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Top 10 tips for building or renovating a small smart space with Sharon Robinson

Smart Living Spaces architectural designer Sharon Robinson shares her top tips for building or renovating a small smart space.

  1. Be clear on your ‘must-haves’ and ‘definitely nots’. The clearer you can be to your designer, the better considered your design solution can be.
  2. Small spaces call for creative out-of-the-box thinking. Don’t short change yourself by being stuck on a sketch or concept, be open to suggestions.
  3. Alterations surprise us with what’s actually behind linings and new builds surprise us by what’s actually in the ground. Invest in the appropriate pre-design tests and design reports.
  4. Have a realistic contingency and accept it is already spent before you start. The contingency is there to cover you for any surprises. It’s like an insurance premium that you won’t get back.
  5. Accept your timeframes are only your timeframes. You might want your project completed in a certain amount of time, but you are using the services of professionals who have other projects on their workload and consent processes that aren’t as quick as you would like them to be. Also, be aware, you influence these timeframes as you are part of the team. 
  6. Don’t shop around for designers. You actually delay your project by shopping around based on price and timeframes. Designers are becoming more aware of this and starting to charge a proposal fee to avoid having their time wasted. Most designer costs are similar and if you get a radically cheaper price, ask what’s been left out.
  7. Engage your designer or architect for site observation. This is an additional cost to the project, but legally a designer or architect doesn’t have any obligation to you or your project when on site, if only engaged up to building consent stage. Any changes on site can be creatively tailored to work both with your original design intent and any surprises solved using knowledge and experience from your builder and designer. What you spend on this may save you more overall.
  8. Accept changes are going to cost you more and the earlier those changes are made, the cheaper they are. Accept you made the best decision with the information you had available at the time.
  9. Any building project requires your input and time. Set aside time for it and be mindful that tradies and professional people generally keep regular working hours, so respect their time when they accommodate you outside of this.
  10. Enjoy the process. Remember what you’re doing is something many people dream of doing and many more never think to dream about as it’s simply not in their realm. After the stress has settled, remember the funny stories – they make great dinner conversation.
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