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Curate a collection of inspirational photos, designer advises
Buying your first home is no easy feat and you can’t wait to make it your own. But don’t buy paint, invest in new furniture or tear out cabinets just yet.
“The first thing you should always consider is how you want the room or space to function for your lifestyle,” says Jo Alcorn, founder and principal designer of Alcorn Home Design | Build.
“Understanding the flow of a room will help with directions in terms of the layout, furniture needed and even design colours. Some houses have destination areas that we are told would work best as a dining room or living.
Don’t let that hold you back. Use the spaces that would be best suited for an efficient and functional home,” she says.
Shaunn Lipsey, principal and creative director for Shaunn Lipsey + Co, a Toronto-based design and build team, recommends tackling one room at a time, “ensuring it receives your full attention for a cohesive and completed feel.
“Establish the desired ambiance early on, whether you prefer cooler or warmer tones throughout your home,” she says. “Curate a select collection of inspirational photos and consistently refer back to them when selecting pieces for new rooms.”
Hiring a designer to provide an overall plan for each space may seem like an extravagance but can save you money in the long run, advises Tanya Pallopson, co-founder of Ticking Stripe Design in Orillia.
“Once you have your overall look, feel, floor plan and furniture plans, you can begin projects one room at a time. This way you will know everything will flow together well, even if it’s done a weekend at a time.”
Which rooms should you prioritize? “Depending on the house, you might have immediate problems that need to be addressed,” Alcorn says. “If not, start with your most used room and make it your own right away. You want to feel at home so spend the time and money in the space you will be enjoying the most.”
Pallopson agrees with prioritizing the rooms in which you spend the most time. “It feels so good to come home and get to enjoy a finished space,” she says.
“Which room you choose depends on what you love doing. If you love entertaining, perhaps getting the kitchen updated will be the most satisfying. If you love staying home and watching movies, then choose your TV room and a really comfortable couch.”
Lipsey favours prioritizing kitchens and bathrooms. “Not only are these spaces the most frequently used, but they also offer the highest return on investment. Focusing on enhancing these areas not only improves daily functionality but also proves to be a wise investment in the long run,” she says.
Which investments will give you the biggest bang for your design budget? Alcorn agrees kitchens and bathrooms always offer a great return on investment.
“However, if the budget doesn’t allow for that, paint, new lighting, window treatments and even new hardware on cabinets and doors will update the space.”
Quality millwork can significantly elevate the aesthetic appeal of a space, while opting for stones that are not only beautiful but also timeless ensures a lasting design,” Lipsey says.
“Invest in items with a clear purpose, while consistently referring back to your vision to stay focused. Acknowledge the importance of functionality, as a well-functioning home is essential for a sense of belonging,” she says. “Also, consider painting your house for a rejuvenating touch that truly makes it feel uniquely yours.”
Pallopson also believes paint “makes everything look better” and recommends creating a fresh canvas by applying a warm neutral colour throughout your home. “As you build on your design, you can add in colour room by room over time.”
For big purchases like a sofa, invest in quality pieces. “This will ensure that the individual pieces and the overall design of the room will stand the test of time as you continue to build the space,” she says.
“Finally, and maybe most importantly, it takes time to experience how you live in your spaces. What you need for each room will develop as you spend time in your new home.”
Unless you purchased your house on your own, you may be struggling to merge conflicting design preferences. One, for example, may love a minimalist design aesthetic, while the other prefers modern farmhouse.
“Have fun with it by collecting inspiration pictures and find images that both partners like – even if just one element of the picture speaks to both of you,” designer Tanya Pallopson says. “Once you have a few pictures collected, you will start to see some common looks that you can build on. It’s always a blend of styles that work the best and show your true personality in your home.”
Designer Jo Alcorn recommends merging styles throughout the home so there’s a nice flow. “If styles are drastically different, you will have to go with a more neutral palette of compromise and then each of you gets a room to fully make all your style. A partnership is all about compromise and that’s even true in terms of design style in the home.”