Complete Interior Renovation.
This is the first of two articles on interior design. We kick off with what to do when faced with a complete interior renovation.
The desire to design your own place starts young. Boys have their tree house or secret fort made of pilfered 2 x 4s somewhere in the woods. Girls have their elaborate doll houses. Nothing is more thrilling than decorating your college dorm room or first apartment. It is a place of your own … a place to call home.
We all want to live somewhere that has our personality stamped on it. As we get older, the desire to create our own living space gets much more difficult to satisfy than just nailing some boards together or putting up a feminine poster on the wall (although, some folks still do it that way).
We want a place with class and style. We want a place that’s functional and livable. We want a space that says a little about who we are and how we choose to live. Sadly, when it comes to interior design, most people truly don’t know what they want. Most folks can tell you what they don’t like … some can tell you what they like when they see it … and quite a few want everything, all at once, in one room.
If the space you have chosen is partially finished; meaning it has flooring, ceiling lights, bathroom fixtures etc., at least you will have a starting point. The most daunting task the average homeowner will ever face is the finishing out of a bare shell condo or house. The mere two words “bare shell” conjure up images of a Spartan concrete box … which is exactly what most bare shells are.
You really don’t realize all that goes into making a place complete until you are standing in the middle of a completely empty room, or a formerly finished place that has been gutted. The first question that usually comes to mind is: “Where the hell do I start”? In this four-part series, we will attempt to shed some light on the mystery of interior design and decor as it applies to a bare (or mostly bare) shell. This first installment should help you get started.
This is the boring part. Before you start hanging pictures and placing furniture, it is most important to take a good hard look at the life and comfort support systems of your new abode. Electric, water, and air conditioning are the main three. Most bare units come with electrical wiring already run and outlet plugs usually placed exactly where you don’t want them. Take your floor plan and figure out where things like outlets, ceiling lamps and cable TV adapters should go. If you need to move existing outlets, or create some new ones, now is the time to do it; not after you have painted your walls. The same goes for built-in audio systems or surround sound. If you have to tear holes in the wall or punch holes in the ceiling, do it before you start making the place pretty.
Pay attention to lighting fixtures that come with your bare shell. Many will have those awful fluorescent bulbs everyone thinks save money but in fact light up your house like a grocery store. If you want warm halogen lights, now is the time to put them in. If you want cool energy saving, long lasting LED, this is when you should do it.
Your water system may seem like a pretty straight forward issue, but here in Thailand, adjustments may need to be made. Check your water pressure: is it enough to draw a bath in less than 20 minutes? Is it enough to run through the cycles on an average washing machine? You may need to install an internal booster pump. Check your water quality. If you have existing taps, unscrew the screen filter on the end to look for sediment. You might even want to draw a sample of your water and have it tested. Water fed from tanks on the rooftop can easily be contaminated with all sorts of nasty stuff. City water supplies can be just as dodgy. And well water? … no need to be unduly graphic here.
Fortunately, there are several suppliers of good quality filtration systems in town. Since systems like booster pumps and filtration take up room, can make some noise and need to be close to the main water source, the time to place and install them is in the beginning of the process.
Air conditioning is an essential element of life here in the tropics. The only thing worse than having no air-con is having a crappy air-con. Don’t be cheap … buy a good product. Make sure the units and vents are placed where it makes sense, not what was easiest for the contractor. Also make sure the condensation evacuation lines are run at a downhill angle and do not drain to an area prone to pooling. Measure your rooms and make sure you buy units that are rated for the relative size or larger. Moving or installing new air-con units can involve all kinds of cutting and drilling, so make sure you get it done first.