Please help. We have just bought our first home. It has been a rental since 1984, so is really in need of TLC. It has great ‘bones’. However, we have no idea where to start. The flooring people say the floor needs to be chosen first. The kitchen people say, the kitchen needs to be chosen first. i have read that you say start with a corner. There are so many corners! Everything needs attention. What should we do first? Thank you, Lisa

Hey Lisa,

You are right, we’ve both renovated old places (Tip is currently fixing an older house with good bones) and it can feel overwhelming! 

So my first advice is: “breathe”, “know it’s going to be great…and “you are creating a home which is a work in progress whether or not it started old”

First things first, a corner.

A corner can be anything. It can be cleaning out the place, starting with your bedroom to create a sanctuary…it can be putting a chair you love in a corner with a lamp next to it. Just think of one thing you and your partner can do to make it feel like yours. Something that would make you smile when you see it. It can be as simple as weeding the front garden and putting a pot plant at the front door. Choose one thing each that is simple. 

I don’t get the sense as to whether you are living there or not? And whether you want to do the renovations in one go or one area at a time? And are you planning on staying there during the renovations…this will also help guide you as you can decide which things are important to you right now vs later.

What next?:

1. I recommend sitting down together and writing / saying “what’s important to us” / “what do we need to live here”

2. “What things MUST be fixed”

go through each room (including the entrance) and just write down the list:

leaky taps, electrical, kitchen impossible to cook in etc

Later you can attach a budget to these

3. “What things can we cope waiting for”

same thing – a list of ideals that you are happy to strive for but may not be for now.

4. What feelings do you want you house to convey.

I did a renovation on our old apartment last year and for us it was “calm, happy, with elements that we can touch and enjoy” this help guide us in color choice, flooring (we chose wooden floors as they warm up a space), low furniture and so forth.


5. give the place a GOOD clean – throw out junk, renove old carpets…and yes, paint it.

Because that is one of the best pieces of advice that I know helps – there is NOTHING like a good coat of white paint. Even if you repaint later it tends to freshen up the space and help you start a new.

From there you can start to keep a folder of your inspiration from blogs and so forth and start understanding what type of home you are creating…I know it maybe sounds like a lot but getting clear on the beginning on what you are trying to create really helps – and also helps you decide whether to hold off on kitchen etc.

Here are some great reading materials we can recommend in addition to our blog: Home Cure:

they also have a book

I also really enjoy Anna’s blog about her place

Finally the other best piece of advice is use magazines and blogs for inspiration but remember these have been decluttered for photographs and you are creating a space to live in :)

Hope this helps and and please let us know how it goes!

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