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Renovating Your Living Area

Renovating Your Living Area

Your design requirements depend on the scope of the renovation. If structural changes are required, consult an architect or renovation specialist well before scheduling work. With an architect’s plan, your renovation team has a clear blueprint to work from and costly oversights are less likely. Make sure your builder or project manager can make sense of the plans and has a clear idea of what’s needed before scheduling work.

If no structural alterations are required it may be a good idea to engage an interior decorator or colourist to help with layout, decor and colour scheme.

To ensure they arrive at appropriate solutions, provide design professionals with accurate measurements of the space, including the exact positions of doors, windows, skylights and staircases. You should brief them on your usage patterns and indicate your colour and style preferences.

Even if you’re confident about your design and decorating skills, consult professionals before purchasing furniture, fabrics or paint.


If structural alteration or an extension is involved, contract an architect, licensed builder, and possibly a residential construction engineer, carpenter, bricklayer or stonemason.

Structural work might include the following:

  • Excavation to create a split-level living zone or sunken lounge area
  • Removing walls and adding supporting beams or columns
  • Adding buffets or serving hatches between kitchen and living areas
  • Installing French windows, sliding or bi-fold doors linking indoor and outdoor living areas
  • Opening up the ceiling to add insulation, expose rafters for greater vertical space or enable the addition of a mezzanine
  • Adding a deck, balcony or patio
  • Constructing a staircase
  • Adding a feature wall or fireplace
  • Adding, resizing or resiting doors, windows or skylights
  • Constructing or installing partitions or customised cabinetry, shelving or storage

Electrical Fittings

Once the new structure is in place engage an electrician to do the following:

  • Upgrade circuitry
  • Add outlets and dimmer switches
  • Install ceiling fans or heating and cooling units
  • Advise on appropriate lighting
  • Install overhead lighting fixtures without compromising insulation performance
  • Set up light installations, complex configurations or ‘smart’ lighting systems


Generally, flooring is laid after structural alterations are complete (and underfloor heating is installed).
An exception is rendered concrete floors, which generally require excavation and access for heavy equipment. Allow up to a week for concrete to be prepped, laid, stenciled, sealed and dried.

Engage a carpenter or wood flooring specialist early in the renovation to replace floorboards and sand

Postpone polishing or sealing floorboards till you have time to let two to three coats of varnish dry. Ensure floors are clean, dry and dust-free before varnishing or sealing and allow sufficient drying time between each application.
If living room floors are to be tiled or paved, allow time for the surface to be prepped and tiles or stone to be laid, compacted and sealed.
Lay carpet as late in the piece as possible definitely after you paint.

Plastering, painting and finishes

In living areas, getting wall finishes right is important, so leave time to do it properly. If plastering or special molding is required, hire a professional plasterer (after rewiring and structural alterations are completed but before painting).

For a faster, professional job, engage an experienced painter. For best results, ensure walls are properly prepped, and do a minimum of two coats (special finishes and wallpapering are generally best done by professionals). Be sure to minimise dust-producing work while paint and varnish dries.


Ensure everything works together by deciding on a decorating style and colour scheme prior to purchasing (particularly key pieces such as couches and curtains).

Decide whether you wish to source your own furniture, soft furnishings and storage, or have an interiors specialist do it for you.
If you’re choosing your home furnishings yourself, start well in advance. Browse interiors magazines, websites and catalogues, using a pinboard or scrapbook to compile an inspirational collection of appealing looks, fabric swatches and samples of preferred paint colours and finishes.

Take exact room measurements and a copy of your proposed floorplan when shopping for living room furniture. If you’re unsure of how to coordinate the look, visit large homewares stores that offer inspirational displays and integrated packages to suit various styles and budgets. Save time and cut costs by buying a living-room furniture package – but only if you can negotiate one that truly suits.

Browse antique and specialist furniture and lighting outlets to source distinctive, special pieces. If you can’t find the perfect key piece, consider having it custom-made.

Home technology and features

Engage professionals to advise on and install home theatres and integrated home technology systems, including smart lighting and security. Note that integrated systems may need to be embedded into walls or ceilings, and may require special wiring or outlets. Consult an electrician in advance, and ensure any electrical work is scheduled at an appropriate stage in the renovation.

When Thomas Edison improved the light bulb in 1879 so that it became a stable reliable light source, he was coming up with a solution to a problem – the need for artificial lighting. 130 years later when we are looking at the lighting for a home the problems have changed.

  • When it comes to lighting your home, here are some questions to consider:
  • What artificial light source do I use in the many different rooms of my home?
  • What colour of light should this light source be, and what effect is this going to have on the colour scheme of this room?
  • What are the various tasks that are carried out in these rooms and what specific lighting do I need for these tasks – if any?
  • Do I need to control the intensity of the light source so that there are a variety of atmospheres achieved?
  • Do I need to control the perceived glare of the light source?
  • How much energy will the lighting use and what amount of heat will the lighting add to the room?
  • How long will the light sources last and what are the replacement costs going to be?
  • How do I control the lighting? Do I use sensors, switches and timing devices?

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