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Building & Renovating

The Best Renovating Secrets From Real Living's Makeover Designers

With these expert-given tips, renovating your home will be a smooth process

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Photography: Jilson Tiu (Main Photo)

Are you planning on making some big changes to your home anytime soon? Worry not, because we’ve got a roundup of the most important and helpful tips to consider when planning a renovation, straight from some of the best RL makeover designers—interior designers Vera Villarosa, Erika Uichanco, Kimi Manuel, and Cathy Cena.


Tip 1: Create a plan

Erika: Make sure to think the basic things through—choose a style or [a] theme, [determine whether] you will be renovating your home by parts, and what timeline or budget you are working around. Not planning beforehand can be costly because you might miss out on a lot of things, resulting in an even bigger and more expensive job to be done.

Cathy: Always measure before buying anything! If possible, mark the exact dimensions of the furniture pieces on the floor with masking tape. There is nothing worse than having a piece of furniture not fit the space it was intended for.

Vera: Don’t forget to move things around. A good and efficient layout can instantly change a space.

Kimi: Design spaces [thinking] not only [of] its suitability for the users but now more importantly, with accessibility in mind. The family will have changing needs and mobility as they grow and age, [and the design of the space should be able to cater to those changes].

Tip 2: Choose the right materials

Erika: Pair [together different] textures and finishes to have that soft and lived-in look. A simple throw pillow with a different texture and feel can change the mood of a space instantly.

Cathy: Use quality materials for items that are going to be permanent, [like] floors, plumbing fixtures, [and] built-in cabinets. Anything that will be hard to replace will need to be long-wearing, so if you want your money to go a long way, these are things you should prioritize.

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Tip 3: Learn to prioritize

Cathy: Always address the technical issues first. [A] leaky roof, plumbing issues, termite problems—these have to be considered before doing anything aesthetic.

Kimi: Renovations are often more costly than construction of new spaces because repairs are also involved. For example, old electric wires may require rewiring or termite problems might be discovered during the actual renovation. Assess the degree of need for renovation of each space [and decide] where you might consider to focus first on one or two areas [only].

Tip 4: Be smart about decorating

Erika: Sometimes you have the awful post in the middle of the room, an awkward corner, or an unsightly beam that you can’t get rid of. Without having to spend a lot, I suggest making it a focal point [by] adding some wallpaper, lighting, or texture … for it to be an accent, or for it to have a seamless design [that will] work with the rest of the space.

Vera: We all know that we have to work with a budget when doing makeovers so reusing existing furniture and décor is key. A fresh coat of paint and new fabric upholstery can go a long way.

Tip 5: Look for the right people to work with

Cathy: Choose a construction team that has lots of experience and good reviews. An inexperienced team will cost you more in the long run because of back jobs.

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