6 Tips For Renovating On A Budget, With Designer Jono Fleming

It’s no secret that sticking to a budget is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to any renovation. But imagine having a limited budget and having to find everything for the reno from just one store?

That was the challenge posed to interior designer  Jono Fleming, when Bunnings approached him to totally transform a 1980s Melbourne brick home — sourcing (almost) everything from Bunnings! Of course, Jono rose to the occasion, elevating every room of the suburban home using off-the-shelf products from the hardware store.

In the latest episode of our podcast, TDF Talks, Jono reveals all the budget-friendly ideas he came up with to make the home feel fresh, modern, and accessible — including upholstering a bench-seat using pool noodles (no really!), and his advice on how to get a ‘designer look’ on a budget.

Christina Karras

Jono Fleming in the kitchen of the transformed 80s home! Porter’s Paints Volcanic Ash features on the Kaboodle kitchen-fit out, with brass hardware, and engineered stone benchtops that elevated the space!

The existing house arches were retained in the renovation.

The dining room. Jono created a simple banquette seat features built-in storage and upholstered pool noodles as the curved seat backing.

Earthy Dulux Thurman green features on the new living room cabinetry.

The main bathroom features porcelain mosaic tiles that replaced an all-beige bathroom scheme.

Christina Karras
30th of June 2023

Before interior designer Jono Fleming took part in Bunnings’ home renovation series Make It Happen, he admits he had never worked on a project quite like it.

‘There were a lot of big firsts for me, of getting on the tools, doing a bit more of jackhammering and things like that,’ he tells Lucy Feagins in the new episode of TDF Talks. ‘I’ve been calling it my apprenticeship of hosting [a show] and being a tradie!’

Along with landscape designer Inge Jabara, and builder Tim Clark, Jono was engaged to update every room of 1980s house in Melbourne’s southeast suburbs. It was a dated, typical red-brick home that had been ‘untouched’ for many years, making it perfect for their three-month renovation.

The only the caveat was that all the materials and products had to come from Bunnings. It’s a pretty big limitation for a professional project, but it’s the reality most people grapple with when tackling a DIY renovation. Because the hardest part is working out how to transform a space with affordable and available materials, without compromising on design.

Jono embraced this challenge, coming up with some innovative design solutions and cosmetic updates that made a world of difference in the finished home. Before you listen to the full podcast, we’re sharing some of his top tips for renovating on a budget!

Decide what you’re going to spend on, and where you can save

In this renovation, Jono was all about using a ‘high-low’ approach. In other words, splashing out for practical necessities, while still saving your money in other features or parts of the home.

The kitchen was a prime example of this. ‘We had all the carcasses and the cupboard fronts from Kaboodle, which is Bunnings’ in-store kitchen brand,’ he says. ‘They have fantastic budget kitchens, but I wanted to make sure that we had a good stone on the benchtop and a really interesting splashback. I wanted it to feel elegant, but also be really accessible.’ By forgoing custom joinery, they saved significantly on the cupboards and invested a bit more into an engineered stone for the bench and a porcelain splashback.

Make custom changes to off-the-shelf products

Jono also opted for the ‘most affordable, off-the-shelf product’ in the the kitchen fit-out, but painted all of it in Porter’s Paint Volcanic Ash, which instantly made the space feel ‘bespoke’ and ‘expensive’! ‘It was just their plain, modern-profile [kitchen], where you paint your own doors. And by being paint your own, you’re not constrained to the colour range, you can really make it tailored for your house,’ he says.

Approach it room-by-room

Even though Jono was doing the renovation for a sponsored production, he approached it in a way that was realistic for the average renovator. ‘I was looking at each room as individual projects, knowing that people maybe aren’t going to have three months and a team of builders and a production crew to help build a whole house in three months!’ He suggests tackling different spaces of your house one at a time, whether that’s refreshing your bedroom with a new paint colour one weekend, and then getting to the big-ticket updates as time — and your budget — allows.

Avoid structural changes, where you can

‘On the design and architectural side of things, I didn’t want to move too many walls,’ Jono says. Structural work can get expensive pretty quickly, so he kept most of the the floorplan exactly the same, instead focusing on cosmetic updates. ‘A lot of the bedrooms stayed pretty much identical and some of them were small,’ he says. Retaining those spaces also gave him the opportunity to focus on the most important aspect: opening up the living, kitchen and dining area.

Work with what you have

One of Jono’s biggest pieces of advice is to embrace existing parts of your home where you can, because even small creative solutions can end up saving a lot of money. For instance, instead of replacing the ugly aluminium-framed laundry window, which would have involved investing in a new window plus a lot of messy brickwork to get the old window out and a new one in, they saved money by simply leaving the original window frame, but painting it black — giving it that industrial steel look, without the price tag.

Get creative 

There are plenty of savvy renovation ‘hacks’ out there, and Jono came up with a few of his own in this project. To create a ribbed back support cushion on a banquette seat, he used Bunnings pool noodles that he reinforced, attached to MDF and then upholstered using a staple gun! ‘It was those moments where I was like, “I don’t have $2000, $3000 to get a custom upholsterer in to make me a beautiful back-rest, how can I do this at home?” Pool noodles was the answer!’ Genius!

Listen to full podcast with Jono below, or find TDF Talks on Spotify and Apple Podcasts!

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