Claire and Adam standing in front of the house.

Five Things that Can Make or Break a Renovation or New-Home Purchase

Take it from an interior designer – what to consider to optimize your next home investment

By: Claire Zinnecker, founder of Claire Zinnecker Designs and Honeywell Home product user1

I read a quote the other day from Actor and Activist Sophia Bush – "You are allowed to be a masterpiece and a work-in-progress, simultaneously." And that attitude captures my latest project in a nutshell: "Saving Ida."

In my spare time, I've been restoring a 120-year old home that I bought on Facebook Marketplace. Saving it from destruction, I transported it across county lines and placed it next to the meandering San Gabriel River north of Austin, Texas. I call her "Ida," after the previous homeowner, and have been documenting the #SavingIda project for a couple of years.

I treasure my experience working with my clients to build authentic spaces they will cherish. When I set out on my own home restoration journey, I never expected that it would be one hundred times harder than designing spaces for my residential and commercial space clients – or the number of times I would change my mind about materials and design.

I wanted to share a few other things my design and home-renovation experience has taught me. Here are five things that could make or break your next big home purchase:

  •  A Lady is checking the leak detector by a bathtub. 1. The Bones. So often it's hard to get past what your eyes see, but it's important to use your imagination. Often times the best parts of the house are beneath the terrible paint color, the bad light fixture or the ugly curtains. When buying a house, your inspector can help ensure the bones are worth investing in, and when remodeling, your designer and contractor can help imagine a space that's right for you. Ida's bones and structure needed to be strong enough to travel down the highway – across multiple towns. She also needed all new plumbing and electrical plans.

    It's a smaller home, so I had to optimize plumbing and electrical plans. For example, I drew and re-drew the master bath many times – I was adamant that I have a spa-like soaker tub, the toilet needed its own separate room and I really needed a separate space for the washer and dryer. To protect Ida's hardwood floors, I put a Resideo Water Leak and Freeze Detector in all the places where a leak or frozen pipes cold occur.

  • 2. The Flow. When I walk through projects with my clients, we discuss how they will intend to use the space – and who will be using the space. For example, consider your friends and family and how you would all use the space together. Do you entertain and need space for gatherings? What are the sightlines? How many people would be at your home at once?

    For example, when designing the flow of Ida, I thought about the view from each window; I maximized the views that were beautiful and lessened the ones that weren't ideal. One issue I frequently ran into was the lack of wall space – each wall was always broken up with a window or door or both! So I had to move windows and doors in order to have enough wall space for placing furniture (ie, beds, sofas, etc.).
A floorplans.
  • An image of facet on the sink.3. The Budget & Future Costs. I'm still on my renovation journey and am several months behind where I wanted to be – due in part because of the pandemic and also because I've changed my mind, have had scope creep and keep adding design elements. As you consider your own projects, be sure to add at least 30% to your budget and timeline.

    The whole point of "Saving Ida" was to save this piece of Texas history from ending up in a landfill and to give her a new life. I knew that also meant many upgrades to help her use less water, conserve more energy and save money on my monthly utility bills – such as adding a smart thermostat or motion-sensor lights in closets. And after living through an unexpected deep-freeze in Texas earlier this year, I'm glad I helped lessen her energy demand and my plumbing didn't freeze!

  • 4. Invisible Threats. Let's be real most of my design work is focused on the aesthetics of a home, what is seen with your eyes. The reality? There is so much you can't see inside a home that's incredibly important. When I stepped into Ida, I saw through its crumbling sheetrock, layers of laminate, dust and broken windows.

    Once we closed in her new walls and added a new roof, she needed a massive indoor air quality (IAQ) fix. IAQ plays a vital role in our overall well-being – and even how your home smells. In fact, 95% of homes will have at least one air quality issue. Making sure Ida's air quality was monitored and regulated was important to me – thanks to a Resideo air quality assessment, I was able to see the issues my air quality has, and was given the guide for how to fix them. The test results for the air particle section came back as 'needs attention,' which with 4 pets and an old home, I'm not surprised!

    During construction, it's important to ensure your contractor seals off vents to ensure your home doesn't get filled with construction debris. Before you buy a home, pay attention for any damp smells, dust floating in the air or areas of the home that have cold/warm spots.


A lady standing in a vintage style living room.
  • 5. Your Patience. My home design philosophy is to choose what makes you happy and invest in what brings you joy! I'm all for renovating on a budget, but I also know that there are certain things I don't want to compromise on, even if it means I have to save up and wait until I can have them.

    A shower room image.For example, there are cabinets and a vent hood in my kitchen that I'm dying to finish and two glass shower doors I'd love to have but right now my funds won't allow for them. I've learned to practice a lot of patience – I can still make things pretty with a linen shower curtain or a furniture piece as a pantry. What's important is that I can still operate in my house while saving for those items that will bring be joy in the future.

    If you're buying your first home you may have to make several compromises – but you can invest as you go.

    You see, Saving Ida is both a masterpiece and a total work in progress because she embodies the amount of effort I've invested so far – and all the ideas that are yet to come. Whether you're buying a new home or renovating your current home, I encourage you to enjoy the learning process. I think the more we understand about our house, how it's put together, how it functions and how to care for it, the safer and happier we will be as we experience it.

    I hope you found these tips helpful; for more design tips, follow me on Instagram.

    1 Claire Zinnecker received free Honeywell Home products for participation in this article.