By Rachel Rafelman
Don't crumble underneath the weight of home ownership. Get informed and get ready to make some smart decisions!
When I moved into my first house many years ago, the contractor asked me two routine questions: "What colour do you want to paint your walls?" and "Where in the kitchen do you want the electrical outlets?" I was stumped. Eventually, I found my voice and proceeded to give misguided and uninformed answers to these queries. I'm still living with the results.
First-time homeowners are frequently overwhelmed by the sudden inundation of details confronting them the very second their brand-new residential threshold is traversed. I sank beneath the sheer and sudden weight of it all. But you don't have to. The following advice from the design pros will help you stay afloat.
"Avoid the temptation to buy new furnishings just because they're on sale or you think you have to. They may not work for you in two years, and you'll feel too guilty to replace them. Wait to buy things you really love."
Jeffrey Douglas, JAD Design Group, Toronto
"Assess the design priorities in your new house, then decide what you can live with for a while and what needs to be done immediately. Also, pay attention to where there's natural light at different times of the day before selecting and installing light fixtures."
Susannah Walker, Susannah Walker Interiors, Vancouver
"You'll want to cover the windows right away -- most people do," says Valerie Laidley, who likes the sophisticated look of laminated shades made with your own choice of inexpensive fabric. "When you're ready, you can add draperies to the blinds for a coordinated look."
Valerie Laidley, Square One, Montreal
"Take care of the stuff you don't see first," says Scott Yetman. For example, make sure the electrical wiring is safe and adequate and the plumbing is good. And remember to check the furnace. "It'll be hard to enjoy your home if the heating doesn't work properly."
Scott Yetman, Scott Yetman Design, Montreal
Don't just paint the whole house off-white. "Contrary to what many people say, it's a big deal to repaint," says Paul Lavoie. If you have to paint, pick wall colours you really love. "It's still the best way to get impact."
Paul Lavoie, Paul Lavoie Interior Design, Calgary
Don't make any major structural changes until you've lived in your house for a while. When you do, avoid design fads: "You could tire of them quickly. It's also good to keep resale in mind, especially if you don't know how long you'll be there."
Susan McIntyre, Susan McIntyre Design, Vancouver
Stick to essential furnishings, such as a basic table and chairs for dining that can be used elsewhere later on. Also, beware of the tendency to install built-ins right away. "Your assumptions about the uses of specific rooms will probably change over time."
Brenda Porter, Brenda Porter Interior Design, Calgary
Create a colour board on which to stick your favourite paint chips, finishes and fabric swatches. "It will be your map to purchasing and making design decisions. It will ensure that everything is part of an overall scheme."
Cindy Guberman, Design Profile, Winnipeg
"Have somewhere comfortable to sit," says Scott Elson. Buy a sofa that can be moved into the family room later, or if you already have one, slipcover it for a fresher look. Most of all, "Don't let anyone talk you into buying a suite of furniture."
Scott Elson, Elson Associates Interior Design, Toronto
"I encourage people to fully decorate at least one room - a family or living room - instead of doing bits and pieces. This provides you with an oasis even if the rest of the house is in chaos, as well as somewhere you can receive your friends."
Bea Doucet-Watts, Doucet-Watts & Davis Interiors, Halifax