way to add drama and desirability to your home.

4. Size matters

Big is definitely still better and while you may not be planning to increase the footprint of the home there are several tricks of the trade you can employ to give the home a sense of space. Here are a few:

To make rooms look more spacious:

  1. Light neutral wall colour
  2. Maximize natural light with your choice of window dressings and installing skylights.
  3. Create continuity by taking the same floorcovering through the house (or level)
  4. Keep furniture to a minimum
  5. Ensure that you can see the corners of the room
  6. Large mirrors in your styling
  7. Frameless glass in balustrades and shower screens.

To make ceilings look higher

  • Square set the joint between the wall and the ceiling instead of a cornice.
  • Taller doors
  • Hang curtains from ceiling to floor
  • Elongated/ striped Patterns in curtains and wallpapers
  • Down lights rather than ceiling mounted.
  • Low line furniture

5. A word on swimming pools


The decision to install a swimming pool is a life style decision. Buyers either love them or hate them so please don’t be fooled into thinking that a swimming pool will add buckets of value to your house. If you recover your costs you will be doing well.

This is not a reason not to put in a pool, there is no price for the hours of enjoyment a family can have with a pool.

So if you are going to install a pool, consider the following tips.

  • Make sure it is in the rear garden and visible from the main kitchen/living room and not hidden around a corner.
  • Position it in such a way that there is still some accessible garden area available; don’t swallow up the whole yard with it.
  • Put a glass fence between the pool and the house.
  • Landscape attractively without going overboard.
  • Metal pool fence should be either black or pearl grey for minimum visibility.

If you feel your indoor, outdoor experience would benefit aesthetically from water, consider a plunge pool or swim spa and there are some very cost effective options available.

If you have any questions arising from this piece, feel free to drop me a line at

For more of Bernadette’s tips, read last month’s `5 tips that add value to your home through renovating’.