Renovation dilemma? 9 times out of 10, someone else has had the same problem. Lucky for you, we make sure to ask the experts, so the answers are here when you need them…

I’d like to paint the exterior of my brick house. Can I paint straight over the bricks or do I need a special undercoat first?  Chris, via email

“Painting the exterior of your home is a great way to give your place a serious makeover,” says Jessica Plateo, product manager at British Paints. “For a great result, ensure you give the surface a good clean with a high pressure hose before you start painting, as you’ll want to remove any excess dirt. Over bare brick, we recommend using a single coat of undercoat first. To paint, start cutting in with a brush around the edges of the wall. Then paint the mortar in between the bricks. Once done, use a roller to paint the top surface of the bricks, making sure that you lay off [using gentle paintstrokes to even out the finish] after every three or four metres. This will get you a great finish.

I love the idea of having my cooktop on an island bench so I can talk to my guests while I’m cooking, but I’m worried about the splattering! What would you recommend?  Bill, via email

“This idea will require a large island bench to work successfully so consider incorporating a table accompaniment – that way, guests can sit whilst you are cooking and you can even use the island as a casual dining area,” says Travis Dean, director of Cantilever Interiors. “Stovetops are usually positioned centrally on the bench to allow placement of cooking utensils and ingredients within easy reach but, in this case, it’s wise to keep the stove to one side of the island to allow some distance between cooking and your guests. Cooking splatters can also damage your bench surface so I’d consider using Dekton or stainless steel as your benchtop material. These finishes have great durability, robustness, and heat resistance so they are far more likely to stay looking their best in this scenario.”

I have a long, narrow yard with rear lane access and I’m thinking about building a granny flat to rent out. What will help me get planning approval?  Lucy, via email

“The first thing to check out is your local council controls, as they vary depending on block size, maximum floor areas, surrounding patterns of development, sewerage constraints, overland flow of water, etc,” says Panel architect Andrew Benn. “To get a feel for what might be permissible, look around you at recent similar developments. Precedent is more often than not the best way to gauge what can be achieved, and if council does become difficult, it can be a very persuasive argument. Another thing to consider is the impact it might have on your neighbours. Privacy can be a tricky issue with granny flats, as being a structure out in the garden means the impact on surrounding outdoor living spaces can be considerable. Also, some councils have very particular controls on tree removals. If a tree isn’t a native and it doesn’t have much street presence then typically removal is permitted but otherwise you’ll have to avoid working within the root zone.”

My partner and I can’t agree on whether or not to lay carpet in our bedrooms – I think it will be warmer in winter but he’s worried the style will date. What are the pros and cons of carpet versus floorboards? Amy, via email

“There is no question that carpets create a cosier bedroom vibe than any other flooring, but it really depends on the look you are going for,” says Shelley Craft, ambassador for Carpet Court. “You can warm up a room with gorgeous rugs and throws, and have an option to create a lighter and brighter summer space for the warmer months with timber, bamboo or laminate. If you choose carpet, there are so many great colour options and finishes that it should never date. Even shagpile could still be fashionable if used right!”

Image courtesy of Horton & Co.

I’m planning a new family kitchen including a butler’s pantry.  Is there any downside to locating the fridge in the butler’s pantry? Samantha, via email

“If you love entertaining then a butler’s pantry is a luxurious space dedicated to food storage and preparing meals while keeping pots and dishes out-of-sight of guests, so ideally it’ll contain a sink and additional appliances.” says Tania Garonzi, general manager of Hisense Australia. “That said, if you only have space for one fridge then I’d recommend keeping your main fridge in the main kitchen space because you’ll want your family to have easy access to it. The latest fridges are chic, tech-savvy appliances that offer lots of adaptable storage space. They can be a real statement piece in your kitchen because they deliver a high standard of features, unlike the basic whitegoods of days gone by – they deserve to be seen and touched. However, if you can make space for two fridges, I’d set up your butler’s pantry as a working kitchen, equipped with a secondary fridge for storing the produce you’ll need for preparing meals. Then place the larger family-sized fridge in the kitchen.”

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Keen on a butler’s pantry? Check out these design ideas: