What’s That $53 Billion in Reno Spending About?

Canadians can’t really complain about the cost of renovating 24 Sussex Dr., the official residence of the prime minister. We’re spending plenty on home projects ourselves. According to Scotiabank, we spent $53 billion on renovations in 2015. That’s the same amount of money we spent building new houses.

Maybe we really are like our national symbol, the beaver – industrious, and like to build and renovate. But is the drive to renovate always a good thing?

As Heather Mallick points out in a column for the Toronto Star, a lot of renovations have no real purpose or lasting value.

And if you’re going with the latest trend, you may be sorry. (Remember when wallpapering inside kitchen cupboards was in fashion?)

But for those of us who just want what’s in NOW (you know who we are), we should at least be conscious of how we spend our renovation dollar.

Renovate wisely

As stats indicate, most people renovate their homes when they’re planning on selling them, or shortly after they purchase a new home. Many concentrate on cosmetics – that white kitchen or the big master ensuite. But DIYers, in particular, may not be focusing on the basics or doing the best job. Unlike with dated decor, buyers may be stuck with some of these hacks forever. Unless of course they’re prepared to rerenovate.

Reality check: You will renovate your home. It will cost money. That’s not bad. But keep your priorities aligned. Don’t become so focused on improving the appearance of your home – installing new countertops or flooring – that you neglect the basics, ignoring structural problems, outdated wiring and leaky basements.

As Mallick puts it, “Homes are living spaces that deteriorate as much as their owners do.” Just as we need to maintain our bodies, and not just our clothes, we need to focus on walls and wiring, not paint and light fixtures.

Is It Curtains for the Open Concept Lifestyle?

For years, it’s seemed as though open-concept living was the design principle of choice.

Kitchens, dining rooms, and living rooms were prized for their lack of dividing doors and walls.

Now, however, the dominance of the open-concept lifestyle is in question, according to architects and designers quoted in a November 2015 article inDezeen, an international design magazine.

UK architect David Mikhail told Dezeen that he first noticed the shift while working on an affordable housing scheme. Residents were offered a choice between an open-plan living space and inserting a wall between their living and dining rooms.

“Much to our surprise, they all chose to put the wall in,” Mikhail said.

According to Mikhail, many designed homes include a mix of spaces, such that large living areas now comfortably coexist with nooks and crannies, reflecting a current desire for secluded spaces and privacy.

The trend to “flexible-plan living” may be a function of today’s mobile technology. So-called broken-plan spaces allow each family member privacy for tablet and smartphone use, as well as individual areas to watch different TV programs at the same time.

While open-concept design still rules, other design publications have also noted a renewed interest in closed spaces.

The New York Times, for example, reported that an increasing number of buyers preferred separate dining and living areas.

And, in dissing open kitchens, Houzz writer Vanessa Brunner suggests: “If you want to leave your smells and mess behind when serving meals, a closed layout could be for you.” Point well made.