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Renovation Tips

Many first-time home-buyers express an interest in buying modular (or prefabricated) homes. These are not a new concept in the construction industry. But, modern house plans have only recently gained popularity. Technological advancements are a major influence. But the main reason for the rise in interest is due to a few factors. Modern consumers are generally more aware of how their actions impact the environment. So, they want to make a difference by going green. They do so, by adopting more energy-efficient practices.

Further, more architects turn to modular construction when designing modern house plans. Sustainable practices include:

  • Reducing material waste and pollution generated by transport
  • Energy-efficient building materials
  • Solar panel systems
  • Creating modern homes that reduce one’s footprint

Read on to discover the hottest trends in the evolving world of contemporary homes.

Expand Your Living Space with a Modular Extension

Modular extensions aka ‘pods’ are a great solution for expanding a home. You may need a garden shed, art studio, DIY workshop or teenage retreat. These help homeowners to increase living space without making structural changes. Built off-site in climate-controlled factory environments, mean these are fast to install. Some only take a few days before they are ready to go.

Include Space-Savvy Solutions

But before you consider extending your home, you should know how to make the most of your existing space. Keeping the space neat and free of clutter is one modern house design trend that will never go away. Consider using a combination of practical storage for decluttering purposes.

Hiding gear from sight also makes rooms look bigger. To save on space, consider built-in shelves and closets. This way, you will take care of your clutter without disrupting the freedom of movement in your home.

Finally, keep spaces refined and polished by camouflaging appliances and homewares. For example, pick a refrigerator colour that matches your kitchen counters and cupboards. Or, use a retractable chopping board built into the counter.

Let the Light In

To enhance the cleanliness and air in a space, bring as much daylight in as possible. Instead of using window treatments that obstruct the view and the sun, leave windows bare. adorned with only some sheer curtains that allow for the light to sneak through. If your space doesn’t get sunlight during the day, get some with overhead ambient LED lighting. Go for a colour that’s as close to natural as possible.

Create an Earthy Atmosphere with a Palette of Neutral Tones

Create a home that feels honest, true and connected. Introduce nature, by using natural and earthy tones in your interior. The colours lack, brown, grey and beige create a balanced look with a homely feel. Neutral tones are also popular because they make spaces appear larger.

Let Rooms Flow into Each Other

There’s no rule that says each room has only one purpose. Try to see potential in all the separate rooms in your home. For instance, a kitchen can also contain a dining area. Remove the need to build a separate dining room. And a home office can double as an entertainment area. Fuse one off a living room. Dual-purpose increase available space and offering convenience.

Look Up to Mid-Century Modern Style

Modern mid-century architecture is gaining popularity. Design is minimalist and marked by clean lines, flat or gabled roofs. Floor-to-ceiling windows flood the space with light. This style is popular when it comes to modern house plan interiors.

For example, consider bringing in accents in retro colours. Think avocado, mustard, and baby pink. Also, use colours on vibrant tiles as a statement in the bathroom. An intricate contemporary pendant will grab attention in the dining room. These tasteful pops of colour can give sleek modern houses personality.

Elements such as peg legs or hardware can add a mid-century modern vibe to your interior. Instead of going for mass-produced (or throwaway) furniture, consider hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind pieces. These give the interior a unique character. Reclaimed wood, bamboo, and eco-smart furniture are great for adding texture. and warmth to a modern interior.

Say Hello to Terrazzo

For all the reasons above Terrazzo is popular. Wall coverings and floors, especially in bathrooms and kitchens are on trend. Terrazzo is a composite material. It’s made up of small pieces of marble, granite, glass, quartz or other material. Then it’s mixed with a polymeric or cementitious binder, or both. It’s great for wet and high-humidity areas as the material is resistant to water damage.

Make a Statement with Large Scale Art

New home designs in 2020 include large scale art covering a statement wall. Or in other words, wall murals, decals, tapestry or large paintings are popular. This works well in interiors with a neutral colour palette and a minimalist design. This big picture art brings a bold but tasteful touch to the space. Make sure that the theme and colours of the art complement the existing style of the space.  

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We’re at the end of a 7-year renovation and ready for a well-deserved holiday. We’ve made a lot of savings and yes, a few mistakes along the way. I’ve decided to start blogging about my experience as ‘background’ girl in this project. I’m in charge of budgeting, sourcing materials, as well as admin, plans and permits. I’m also documenting hubby Richard’s trade journey. We’re both super excited this project is ending because we’re going on a holiday soon. We’ve made a lot of sacrifices over the years. So, yippee! Well, we’re looking at holidays online anyway. So that’s a start.

I’m writing this article because I’ve heard some kitchen horror stories. Some people are paying between $14,000 and $30,000 for basic new kitchens. The cost is actually in the ‘project management’ rather than the materials themselves. If you are willing to do the project management yourself, you will save thousands.

Before I get started on how we created a dream kitchen and ‘heart of our home’ with appliances for under $5k, here are a few of my biggest tips.

Of course, we learned them in hindsight – but I’d like to save you the heartache and pitfalls.

Some ground rules

Don’t be in a hurry when renovating. Your home appreciates in value while you are waiting anyway.

Rule #1: Have the goal to save more money than you spend

Our project took us a while because we funded it out of wages, rather than ripping equity out of the home. This puts us in a good position now, when coming to sell because all that money we invested, we’ll get back tenfold. It isn’t a bad thing sitting on a home while renovating. Your home is going up in value the whole time and this allows you to take breaks along the way.

Rule#2:  Don’t be in a hurry

Unless you are an experienced renovator, it is important to not do much in the first six months of a renovation. It takes time to get a feel for what a home needs. You need to live in that home a while to understand what’s good about the place and what’s not. If you rush in and renovate, you may not discover the hidden gems. Nor will you understand why the previous owners did what they did.

Rule #3: Never pay full price and shop, shop, shop around

Well, this is part of my mantra as a savings blogger, but stick to this rule. We never paid full price for anything. We’d start with an item full price and then try to find it elsewhere for at least half its value if not more. Again – patience is key.

Rule #4: Be Prepared to Inconvenience yourself

If you have to drive 40 minutes with two of your hubby’s mates in the car to pick up a $100 Caesarstone benchtop – do it. That Saturday trip, will save you at least $2900 and is well worth the effort. Oh and here’s a bigger tip: Take three mates. Caesarstone benchtops are very heavy! We learned that the hard way.

Prepare for hard work and living in a dirty-grimy renovation environment

Here’s what you need to know:

Ok. Let’s get into it. Here’s how we created our dream kitchen for a song!

  • Be prepared to work hard. It will pay off. We worked many long hours on our renovation. Hubby did all the trade work himself (except for electrics and plumbing). He learned how to do everything asking trade mates and watching YouTube videos. I did a lot of the moving of stuff (actually that’s been my life for years) while hubby worked in the day. I always pre-empted the next stages of renovation. This was so hubby could get straight to work on weekends when he had time. I looked after the kids on weekends, keeping them occupied, while we hubby got jobs done.
  • Renovations are hard on the kids. Schedule in breaks around renovation stages. Plan weekends well, so kids are either helping or occupied with friends or activities. Also schedule in quality family time away from the renovation. For example, bike rides and picnics in the park. It’s important to keep everyone connected and happy throughout the long renovation process.
  • Living in a renovation is hard. You will live a life of dust-and-grime for years. You’ll become obsessed with cleaning (like I did) so you can feel normal. Keep a tidy ship as best you can.

Your essential guide to a dream kitchen with appliances for under $5k

Search using Google’s shopping feature and sort by price. Source secondhand items. Never pay full price.

Important research tips

  • New stuff: Research can take a while. When shopping for new supplies (e.g kitchen cabinets) go to google and punch in what you need. Then go to ‘shopping’ and ‘sort by price.’ This will bring up the cheapest vendor for that item.
  • Secondhand stuff: Our ‘go-to’ places for secondhand stuff are
  • Facebook Marketplace: My hubby loves Facebook marketplace. First, people turn up to take your old stuff for cash. Second, you don’t have to travel far to grab renovation supplies from others.
  • Gumtree: Still an oldie and a goodie for all things secondhand. I always find gems on Gumtree. Gumtree is great for finding local kitchenware suppliers who are selling it cheaper.
  • Tip store in a neighbouring town: We travel 15 minutes up a highway to a large secondhand shop next to a local tip. The area is a ritzy, so the secondhand goods are always high quality, but the goods go for a song.

Demolition – how to do it

  • Before you rip the old kitchen out, know the materials in your kitchen. Old vinyl flooring and walls can be asbestos-filled. Seek professional advice from a builder about what is hiding in your kitchen.
  • We used our old laundry, which is near our kitchen, as a kitchen while renovating. This worked fine as an interim kitchen.
  • Don’t rip up the entire kitchen. You can still use cupboards for food storage, while completing the sink area for example. Do areas of the kitchen in stages. Be prepared to bring in temporary storage. For example, I grabbed a large white pantry from a tip store, and we used that for all our food while renovating.
  • Demolition is so much fun and a great stress release. I love it and it was one of the most fun parts of our renovation. Be safe, wear safety masks and glasses. Try to do it when the kids aren’t home.

Costing – what we did and how we saved (in order of timing)

Kitchen cabinets and pantry: $1804

Tip: If you project manage your own kitchen, you will save big $$$

It took me a while to get the kitchen cabinets pricing right. I did a lot of shopping around. There was always the weighing-up of quality versus price. I ended finding a supplier on Gumtree – in one of their adverts.

First, create a 3D scale sketch and layout of the kitchen (pictured here) to give them specifics. There are plenty of apps and online sites for doing this. A simple sketch on paper (top view) will do too. You’ll need to do this first.

One thing to note, you’ll need side-panels, kickboards and spacers when buying cabinets. As well as handles. You can buy handles online at very reduced prices. Factor this in too. Side panels are around $30 each, back panels for islands are around $160 (which we didn’t need). Allow around $300 for extras.

  • 4 x 800mm cabinets $160 each = $640
  • 1 x 900mm cabinet $166 each – $166
  • 1 x 800mm drawers = $292
  • 4 x lge pantry cupboards $99 each = $396
  • 1 x extras – side panels, kickboards, handles = $300

Cabinet Installation: DIY

If you can’t install the cabinets checkout Airtaskers offering this service. Or go to an online trade site like Hi-Pages. You can get a tradie for a day for between $200-$400 for putting cabinets together. Some tradies jump on sites like this to fill gaps between bigger jobs. So this a win-win usually because they’d usually work for more. Many specialise in Ikea kitchens but can usually do other similar kitchens. Checkout installation services before investing in your cabinets. You need to make sure you installation experience runs well and doesn’t go over budget. I’m lucky – my very skilled hubby installed ours.

Kitchen Bench, Sink and Installation: $510

  • Benchtop: You can pick up very cost-effective benchtops at places like Bunnings. We actually got ours at the Masters closing down sale. It was around $300. But if you’re not handy, you will need to factor in a cutting service. Bunnings standard 2400x900mm white bench includes a cutting service. The price is $541.
  • Sink: Also factor in cutting the hole for the sink. Plumbers can usually help with that, as well as the cost of getting the sink plumbed up. It took our plumber about two hours to get ours all sorted. Roughly $200. We got lucky with the sink itself. I found a brand new double sink at my tip store for $10. This was very good find indeed.

Big tip: Avoid square-cornered sinks on eBay. They are cheap but horrible to use as the food doesn’t drain into the sink hole. Go for modern looking sinks with curved basins that drain water out well.

Penina Petersen – Reno Savers

Large 1200mm (not 900mm) wide benchtop $200:

Richard scored some high-quality bed heads for FREE from a home demolition on Gumtree. He cut them to size and built the base of our bench. The approximate cost was $200 for the base including materials, paint and silicon. Note: Caesarstone benches can cost up to $3000 for ones that are only 900mm wide.

We wanted a big family ‘feast table’ as the heart of our home. We achieved it at such a low cost and guests love, love, love sitting at our big feast table. It’s a real hit when we’re entertaining. Everybody gravitates to our big bright bench. We have so much fun here. It’s also a spot where the kids do their homework. We tell stories and of course, enjoy a lovely meal together every night. Happiness doesn’t have to cost the Earth.

Pendant Lights $120:

We did a lot of homework on the lights. We picked them up for around $40 each online. Note: If you are buying lights from China make sure they are Australian standard. Check with an Australian electrician before buying anything electrical from China.

Splashbacks $240:

Splashbacks look awesome but can be costly. A toughened glass splashback will set you back about $450 – $600 per metre. A standard splashback can set you back over one thousand dollars. If you buy tiles you will also have to pay for labour.

We wanted a splashback to style our kitchen but didn’t have the budget to pay too much. We wanted a stylish and classic (not overdone) look-and-feel. We ended up settling on Rivet Pressed Metal, which Richard painted white. These come in long sheets suitable for a splashback. We purchased two and Richard cut them down to size. I recently discovered you can get these already painted white at $120 each. If you’re not handy, hire a handyman on Airtasker to do the cutting and measuring for you. This doesn’t add too much to that cost. Make sure you hire someone with excellent reviews of course.

Etiquette Tip:
You could ask a handy friend to help. Of course, you must insist on paying your friend. No-one likes being taken advantage of. People should always receive fair compensation for their good work. Good friends will usually give you mates rates anyway. Don’t even go there if you think the ask will affect the friendship. Keep a good level of etiquette when enlisting help from well-meaning friends.

Penina Petersen – Reno Savers

New rangehood $50:

I found a guy on Gumtree who was cleaning out his mother’s garage. I drove 30 minutes to pick it up. It was in perfect condition and never used. Richard spent a Saturday afternoon installing it.

900mm Oven and Installation $1639:

Ovens are something you should buy new. Then they’ll last the test of time. We shopped around and settled on a Technika 900mm dual-fuel oven. It is was the cheapest at $1389. We had it delivered for $50 and had our plumber install it for $200.

Recycled Coffee Tea Station Cupboard: FREE

Finally, we saved on the cost of an extra cabinet by recycling some more of the wooden bed heads we found. Hubby made a stylish square open cupboard for our coffee and tea. Again FREE.

Brand new $2500 fridge: FREE (Think outside the square)

This was our super special move. Since we are living in a renovation we needed to remove around 3000 bricks from our backyard. My husband discovered on Facebook marketplace that our bricks were worth good money. They were worth at least $1 each. My husband advertised the bricks on Facebook marketplace. People came from all over Melbourne (and beyond) to collect them. There wasn’t a day that went by, that I didn’t see a new person in our backyard. Each with wheelbarrows full of bricks. We also met a bunch of lovely people in the process. For a month, our little backyard was a hub of excitement. We collected $2500 for the bricks and used the money to pay for our black fridge. It was such a win-win and a great way to recycle. It was so cool to use our new fridge after the process was over.

Happy Renovating!

So there you have it. You can have your dream kitchen and put those hard-earned dollars away for a holiday. I hope you enjoy your renovation ride. The hard work and savings sure are worth it!

Need more money for your renovation project?

Think outside the square by eating your way to a fatter wallet with Dollar Dinners.

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We deserve the best from our homes. Most of us want to transform our houses into havens. We all want a great place to hang out in and that we can be proud of when visitors drop in. Unfortunately, few of us can afford extensive renovations. But there are ways to give your home a lick of love, without having to spend up large.


A common problem new owners find in a home is space. There’s just not enough of it to feel comfortable in. There are other options apart from using up attic space or building extensions. Grab these tips and you’ll get a better idea of what options are available to you.
Get smarter about storage space. Good storage will give you more space in a room, because you can remove clutter. There are storage options for just about every room – so there’s no excuse really.
Try hooks on doors and in cupboards in the kitchen and bathroom. Or fit drawers beneath sinks. Choose multi-purpose furniture in the bedroom that doubles as storage. Yes, beds and chairs that open up to storage beneath them.


Light fixtures come in a lot of varieties, but they aren’t the only way to maximise light in a room. If you’re adding lights, you’re also increasing your electricity bill. Consider getting more natural light in. This doesn’t mean you have to open up a new window or a sunroof in the home. Window film tinting lets more light in by adding privacy without window treatments. Also consider changing the colour of the rooms to allow light to fill the space better. Darker colours absorb light, while lighter colours reflect light.


If you care about your budget and the planet, then you care about using resources efficiently. People in homes waste much water and energy daily. However, you needn’t start scrimping for solar energy panels just yet. Instead, think about smaller changes to appliances to get more efficient slowly.
For instance, you can replace the taps in your bathroom with water-saving devices. Replace light switches with dimmer switches to reduce the cost of lighting your home. There are low-cost long-term options like planting trees in the garden. These up your property values but keep homes cooler in the summer. They also reduce air-conditioning costs.
Invest in your home to get the most out of it. Get smart about how you invest. Avoid a full renovation with these simple steps.
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When you move out of home for the first time, you’ll unleash all kinds of emotions. Then there’s responsibility and that’ll get your goat. You’ll be super excited though, to finally be free and out on your own. Adding personality and style to your own pad will be tons of fun.
Whether you are paying out for a deposit on your home or forking out for rent, you’ll need furniture. You might have saved up, but many people don’t. Grab some quick tips today on how you can furnish your home cheaply, without compromising on quality or style. Here are some of the best ways on home furniture.

Buy Second Hand

Many furniture pieces are fine to be bought secondhand. Think of sofas, bed frames, tables, and chairs, for example. As long as they are good quality, there is nothing wrong with getting a little pre-loved into a room. You can still look for style that suits your taste. Hunt around and pick well, and you risk having to get rid of it or buying again later.

Upcycle Furniture

Also consider secondhand furniture ‘with potential.’ With a lick of paint, an old wooden dresser or chest of drawers can look amazing. This article: Handyman.net.au/upcycling-furniture delivers some awesome ideas if you’re unsure about upcycling furniture. So definitely look for pieces that have potential too. They’ll be cheaper if they’re old or secondhand, but could be made to look just as you want them.

Choose Longer Lasting Alternatives

When you buy cheaper alternatives, you may end up paying more in the long run. A great way to avoid this, is to look for longer lasting alternatives. You’ll save money by not needing to replace the items more often. Think about glassware, for instance. Glasses can get broken really easily. So would some plastic alternatives, from somewhere like SwishPlastic.com.au, be an option? You can get plenty of alternatives out there that don’t look cheap or tacky. This is also a great idea if you’ve got kids.
Other alternatives could be LED light bulbs instead of halogen ones. The latter do not last long at all, whereas LED bulbs last for the distance, and save you more due to their energy efficiency.

Shop in Budget Stores

There are plenty of $2 shops around, offering similar products at much reduced prices. But shopping at these shops doesn’t mean that you’re buying junk. As long as you shop wisely, you can get some real gems. Think candles, frames, bathroom accessories, vases, and faux flowers. These can all be found in these discount stores.
Spending less on decor to dress your home is worth it. Mix budget items with expensive pieces that you might already have, or a thrift store find. You’ll be able to have your home looking just as you’d like it at little cost.

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If you are trying to save money and spend less, doing up a room might seem low on your list of priorities. But there’s good news. You can do it anyway. You can makeover a room for a song these days, if you are super clever about it. Read on to find out how.

Love Paint

Paint isn’t too expensive, so it’s a good place to start on your budget makeover. Of course, doing something as simple as changing the colour of the walls can make a huge difference to the look and feel of any room.
To get a light and airy room, go for light and white paint tones. Or to create a cosy paradise go for warmer earthy shades. At the moment gunmetal grey is bang on trend too, and don’t be afraid of making a feature out of it by painting furniture and fireplaces in the same colour, for an ultra modern effect.

Work with light

However, if it’s too much hassle or money to repaint the entire room, then you may want to consider painting with light instead. This is when you use the natural and artificial light that you have in a room to create a different mood.
For example, it is surprising, the effect, removing a pair of heavy curtains can have. Especially if you install a blind like the ones available from Carpet Court instead. This can make a smaller room look bigger, and opens up the wall space to allow more light in.
Consider smart lights to create certain scenes in your room. You can change the look and feel of a room with the touch of a button. All this – without the hassle and cost of any redecorating!

Change the soft furnishings

Another excellent tip for redecorating on a budget is to change the soft furnishings in a room. This can have a huge effect on the way the room looks, without having to replace anything of too-high value.
Keep your carpets, sofa, as well as your furniture. Just get new cushions, bedspreads, and pillows.
Pick a colour or pattern that goes well with the original colour scheme. But try and make it different enough so that it feels changed from how you had the room before.
Bold geometric patterns are the best way of doing this, because they make such an impact. Everyone will notice a big improvement.
Picture here

Clean It

Finally, if your home is crying out for a makeover, but you just don’t have the budget for it, try deep cleaning rooms instead. While this isn’t as much fun as going to the store and picking out new cushions and throws, you’ll enjoy this cleanse.
This makes an amazing difference to how a room looks. Pull out all the furniture and clean underneath. Pack away all clutter and get a nice air freshener too. You may be surprised at how much you actually do like this room when it’s clean. So maybe you don’t need that makeover as urgently as you thought.

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