How to design your home – the right way (and avoid expensive design mistakes)

designing a house renovation

I can hear you thinking it:

“Surely there’s no right or wrong way to design a house, it’s subjective for everyone”

100%. When it comes to designing a house (colour, materials etc) beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I believe this too.

But having worked in interiors since 2013 I’m telling you…

There is a wrong way to design a house. Especially if you’re about to rip out and renovate one.

There’s been a huge increase in home buyers searching for renovation properties instead of buying ‘already done’ homes they have to compromise on. Plus an even bigger increase in homeowners renovating the homes they’ve lived in for years, adding space rather than relocating.

If you fall into either of these categories and you’re about to design areas of a property or you’re in the middle of a renovation, here are my tips to ensure you design your house with no regrets.


1. Put practicality first (and style close second)

No matter what item or material it is you’re choosing for the design of your home, whether it’s flooring, paint finishes, tiles, baths, taps, you name it. Put practicality before style (only by a margin).

We've made our fair share of mistakes as we’ve decorated homes and we’ve learned quickly that practical + beautiful is essential. Don’t stop searching until you find the option that can give you both.

There is always a way to design a house that’s as practical as it is beautiful. In fact, good design marries the two ‘symbiotically’.

The homeowners that choose white walls and cream carpets when they have children and pets will end up feeling either unsettled about keeping it clean or unsettled that they’ve spent a fortune on it and it’s quickly got tired looking. So really closely consider what you need from your home design.

2. Research your materials so much you start dreaming about them!

Call me obsessed but there are nights that go by and I can’t sleep I spend that much brainpower thinking about interiors!

If you’re a renovator, about to invest a lot of money on materials that will collectively determine how good the finish is, and how well your home will age with daily use, you need to know your material options inside out to weigh up which is the ideal choice for your lifestyle and budget, and the make up of your home (its size, era, compatibility). Our program Home Design Lab covers this.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that renovating a house is all fun and choosing pretty colours (well, yes it is that! But it’s much much more too). You need to be on your A-game researching options to make confident design choices.

The very best home design uses materials that achieve the desired look, are within budget, and with acceptable maintenance requirements.

3. Understand your long term goal

Are you renovating a house to flip it or is it your forever home? Then design it with that in mind.

Let me explain.

If you’re renovating a house to make money from it once you’re complete, you need to study your market. Is it a family home with good schools within the catchment area you’ll be selling? Or is it a modest sized town house or flat that you’re hoping to sell to a professional couple?

My advice is to keep the design a blank canvas so that they can imagine making their mark on it. Don’t heavily stylise the design. You’ll attract your buyers faster, and get competitive offers. Don’t choose a dark coloured kitchen because you love the moody trend. They might not.


Are you renovating a house to be your forever home? Then invest in the key pieces that are built to last and will bring you joy for many years. If you know you tire easily from home decor choices, consider design features that are easily changed such as classic shelving you can restyle, sofas you can recover or headboards you can swap. Through the Home Design Lab modules, we dive deep into styling and I show students how to create areas of their home that can be restyled again and again – I call it ‘boredom prevention tactics!’ and it’s so important to plan these early on when you’re brainstorming what you want your room to look like.

4. Pay attention to your ceiling price

No matter whether you’re flipping your property or planning to live in it forever, know your ceiling price (i.e the highest price your property is likely to sell for in your area).

Agree on your budget. How much are you comfortable spending? Make your estimates realistic. If it’s a property you want to flip, keep your design budget low and cost effective so as not to eat into profit. If it’s a forever home, buy quality design you know will bring you joy looking at every single day. There’s no rush, save for the items you want.

When people ask us “How much does a renovation cost?” it’s like asking “How big is a cloud?” 😂 Projects are all so different! Different shapes, sizes, and everyone wants different things. You need to design your home in a way that’s sensible financially… and understanding your ceiling price can start those conversations.

designing a house renovation

5. Decorating a home together? Listen to each other’s needs

If you’re renovating a house with a partner to become your long term home, this tip is for you. I see so many couples disagreeing on their layout and design choices when they renovate. Completely understandable, it’s a stressful period and both of you are invested in the outcome – emotionally and financially. But there is a way to mediate decisions so that you end up with a balanced design both of you love. Sign up to our free 3 day email series: How to Design Your Dream Home to find out how and receive daily tips to nail your layouts and design.

6. Don’t confuse your vision by hanging out on Pinterest too long

As an interior designer, I love Pinterest and I hate it.

It’s perfect for when you know which design style you are trying to achieve – you can search specific things like “Modern Country Bedroom” and “Country Bedroom” and an endless array of ideas will present themselves.

Or if you are at the very beginning stages of working out your style and you need some inspiration to identify it.

But type in “Bedroom ideas” or “Master Bedroom colours” or generic search terms every time you’re choosing something for your house and you go down a rabbit hole of different styles from contemporary to eclectic to country.

They ALL look beautiful. And that does nothing for your focus.

Not specifying the design style you want to achieve can result in a mish-mash of design choices with no real identity to your home.

Are you decorating a property? Do you want to deep dive on your home design plans and get the know-how from an interior designer, without completely handing over control (and the hefty fees!)? Home Design Lab is for those who are committed to learning the ropes of interior design in order to get an incredible finish in their property that speaks to their personality.

And if you can’t wait to get started then you can start thinking about it with our free 3 day email series – How to Design Your Dream Home. I propose some ideas to help you determine your style, and get you started with layout .

Have you signed up for your free design guide?

Over 3 emails, we can equip you with the essentials to help you take on your own home design journey the right way.

Better yet, we’ll likely help you save on costly mistakes, too!

7. Think of the bigger picture (i.e every room, not just one room)

Have you ever lived in a home that has no sense of flow? No cohesion with design? I have and I remember getting into the habit of moving my furniture around every 6 months to try to make it ‘work’. It just didn’t. No matter how hard I tried.

Those were the days I lived in a council flat with my Mum and family. I’ve grown up with a very clear understanding of the importance of flow in a home – and now I support people getting their layout, colours and cohesion right.

What I really needed back then was something you have the opportunity to do right now… That is, consider loosely all of the room designs in your home at once not just one room at a time.

This is something I teach renovators in with Home Design Lab – I show students how to achieve flow. There are exercises that have helped renovators achieve stunning results and it’s worked for our 1930s house renovation too.

OK, you might not be decorating all at once, but eventually you’ll be working on every room and when the house is complete you’ll thank yourself you considered design as a whole not a part.

Stuck? Feeling overwhelmed with layouts and design? There are so many ways we can help you…

  1. Sign up for to receive the How to Design Your Dream Home – a FREE 3 day email series equipping you with the tools and skills to design your home

  2. Take a look at our Home Design Lab if you’re committed to to learning the ropes from an interior designer. I’ve helped hundreds of renovators to fast track their renovations now, they’re achieving stunning results

  3. Alternatively work with me 1:1 – My interior design services offer renovators an affordable and convenient E-design package, specialising in Modern Country, timeless decoration.

Best of luck designing your house renovation!

Fifi & Neil