'I've renovated 3 homes. Here are the best 9 things I've learned.'

Carpet Court
Thanks to our brand partner, Carpet Court

I’ve just finished my third major home renovation. With each project we’ve added a child too, just to keep things… chaotic. I'm tapping out at three kids, and I won’t be relocating again. Not just because moving sucks, but because I finally feel like I’m living in my dream house. 

We didn’t nail our first reno projects, but I learnt a lot. Which is code for “I spent a lot of time and money on things that didn’t quite work”. In the spirit of saving you that extra effort, here are the 9 golden rules I’d give any first-timer.

1. Opt for open plan living

Knocking down a bunch of walls to create one big combined living, dining and kitchen area was top of my list for our latest reno. 

Open plan living is a bit of a renovation cliche for a reason. I’ve heard real estate agents say it’s the single best move you can make to increase the value of your home. Social types rave about the entertaining benefits, while the design-minded obsess over the “abundance of natural light”. 

With my parent-goggles on, open plan is simply the only way when you have children. I can cook in the kitchen while simultaneously keeping an eye on the little kids playing in the living area and supervise my eldest doing homework at the dining table. 

Pro tip: Rugs are key to making sure an open plan space doesn’t feel like the showroom of a furniture store. We've placed rugs strategically in our latest reno to divide up the space, while the texture adds coziness. 

If you’re looking for affordable options, Carpet Court has an incredible selection of rugs. The range includes wool, synthetic and jute rugs, as well as wool blends, eco-friendly recycled polyester and cotton, microfibre and more. 


For high-traffic areas, like the living room, my pick is the Harmony Round jute rug. It’s neutral and easy to clean with just a quick vacuum. This hard-wearing sustainable rug is also 100 per cent biodegradable and 100 per cent compostable – making it a responsible renovation option.

If you need to add some softness to timber floors, tiles or concrete, I love the beautiful hand woven wool blend Colombo floor rug. Rugs like this one are a great option if you’re battling chilly floors or need to muffle sound.

Harmony Round jute round and Colombo floor rug. Image: Carpet Court.


2. Start with storage and keep it hidden

Repeat after me: bookshelves (or any sort of open shelving actually) are not for storage. You’re allowed to have them. You can even have one per room. How generous is that? But know they are for decorative purposes only. You may put a book on said shelf, but not a title you’ll actually want to get down and read. That book is now a prop, a design ornament, chosen to match the vase and trinket, in an aesthetically pleasing trio. 

So where do you actually put your stuff? Storage should be the first thing you think about for each room – yes, even before paint colour and furniture. Plan out WHAT stuff you need to keep in every room, literally make a list. Then note down HOW it needs to be stored: hung, in draws, in boxes etc. Now you’ve got a brief to work with. 

Pro tip: I always tell first-timers to go with concealed, cupboard-style storage over open shelving. It might cost a bit more upfront, but the result is a tidy, life-friendly space where you can hide away toys, books, cables, tissue boxes and other visually unappealing day-to-day debris. IKEA has a great range of mirrored wardrobes which conceal the chaos and make your room look twice the size.


3. Splurge on blackout blinds 

As a first-time renovator I focused on the fun stuff: big bathtubs, floor length mirrors or cool pendant lights. While these details can look amazing, our biggest lifestyle upgrade in the last two renos has been installing proper blackout blinds. It’s not sexy, or even Instagram-post-worthy but suddenly we’re in control of the day and night. No more early morning wakes and way less bedtime struggles in summer with the kids. 

Blockout blinds also reduce heat transfer and better insulate the house so you can save money on power bills too.

Image: Supplied.


4. Hide cables in the walls

Speaking of “not sexy”, let’s talk about internet cables. Nothing ruins a beautifully styled room like a mess of cables and somehow we are entering 2024 and WiFi signals are still spotty. You can solve both issues in one go with this tip I stole from a tech friend: treat your house like an office and add lots of ethernet outlets, where you plug in internet cables. Don’t just rely on WiFi devices and repeaters. 

Pro tip: If you’re hiring an electrician anyway, get them to run ethernet cables through the walls of your house and put outlets in the living room, bedrooms, anywhere you want top quality internet (ie. everywhere).

5. Lock in your fixtures and finishes early

While paint, taps and tiles all feel like window dressing, they need to be locked in earlier in the process than you might expect. It’s not just because your favourite shade of antique brass might be out of stock; your builder needs these details in advance as they impact the construction process. For example, the size of the holes they need to cut in the wall will be impacted by the taps you select. 


6. Set up for solar

Prep for solar even if it’s not in the budget now. With electricity prices soaring, many of us will end up installing solar panels to save in the long-term. If you’re making any modifications to your roof or walls in your reno, talk to your builder about roughing in a cable from the roof to the main switchboard. It’ll reduce the hassle and cost of retrofitting later on when you might actually get solar panels installed.

7. Have a 10 per cent contingency budget 

Creating a realistic budget is essential but no matter how good your projections, unforeseen costs will always pop up. The last thing you want is to stop work mid-project while you look for extra funding. Unlike freezing your Netflix subscription during a Bridgerton dryspell, you’ll STILL be paying during the pause as you'll still need to cover builder's management fees, not to mention other expenses like temporary rental somewhere else. So factor in at least an extra 10 per cent as a contingency buffer to ensure work can continue. 

8. Create your own 'brand guidelines' for your reno  

One of the hardest lessons to learn in renovating is the difference between things you like and things that look right in your house. There are so many different options for every fixture and furnishing, it’s easy to fall in love with a different item or style every time you open up Instagram. 

The key is to create a mood board that you can refer to whenever you are making a design decision. Sticking to this ensures your finished reno looks consistent. 


Pro tip: Your mood board can be as detailed as you want. Build it on Canva or put a board together on Pinterest. Personally, I like to see everything IRL so I collected product samples to create a flatlay with our Yabby taps and TileCloud tiles. At a minimum your mood board should include: colour palette, textures and finishes (like the type of metal you want on your taps and handles), as well as a few key reference images of rooms you love and want to emulate. 

9. Don’t stress about being original

Everyone’s approach to renovating is unique, but your design style doesn’t have to be, especially if you’re “not a creative person”. When I tell people to use reference images from other people's projects the most common concern is that copying is a cop-out. 


Renovating is hard enough, don’t add extra hurdles for yourself. There are no awards for reinventing the wheel. Actually there... probably are, but unless you’re shortlisted for one you get my point. Budgets, product availability and square meterage differences guarantee you’ll never make an exact clone. 

Pro tip: If a friend or influencer has already created your dream space, save time and money – copy them and maybe even ask if they have a discount code for you.

Add comfort and style to your home with Carpet Court's huge range of high quality rugs. 

Feature Image: Supplied/Instagram/@redfernrenovation

Carpet Court
Dream it. Style it. Live it.