Veteran renovator Vicki Sleet shares her insider advice. OPEN HOUSE As in many older homes, what is now a combined open-plan kitchen, dining and living area was originally three separate rooms. Once the walls had been knocked down we set about planning a space with a central island at its heart. To the kitchen we added on an extra section that doubles as a scullery area and family supper-and- homework zone with table and chairs. The original Oregon wooden floors, hidden under fitted carpets, had never been varnished or painted, so we sanded, stained and sealed them, and used hard-wearing, budget-friendly rubber tiles for the kitchen. TIP: Keep a few spare tiles in case you ever need to replace a section of floor - their interlocking design makes this easy to do. TRICKS OF THE TRADE If you really want a quartz stone counter top but are on a budget, shop around. A good second choice is stainless steel. We also cut our kitchen costs by using a freestanding cupboard as our grocery cupboard and by installing floating shelves instead of another bank of cupboards. TIP: Fingerless-grip grooves add to the seamless look in a kitchen - we chose less expensive handles that were routed into the cupboard doors for a similar effect. CUPBOARD LOVE It's essential that you finalise your kitchen design early on in the build. We opted for deep drawers (with drawer runners) because of their capacity, and installeda tap in the centre island to make a prep bowl. We'd also bought our appliances first - when we saw them on sale - and made sure to design the cupboards and island around them. TIP: Remember to include a broom cupboard (we almost forgot) and a junk drawer - every kitchen needs one. SUITE DREAMS The original house had one bathroom and a guest loo, so adding an en-suite bathroom to the master bedroom - without compromising on space - was essential. Our architect suggested knocking through the bedroom wall and including an extra 2.5m. The result is an 11m2 bathroom that leads off a bank of open wardrobes, painted in dark charcoal with inexpensive slate-tile flooring. The white-painted bedroom is offset by a plush headboard (made by a local upholsterer; the fabric was a lucky factory shop find). TIP: A two-metre-long shelf recess eliminates the need for a cabinet and is perfect for making the most of a large wall space. KIDS' PLAY The lounge was once a bedroom but we turned it into a space where the children can hang out with their friends, and added two new bedrooms for them. The idea is that this room will grow as they become teenagers - and it's close enough to the master bedroom so we can keep an eye on them. From a resale perspective, this room could also be an office. To solve the issue of where to store books, toys and accumulated objects, a local carpenter custom-built a shelf system that traverses the bedroom doorways. TIP: This is one of the few zones we carpeted (since the kids' rooms were additions, we had to choose an alternative to the wooden flooring elsewhere in the house) - we selected a reasonably priced carpet but used an underfelt that's twice the usual thickness for a really soft underfoot experience. POWER HOUSE For the entire house we worked around the adage that 'you can never have enough power points', and this room is a case in point. It is wired for Internet and phone cabling, with numerous power points for every eventuality and furniture layout possibility. We thoroughly recommend this approach; it involves a negligible financial layout compared with having to put in plug points at a later stage. PAPER CHASE We love wallpaper and have been amazed at how it can transform a dead space in a short time. We chose a simple damask Anaglypta pattern for the landing outside our bedrooms, which added a sense of depth to the area, and managed to paper two spaces from one roll of wallpaper. TIP: I had collected National Geographic maps for many years and our guest bathroom proved to be just the place to use them as wallpaper. If you have just a couple of pages of something you like, consider approaching a company like Smart Art who will create wallpaper from those pages for you. This article was originally featured in the July 2011 Renovations issue of House & Leisure. Get our latest July 2013 Renovations issue - on sale now!