Deciding to do up an old villa proved expensive and time-consuming but worth the effort.

When the Sarin family moved from Wellington to Auckland, they were split over the merits of buying a do-up in St Marys Bay.

Anu and her 25-year-old son Udai loved the feel of the large, old villa, which had two levels of wrap-around verandas. Her husband Raman and 13-year-old son Sachin weren't so convinced.

Eventually, Anu and Udai talked the other two into buying the 558sq m home, pointing out that St Marys Bay is a great area, and that the property's adjoining section was a huge bonus.

But they all knew they would have to do something about the house's unusual layout. It had tiny bedrooms and a small kitchen, but four living areas and a huge dining room.

They did have second thoughts when their architect told them the cost of renovating the house.

"It was a lot more than we expected," says Raman. "But there was no going back; we decided to go for it but we had to be sensible with spending."

Renovations included creating three large bedrooms with walk-in wardrobes and a self-contained studio apartment downstairs for Udai. The living areas were opened up to create flow between the rooms.

"[The architect] disliked the original ornate leadlight window by the main stairwell," Raman says. "He told us it had to go. At the time I wasn't sure, but the new leadlight window is the showpiece of the house."

Taking their cue from that window for the decor, the couple chose warm pale gold tones and metallic silver to contrast with the dark timber flooring. The formal living room's gloomy burgundy colour was replaced with silver and pale gold wallpaper, a look that is repeated upstairs in the master bedroom, although in a slightly different pattern.

In the kitchen, the warmth of wood is contrasted with Corian surfaces and stainless steel appliances.

Working with a kitchen specialist helped ensure that as well as looking good, the space would function well.

A lighting designer was also employed to draw up a comprehensive plan for the remodelled home. Task-specific lighting was fitted in areas such as the kitchen and above the benchtops, and five striking chandeliers in different styles were installed to satisfy Raman and Anu's love of crystal and glass.

"What was expected to take three to four months took nine months, with finishing touches still ongoing," says Raman. "Our budget almost doubled from start to finish, but today we can say confidently it has been money well spent."

Style tips
Ask the experts: Don't hesitate to employ an expert to help with design decisions. You'll save money by not making expensive mistakes and you'll achieve a superior result.

Research pays: Look at websites and magazine articles about interior designers to analyse the style and variety of their work before deciding who to employ.

Clear outline: When employing an interior designer, give as much detail as you can about what you like and the lifestyle you want. Ensure you are clear about your budget and what is important to your family.

Leanne Moore is the editor of Your Home & Garden. See the latest issue, on sale now, for more ideas for your place.