So – you’ve bought the house (or apartment) and it needs work.

Where do you start?  How much do you spend?  And how do you avoid expensive errors of judgement?

New research shows the average woman has 22 items in her wardrobe that she has never worn (but feels too guilty to throw out).  Sadly, purchases for the home are not immune from such lapses in judgment either.  And rather than languish unseen in the back of the wardrobe, they stare at us daily from whichever room we have thrust them into, unable to face the ignominy of admitting our mistake.

This is what I’ve learned….

Firstly, don’t rush into things. 

Oh, that’s so rich coming from me. 

I’m a complete rusher.  I’m brim-full of ideas and enthusiasm, can see lots of potential and I want to do it all now now now!!  I’m also very decisive and rarely change my mind, so this isn’t usually a problem.  Except that houses are different.

Ancient library leather bound books

Take, for example, the 42 boxes of books that were stacked up when I moved in here.  (I’m  a voracious reader…)  I couldn’t bear to have them boxed.  I love books in a room.  So, straight away, I had book shelves built in the living room.  Before (I can’t believe I’m telling you this)… BEFORE I had a plan for the room as a whole.  Which is the kiss of death to any space. 

To add insult to injury, the carpenters (I had too much to get done, so hired someone) had very firm ideas of what they thought should happen.  And I took their advice.  So I ended up with something that not only didn’t fit into an overall designplan, I ended up with something that wasn’t really my plan at all.  It was some carpenter’s idea.

I lived with it, resentfully, grudgingly, disappointedly for three years.  Unable to bear ripping out something that had cost so much.

Until I realise that I was adding to the dollar cost, with the cost of my unhappiness.  The offending shelves have long gone and taking them out was the best things I could have done.

What could be so wrong with them, I hear you ask?  Firstly, they were not built up to ceiling height (which I had asked for) – but to the top of the windows, some 30cm lower.  This had the effect of lowering an already low ceiling and making the room feel oppressive.  Secondly, they were not built from wood (again my first preference) but from laminate.  The carpenters insisted this would be better.  And although laminate these days is far superior than that of a couple of decades ago, it looked cheap and ‘fake’.  I should have stuck to my guns and had wood, which would have taken more time as it needed priming and painting.


1. Don’t rush.  Books can sit in boxes.  Guests and friends can visit half-done homes. 

2. Make sure you know what you want, and don’t let tradespeople talk you into a different design unless there is a structural reason for it (such as an extra $5,000 to move the plumbing). 

3. If you make a mistake, don’t punish yourself by living with it.  Accept you got it wrong and change it.

4. Have a complete plan for the room before you start spending.

5. Investigate all alternatives to get the best price.  The carpenters were competitively priced (yes – even at $4000).  But I didn’t realise, at that time, that shelves could be purchased from antique auctions for a pittance, and then remodelled.  I could have had wood cheaper than laminate, and antique wood at that.  These experiences are one of the reasons why I now do so much myself.

So – if you are sitting with an expensive mistake in your home…. be kind to yourself.  Admit you were wrong and recycle the damn thing!