Undercover Architect

How to balance your champagne tastes with a beer budget


Putting together your ‘design wish list’ is usually the fun part of the big plan. When the time comes to work out the budget, the cost of all those gorgeous features can really add up. Deborah asks Amelia how to save in certain areas of your renovation and get the most value for money.

1. Always focus on what is really going to add value to your life 

2. What is your driving motivation for doing this renovation?

Keeping the following key questions in mind at the start will help filter out the desirable-but-not-practical items.

  • Do you want to create a home that is going to serve your family for the next 5-10 years?
  • Is it an investment that you want to turn over in a short time?
  • Is it your ‘forever home”?

3. Consider where you will be spending the bulk of your time in your home

For most, it’s usually around the dining/kitchen area. You may want to create a home to impress your guests, but ultimately you need finishes and fixtures that are durable, have longevity, and are timeless.

Amelia encourages her clients to not choose really ‘directional’ things that are permanently fixed – you can do that with soft furnishings and paint colours.

Pick very neutral elements for the features that will last a long time. It’s worthwhile remembering it may not be the last money you ever spend on your house.

If you are in a home for 10 years & you are starting out with toddlers, chances are you may be doing a kitchen renovation in 15 years’ time. Consider compromising on a kitchen design that will survive the ‘toddler years’, but allow for the space to create your dream kitchen in the future.

In the meantime, put that money towards creating space and structure that you need to house your family first. For example, create a good indoor-outdoor connection, good design flow, things proportioned and sized properly – the finishes can always be updated later.


About Amelia Lee – Undercover Architect

Amelia Lee is the architect behind Undercover Architect. Undercover Architect operates mainly online to help homeowners (especially women) design and plan their future new homes and renovations. Think of it as your secret ally in getting it right, and saving time, money and stress – whoever you’re working with to create or transform your home.

Watch more from our interview with Amelia:

I’ve got an Undercover Architect on the job!

How did the Undercover Architect journey start?

How do you select the right architect?

Do I need a project manager for my renovation?

Should you move in before renovating or renovate before you move in?

We ask Amelia Lee: How do you select the right builder?

Cutting costs. What are Amelia Lee’s non-negotiables?

How to preplan your joinery needs for your renovation

How to ask the right questions so you’re on the front foot with your builders and architects

How do I know if I am being taken for a ride?

Undercover Architect project cheat sheet

What makes for a good project experience vs a bad one?

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