Now is the perfect time to plan a home refurb, here's why

Why not use the lockdown to identify what works and what needs improving?

Many homeowners have had their home renovation plans abruptly placed on hold and and are now wondering how to proceed amid the coronavirus health crisis. But for anyone at the very early stages of a home improvement project, now could be a good time to get the groundwork done. There are small things you can do to use this time wisely that will pay dividends when normal working life resumes.

Figure out exactly what you want

Spend time evaluating how you currently use your home. You want to make sure the work you do will improve your quality of life. With all of us spending so much time at home, it’s the ideal time to assess how it works for our needs.

A fun exercise is to monitor how you and your family use your home for one week. Get everyone involved and make a daily list of the things that are working and things that aren’t. By identifying why your house isn’t functioning, you will have a clearer idea of where to focus your attention and, more importantly, your budget.

Now is the ideal time for a good old-fashioned clear-out. Skip bags can be ordered online from several domestic waste companies

It’s easy to decide you need more space and end up with a large extension to the rear of the house that doesn’t improve anything. You also risk jumping into a small project when there is a much bigger issue to deal with.


Try to identify wasted or underused space. Unused rooms, long corridors, oversized bedrooms and bathrooms are all areas that could be reworked to create more space in your home. You might find that all you need is some internal reconfiguration and you don’t need to build an extension after all.

Clear out

There was a great show on Channel 4 a few years ago called The Home Show, hosted by architect George Clarke. The show focused on helping homeowners maximise the potential of their home through renovation or extension. Each episode started with Clarke clearing out the featured house and spray-painting everything, from the walls and floors to the ceilings and staircase, brilliant white. He then invites the clients back in to see their home in a completely different light.

As if by magic, the homeowners were suddenly able to see the potential that their home had to offer and could finally visualise what changes were needed to improve their day-to-day lives.

I’m not suggesting you adopt this drastic method to uncover your home’s potential. But if you plan to make changes to your home, you must understand the possibilities and limitations of what you are working with. Often its potential can be obscured by an accumulation of stuff.

Now is the ideal time for a good old-fashioned clear-out. Skip bags can be ordered online from several domestic waste companies. You can schedule delivery to your home and arrange collection whenever you are ready.

Not only will you be breathing a whole new energy into your home by doing a clear-out, but you will reap the benefits too. I asked neuroscientist Dr Michael Keane about why a spring clean can have such positive emotional benefits.

“Studies have shown that clutter competes for attention, which reduces the amount of attention you have for the things you need or want to do every day. Clearing clutter can feel good, as it reduces this competition for attention and the feeling of being overwhelmed, leaving us free to think more clearly,’ says Dr Keane.

Start the design process

A home renovation can be a lengthy process. Even if you don’t need planning permission, getting to the point where the builder starts work can take a while. So now is a great time to get working on the design. This is where your architect or interior designer explores all options for achieving your brief. How quickly this process moves along depends on how decisive you are and how well your design professional interprets your brief. But you should allow four to six months on average.

You don't need to worry about not being able to meet your architect face to face. In our practice, we are using Zoom and Google Hangouts for client meetings

Some architects and interior designers offer online consultations and can manage projects virtually. So you don’t need to worry about not being able to meet face to face. In our practice, for example, we are using Zoom and Google Hangouts for client meetings, where clients send photos and videos of their homes as part of the initial briefing stage.

Architects and designers will also have relationships with tradespeople and suppliers to make buying and sourcing fixtures and fittings both more affordable and less stressful. And with many factories shuttered due to the lockdown, they can advise clients on any impact to supply. They will also be able to help you source alternative companies where necessary.

Denise O'Connor is an architect and design consultant. @optimisedesign