When you move into a house or an apartment that needs total renovation, where EVERYTHING needs to be redone… Just where do you start?
Over the past week, since we’ve been back in our tiny apartment, I’ve been asking this same question. It’s overwhelming looking at the whole project and I realise we need to break it down into phases so we keep our sanity.
“Where do you start renovating your home? Everywhere needs some attention.” –I asked my friends on Facebook.
Without exception all said:
Start with where you spend the most time as a family and spaces that are the most expensive: the kitchen and the bathroom and the living room.
In principle, I agree. However, there are a couple of precursors that I’ve learnt from renovating all our previous homes.
1) The basics: Always start with the services- water, gas electrics and heating!
Gas, water, electrics and heating have a tendency to impact more than one room. They are the foundation to any safe home and the starting point to any renovation. Have them checked by a professional before you start any decorating. Imagine finishing all the pretty decoration to find out that your heating pipes leak and need replacing! It’s an expensive mistake.
Even if you don’t do the job all in one go, it is vital to have an overall plan for your whole home and plan installation and modifications into each phase.
Services also have a nasty habit of taking up a large chunk of your budget, even though they are mostly hidden.
2) Size matters
After dealing with the services I put forward the hypothesis that,
The renovation and decorating priorities in a tiny home are different to a regular home, because it is all about storage, storage, storage and functionality:
Having a place for everything.
Miss this vital step and you will be overrun with clutter!* Creating a coherent, logical storage plan requires some thought in advance about your needs, lifestyle and budget. It’s not rocket science, but lots of note taking, some spacial awareness and ability to organise are helpful skills. If you can’t get your head around it, call in a friend to help (we all have a super-organised one!)
* I know, I lived it for a year in our first rental apartments- both our first rental as a couple and our first rental, here in Sweden, as a family. Both were a year of hell!
Start where you spend the most time
“Personally, bedrooms are always last for me, because as long as they’re clean and functional, they can usually wait. I’d always start with the rooms you use and spend most time in – for us, that’s kitchen and lounge.” Sally, friend and blogger at Who’s the Mummy, said
She is so right! And Sally has totally hit the nail on the head how bedrooms “just” need to be clean and functional. This is exactly where tiny home living differs from living with more space: you generally can’t just chuck a regular wardrobe, chest of drawers, desk and bed into the bedroom where space is at a premium. These won’t necessarily fit, even with the likes IKEA’s versatility and simplicity. What does fit will not always cover all your needs (unless you are an ultra minimalist…not us, sadly!)
In a tiny apartment you often have to be very clever with furniture and storage. A lot of the storage is in bedrooms- clothes, toys, etc. To keep a bedroom clean and functional needs plenty of thought.
Ultimately, the bedroom is where you spend the most time in, albeit sleeping.
The bedroom needs to be clean, clutter free and functional.
As a family, our bedroom needs to double as an office and storage room for out of season gear, the kids’ bedrooms as a playroom, study space and a bolthole. In the morning rush it really helps my sanity if the kids can find all the right clothes, their homework and school gear. These all need to be tidy, but at hand.
…tackling priority number one: the bedrooms
In our tiny apartment renovations the bedrooms need to come before the communal spaces. There is storage to be created, beds to be staked and a bedroom to be squeezed out of overlooked spaces.
First comes our master bedroom and office combo ( see bedroom 2 on the plans below)
Then the boy’s room. (See bedroom 3 on the plans below)
And finally Angelina’s space. (that’s labelled storage on the plans below) I call it space, because it is not strictly a bedroom, it is a multi-functional space. (…more on that as the project progresses)
3) Leave plenty of budget for the spaces that help you thrive
The Kitchen and Family room
As a family we do spend a lot of time together in the kitchen and our dining room. The first thing we did, even before moving in was to knock down a wall to create a kitchen, dining room, family room in one.
Read about taking down the wall
This has created a multi-functional space exploiting our limited space the best within the constraints of the apartments’ construction.
Taking down the kitchen wall has left the kitchen in tatters, with inadequate storage space. My appliances are old and not very good. We are limping through with these till we have created a comfortable personal space for everyone in the bedrooms.
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A large part of my small budget is set aside for this practical, highly functional space.
In our tiny apartment we have no separate living room. We have our kitchen family room as one space to hang out in, cook and eat instead.
4) The Bathroom
Our bathroom is small, but functional, hence it is not high on our priority list. On a relatively low budget I can improve it quite a bit by adding a bathtub with a shower enclosure to this very wet wetroom.
On the other hand, with a bit of creativity and a lot of thought, innovation, work and a fair bit of money, I can create a separate toilet….Not something to be sniggered at with the kids heading towards puberty. The jury is out on how much we will tackle.
The bathroom will be a two phase upgrade for sure with the second phase only to be tackled if we have money left and have too many arguments over loo hogs.
5) The Hallway
An often neglected space, the hallway can take on so many functions besides leading you from one room to the next. It has the potential to give you more storage, be an art gallery, double up as an office and more.
From some hallways you can steal more space for other rooms. Be really critical with how you use this space!
Our hallway is bland, dark, but relatively spacious. It has the potential for tonnes of storage and will evolve to even more.
As the first impression of our home for friends and strangers it needs to be clean and tidy and welcoming. Our hallway needs to welcome us in the mornings when we wake up and in the evenings when we get home from a tiring day. To do this it needs the right lighting (its very dingy at the moment) and to be very functional.
Though it will be the final piece of the inside of our tiny apartment to be finished, it will also be the one that will be the longest work in progress projects, sadly.
We are actually stealing some space from the hallway to create create a little lounge area for Angelina. Her space will be transcended by the hallway… Which means we have to make it an awesome space to make up for this strange arrangement.
6) Don’t forget any outdoor space.
For those lucky enough to have any sort of outdoor space it’s so important to make the most of it. Even if it’s a tiny balcony!
There’s nothing more soothing than tending to some plants or being able to sit out for 5 minutes in fresh air.
You don’t have to have green fingers to have some plants. For me the steep learning curve is because of the extreme weather we have- 20C to +30C
…but we’ve put in a planning application, ready for when we get around to creating this space.
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In which room did you start your renovation project?
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