By: TERESA AZEVEDO COUTINHO
THE VOGUE for buying brand new homes abroad is being rivalled by the returning trend to buy a wreck to restore. The demand for dereliction has returned, fuelled in part by spiralling house prices here in Portugal and the fact that building your own villa is now more expensive as land prices have risen dramatically in the last 10 years.
The pride and satisfaction to be found in restoring an old home is immense. Often people spend a great deal of time and money on a project. It takes patience and perseverance. For the inexperienced designer there are endless problems while for the experienced professional there are endless possibilities. Make sure when you restore a ruin yourself that you seek advice to get the best from your property and to ensure you reap the financial rewards.
Some of the restoration projects I’ve worked on are labours of love for their owners but at the moment I am working on two schemes where clients are carrying out work solely for investment and aim to sell them on completion.
One of the most frequently asked questions is: “If I spend a certain amount on this villa to modernise it, how much will it be worth?”
Well here’s an example, one of my clients spent 520,000 euros on a property that was 15 years old. We spent 200,000 euros on the home renovations which included a brand new kitchen, new bathrooms, plumbing, electrics, interior furnishings, fittings lights and all the building work in fact. The house is now worth 1.2 million euros.
So where do you start? Crucial are the bathrooms and kitchen. Once changed, they upgrade the whole house and have a huge impact. Like a memorable recipe, a great kitchen remodel starts with key ingredients.
Make it a multi-tasking family zone. Ensure a generous counter for food preparation, (centre islands are very popular to expand work space), a dining area, separate laundry area and even a mudroom if a back door leads from the kitchen. Pick a fresh and light colour scheme. Ensure you have good flexible lighting such as ceiling-mounted lights, lights below cabinets and pendant lights over the island and eating area to create multiple options for a variety of tasks. Make sure you have good durable flooring that’s easy to clean.
Update the heating so the villa is comfortable all year round. With older heating systems you used to have to gut the house and rip up walls but that’s not necessary now as you can use energy saving wafer thin heaters that plug in and are easy to install.
Air conditioning makes the house infinitely more comfortable throughout the year and many models also have dehumidifying and heating for the winter months. The addition of these units will add value to your villa.
Hallways should be light, airy and welcoming. One of my clients bought a 10-year-old villa and there were lots of cracked surfaces in the entrance hall so we traced in diagonal lines and put in metal bar bars to strengthen the walls and then resurfaced them. We also lifted the ceiling, and used feature stainless steel ships handrails on the stairs to modernise the look.
Fireplaces are still the focal point of many interior living spaces but the latest fireplaces look anything but traditional. From glass and steel, to tile and stone, the material options are extensive. Fireplaces in older properties are often open and made of traditional stone ofrmarble.
Add a wood burning stove to make it safer and more usable. Give it a more contemporary finish by filling in the wall around the fireplace opening so it’s flush on a flat wall. You can even dispense with a mantle and create simple, chic and stylish lines.
It’s all in the planning. Look at lighting and electrics before your restoration commences. Choose ideal areas for additional wall lights and lamps.
For a villa more than 10 years old you should consider new plumbing and check the workings of the water supply. Get a plumber to provide step-by-step diagnosis, suggestions and quotes to upgrade the system.
Externally, wooden shutters reflect a rustic feel but add new PVC or aluminium instead. Change dark wood to white shutters and give the villa an immediate facelift!
Sun drenched patios by day and a summer breeze while dining under the stars at night, is what the alfresco lifestyle is all about. Lots of older properties get abandoned for periods of time especially if their owners are selling them and not visiting the house.
An overgrown garden can look daunting but setting up your outdoor living spaces here in Portugal is very much like decorating indoors. It’s really a matter of positioning your furniture and accessories, such as potted plants, garden furniture, candles, cushions and pillows around focal points to create conversational areas, capture a view or provide an intimate spot for dining al fresco under a shady tree, a canopy, umbrella or pergola.
In most outdoor entertaining areas, the BBQ is the centre piece, but more and more homeowners are even adding bars, refrigerators and cabinets to hold everything. When you’re planning your entertainment space, consider anchoring the dining area with at least one wall. Keep the cooking space far enough away so that guests don’t feel the heat but are close enough that you won’t have to run backwards and forwards. Remember that foot traffic can get heavy at a party so plan a safe and easy hallway between indoor and outdoor kitchens, without tables or chairs in the path.
I love the accoutrements of outdoor entertaining, all the candles, lanterns, placemats, napkins, plates and glassware and even the latest chair and floor pillows. Keep it all handy and nearby with an outdoor armoire.
The development of acrylic fabrics that resist mildew and fading, weather- resistant furniture including synthetic wicker and advances in recycled wood decking, outside gas heaters and fireplaces have made creating comfort and sitting areas much easier to plan.
Swimming pools in an older property were much bigger than they are now. Most of the time they’ll need upgrading as tiles may be missing or lights will need replacing.
Before you do commit to buy and launch into any grand schemes you must ensure you have the plans of the property and check you are allowed to do all you want.
Interior designers have the training and resources to explore design options. They work to integrate design solutions with informed selections from a range of product resources and services.
The benefit of using an interior designer who specialises in renovations is that they will already work with a reputable architect and builder who fully understand their ideas and have experience reproducing them. This takes the stress away from having to choose a team from scratch and means you can relax knowing your interior design will manage the project through to completion.
For further information from Teresa email [email protected], or call 262 909 822.
Teresa Azevedo Coutinho runs her own interior design consultancy in Lisbon and found her niche in designing holiday homes for UK and Irish clients. Her company is expanding with the undertaking of international projects and the opening of a new office in Lagos.