Home Renovation 101

By Robin De Groot 

With the plethora of Home and Garden Television Programs currently on the air, many of us have caught the “Renovation bug”, that inexplicable desire to gut and rebuild our homes and create our dream home. Whether you are contemplating renovating, restoring or redecorating your home, in essence what you are really striving to do is to create the proper stage for your lives and the lives of our families and friends.

Changing your home can be an incredibly enjoyable process that frees your inner creativity while expanding our understanding of ourselves, our families and our aspirations. The key to a successful renovation can be broken down into your planning, adaptability and research.

Of course the big question everyone asks prior to a renovation is “Will my renovation wreak Havoc on my life and family?” The honest answer to this is “Yes”, but often in a great and unexpected way! Renovations or redesigning our homes allows us to grow, to learn more about ourselves and to create the proper setting for our lives that we envision living within.


• Be Realistic – If you live in a bungalow and you’re redoing the basement family room and you love urban loft living, 14’ ceilings and downtown views – you’re not going to get it. However, if you want it to have a contemporary flair with warmth, sexiness and edge, then that is completely achievable.

• Have a detailed budget for your project. – Calculate EVERYTHING from the nuts and bolts to the silks and light plates. Make sure that your Designer and/or Contractor know what the budgetary ceiling for each project and item is and if you go over on one of them, that it means you will need to either cut back elsewhere or accept the increased budget.

• Research the best contractor for you. – Find the best contractor that suits your project, your personality and shares your design vision. Make sure to meet with at least 3 Designers or Contractors prior to making a decision.

• Understand waiting times – Custom sofas can take up to 12 to 14 weeks. Custom Cabinetry is often 10 to 16 weeks – some fabrics can take up to 3 months. RESEARCH your selections so there are no misunderstandings.

• Put a positive spin on the process – The reality is that there will be inconvenient ugly days with no water or no kitchen or both. If you have kids make it a fun experience, set up a tent and go camping in an area in the house so that it’s fun for them and budget for a hotel suite for the worst period and have all the ugly bits done during your absence. Make sure to think creatively on how to put the best “spin” on the rough times to your family and yourself.

• Don’t sweat the small stuff – If for some reason something is delayed beyond anyone’s expectations its not going to do you any good to explode and send your blood pressure through the ceiling. In the case of the “no show” item, either reselect the item or accept that it is delayed. Literally those are the only choices so make life easier on yourself (and your family) and learn to adapt your design plan (I always recommend having a back up selection just in case to prevent losing time and money).

Of course before you can begin ANY renovation, you need to find out “who you are” and “what is your style”. Are you passionate about Traditional, Contemporary, Transitional, Modern, Urban, Zen, Ethnic or Eclectic styles? You can not successfully begin this process without being able to firmly state what your style is and what the goal for your renovation is and how you live your life. You will also need the help of a good designer to hone what it is you are trying to create. Make sure to go out and see what is available; go to as many showrooms and suppliers as possible. You will find these trips to be inspiring and also a great learning experience as well.

As we all know, the biggest, most expensive and most detailed project in renovating your home is your Kitchen. When planning the design for your new kitchen, determine what suits your lifestyle; you’re growing needs and your aesthetics. Always keep in mind as well that your kitchen is critical to the resale of your home, so plan wisely. Plan out not just the big ticket items, such as appliances, flooring, cabinetry and counters but the small details that truly make a design great such hardware, lighting, hidden and built in storage and items that reflect your personality and style. Think about whether you LOVE to cook (then add a spigot over your stove), do you entertain frequently (then put a trough sink in the island), do you have a large family (then open up some walls and really make it the heart of your home. The answers to these questions will guide the fixtures and appliances you choose for your kitchen.

When plotting out the design of the kitchen don’t just take the kitchen planner or designers word that the space is ideal for you and your family. Carefully examine your plan and think about how to best maximize the space in your kitchen as well as make your life easier. No one knows your needs and the needs of your family as well as you do. What about adding a multi purpose island with sinks storage prep and seating? What about the new and stunning professional sinks with pasta cookers built in?

When speaking of Kitchen design we are really speaking about choices, hundreds and hundreds of choices for every aspect of your kitchen. For example, when selecting your counter tops you can have tile, granite (the designer fave), marble (stunning but not child friendly), solid surface, stainless steel (sleek and modern), wood, concrete (perfect for an ultra modern condo or home), glass, laminate (the most affordable and readily available) and many more, not to mention the hundreds of options within each material. Don’t get overwhelmed by the choices, always keep in mind what works best for your style, your lifestyle and your BUDGET

A small kitchen can be just as much a work of art as a big family kitchen. It just means you need to plan and research twice as hard, but often they can be the most dramatic because you can put more money per square foot and make higher grade selections then you would with a big barn sized kitchen. Details are what will make a small kitchen sizzle. Add pull our drawers with stainless glides and pull out components and a double door pantry with full interior access.

An often forgotten but critical component to great design, in your kitchen, bath or anywhere in your home is your Lighting plan. Good lighting is what separates a beautiful room from a spectacular room. Incorporate under counter lighting pucks, overhead lighting in a cove moulding, lighting in glass fronted cabinetry, a beautiful fixture over the island or table, rope lighting hidden in a recessed tray detail in the ceiling, the options are endless. Remember when speaking of lighting you need to consider the 3 components of a great lighting plan: Task, Accent and Ambient lighting.


• Use quality materials whenever possible
• Determine your Cabinet heights – floor to ceiling whenever possible
• To paint or to stain
• Select the best countertop you can afford
• Install a Kitchen Island
• Don’t overdo the adornments or details
• Add interest – Add your personality


• Paint your kitchen – walls, ceiling, trim, cabinets
• Change your backsplash
• Change all your Kitchen Hardware
• Change the Kitchen Faucet
• Add Crown Mouldings and beef up millwork
• Update your accessories and small appliances
• EDIT – EDIT – EDIT clutter and unused items

The next most important area in a home renovation and nearly as complicated as a Kitchen with its endless choices, selections and style is your Bathroom.


• Doors should never impede the use of any fixture
• All receptacles should be GFCI
• Allow a min. of 6” between fixtures
• Select non slip flooring
• Provide ambient, task and accent lighting
• Designate areas for storage
• Consider how to encourage sense of privacy

Our bathrooms are our personal haven to rejuvenate our spirit and our energy; they are home Spa’s that act as a refuge after a trying day. Critical to this is the design of your shower, now the most coveted aspect in a great bathroom design and an important detail on resale. Don’t forget “SPA” is the key word. Go to a variety of showrooms, the options are endless from steam, waterfall, multi jet and massage options. Remember to pamper yourself and treat yourself as well as you do a guest. Always select the best fixtures that your budget will allow and really research the best deal. I have seen products at showrooms for 2500 dollars for a product and then shopped online and gotten the exact same product for less than half! Look around, research and shop smartly and don’t forget to always sit in your bath tub or Jacuzzi before you buy it. What is comfortable for one is not always comfortable for another.

Always keep in mind while renovating your kitchen, your bathroom or any other room in your home that the goal is to create the proper stage for our lives, our family and friends that best exemplifies your spirit and expresses who you want to be and how you want to live. Inspire yourself, challenge yourself and ENJOY yourself and those you love and don’t ever be afraid of change.

Great Design in essence is about the creation of an exquisite stage for the beauty and quality of life we all desire. From ultra urban to ornate opulence, Robin and his team have passionately and successfully designed it all. Robin’s interiors have graced the pages of magazines Worldwide. Robin has designed interiors for feature films, major retailers such as Home Depot (Style Ideas Magazine) and the Designer Showhouse. From smaller scale interior projects to full scale restorations and developments, Robin’s passionate and creative eye overseas all aspects. While fluent in all design trends and philosophies, Robin is most passionate about historic preservation and the creation of elegant, functional and memorable spaces that convey the best attributes of each owner while respecting and celebrating the architecture that encompasses them. Visit http://www.robindegroot.ca.