We all know how annoying it is to allow ourselves to get carried along on a wave of enthusiastic interior decoration, only to find we have left out some rather important essentials.

Or perhaps you are working to a really tight budget and cannot afford to totally start again.  Maybe you do not have the time or the patience for the mess and inconvenience.

We have all been there!

Fitting things retrospectively is not always the cheapest solution, however, there are interesting developments in the interiors world which are worth investigating.

Easy and quick retrofit fixes

Retrofitting lighting

Downlight example

Take the Pendant Light for example. For years we have been getting rid of the central boring pendant.  It gives virtually no light and is old fashioned. Well, it is now back ‘in’ fashion.

There is an amazing array of pendants and chandeliers and they add character and style which is an important statement piece in your interior.

The problem is that you may have an array of ‘eco friendly GU10 down lights’ installed to save money, littering your ceiling, giving a uniform blanket wash of general light, essential but boring.

With a simple specially designed adapter you can just plug this into any chosen fitting and convert it to take a pendant.   

downlight converter adapter

This could give you three conical pendants over your kitchen work surface, a single pendant in a room, a very trendy corner light low slung to add drama or a statement piece over a new dining table. 

You don’t need to lose lighting levels and there are a variety of flex finishes, a fixing hook and conical adapter to cover the old fitting.  An instantaneous designer change to your lighting scheme, for under £15, with no disruption to your ceiling.

Downside: the original fittings need to be low energy down-lighters using GU10 but these are uniformly used throughout all new builds and a lot of refurb projects to comply with building regs.

As with all pendants the weight of the unit needs to be considered and the suspension hook fixed into supporting structure, for example a beam.

Retrofitting Downlight Pendant Example

Add drama with a new cornice and retrofit skirting lighting/power supply

There are also new ideas from a company that has developed a great retrofit cornice. There needs some work to provide electrical supply to one end, but this is minimal. The variety of coving is really diverse and within the void you can discreetly recess led strips and drivers and the effect can be amazing.  

retrofit skirting lighting and power supply

The variety of coving, which is lightweight and paintable, is easy to cut and install to a decorated ceiling or walls and there are matching panelling, dado and picture rail sections to complete the picture. 

Creating a contemporary take on a traditional idea could not be simpler. They have added a further really useful retrofit skirting that will go over the top of existing skirting and at the same time take cables to run for additional 5amp circuits, 13amp sockets or AV cables.  This means no giveaway boxing in or surface mounted cables.  

The shaft of light will flow around the whole room giving great general lighting and also adds drama and as its indirect lighting sits perfectly with LED and provides an even diffusion of light.

This is retrofit with ease and minimal mess. 

Downsides: The skirting comes in one size which is relatively small for the UK market in old properties with a Torus style skirting height of only 13.6mms. Ideally you want a straight run around the top level of ceiling with minimal interruption eg doors etc         

Other interior design retrofit ideas

Retrofitting your heating

It’s usually the forgotten services that are the main issues when it comes to adding to an already completed interior. 

Radiators are a challenge because they require a copper pipe for supply and a return of hot water in and out and taking up floor boards or taking out solid concrete floors is definitely to be avoided to reduce destructive dust, mess and additional decoration.

There is some sense in adding an alternative type of supply (not hot water) of electric heating to just give an additional boost of heat for a cold spot or one room.  

interior design retrofitting heating

If your boiler breaks down then you at least have another option of heating.   Electric heating is not for a whole house and underfloor matt heating is not suitable for giving sufficient output for a room – great for that lovely warm floor feeling underfoot in bathrooms and additional back up to a traditional hot water system.       

The original storage heater has been substantially updated. Fischer’s Elektrostor radiators give out substantially more output compared to original old units and are controllable and their output is accurate. They only need a 13 amp socket to plug in and use low cost electricity stored in a clay core which is more effective for storing energy.

Downside: The look of the radiators are usually rather boring although some are slim-line.

Retrofitting your Insulation

Building regulations are demanding ever higher requirements on insulation. Keeping heat inside the house is a gain to the user and the environment. 

If you are trying to make the best of a small space and have perhaps inherited old insulation that does not meet today’s levels then adding additional internal insulation can reduce the internal room space dramatically. 

If you consider 10 centimitres per wall may be lost which means 20 centimetres off the width and the depth you are losing a lot of space. It can also be highly disruptive decoratively.  

Consider adding external insulation

You need to look at the overhang of your roof eg the eaves, the types of cills to your window and all openings because they will recede when 10 cms of built up layers of insulation are added but there are ways of working with windows.  Extending the eaves can be a problem and cavity walls are not suitable. Also the look of the building will change which is only really a problem in conservation areas and listed buildings.

It is also more expensive but then the gains definitely make it worthwhile.

  • No mess inside
  • No reduction in the size of the rooms or upsetting existing decoration.
  • You can do just a section of the external walls which matter
  • You are adding to the thermal mass, wrapping the building like a tea cosy
  • The existing wall is protected and properly installed, eliminates damp penetration
  •  It reduces the impact of noise and reduces condensation

If you add the additional benefits on top of the added gain of the required insulation, the money is well spent so definitely worth considering.

property with retrofit insulation layers

Image of a property with External insulation and a sample of the layers applied outside.

If you add the additional benefits on top of the added gain of the required insulation, the money is well spent so definitely worth considering.

Apartment living open plan

As space is at a premium, we are still building ever upwards and adding layers to existing buildings.

Refurbishing a flat, to ‘open plan’ that’s on the 2nd floor or upwards can be unacceptable, due to fire regulations and the need for sprinklers.  

There is a new product available that is suitable for retrofit called Intelligent Mist and usually accepted by Building Control as being as effective as a Sprinkler system.

Intelligent Mist Sprinkler

This sprinkler can cover a room 8 x 4 meters as its position in halfway up the wall with the supply neatly boxed in and sympathetic with the décor.  Intelligent Mist uses 10 times less than the normal water required for traditional sprinkler systems. The fire point must be a maximum of 5 metres away.

Intelligent Mist Sprinkler

Unlike traditional sprinkler systems, which if brought into action can do as much damage as fire and less targeted, this system can be so discreet as to be fitted underneath a sink and with a special tap, emit pressurised water at worktop level which is particularly effective for a fire on a hob.  Working with their very accurate sensors reduces false alarms and they have a variety of products, some of which are suitable for retrofit within 24 hours.   

This revolutionises the number of opportunities for open planning and allows the much loved contemporary look to be possible in lofts, high level living and difficult to access spaces.  

Intelligent Mist carries very top recommendations, allowing for fast track permissions to be gained and is also a winner of the James Dyson Award.  If fire risk is wrecking your hopes and dreams, Intelligent Mist is definitely worth looking at.

A non- tiling retrofit solution 

In nearly every property, showers are an everyday essential.  Bathrooms are not cheap to refurbish and not a fast process and inconvenient to carry out.  

Tiling is often the finishing touch but is time consuming, expensive and the problem with the showered area is keeping the grout clean. In rented properties coloured grout is an option. Changing just the tiles is a messy job and if the design is not to your taste then it becomes irksome. 

See below Proclad 2 wall shower kit in Dark Cherry from IPSL.

retrofit non-tiling solution

An alternative to tiles is limited to either expansive sheets of marble or granite which is incredibly heavy and costly or use panels designed specifically for this purpose.  

One of the most well known companies is Aquaboard sold on line by IPSL and can be retrofitted over existing tiles very quickly.  

The panel designs are suitable for backing anything that needs to be waterproofed and their designs encompass solid colours which are favourites, especially the Aqua shimmer and also look alike tiles of which Bergen, Oslo and Vienna work well with some concepts.  

There are also glass panels available, but they are more expensive but look fantastic in a variety of colours. 

retrofit bathroom glass panels

Downside: The full kit is available, with sealants, panel trims and fixings but the sheet size width means you may need a join which is not great in a plain colour for a large good looking shower.  Many of the tile and wood look-a-likes are not very ‘designer’ and some shiny surfaces will show scratch marks.

Retrofitting is not the cheapest in total cost; but when you add up the lack of mess, fast results and the time saved, they do the job when installed properly and can provide:

  • a quick makeover if you are selling
  • achieve results when thought impossible
  • make living happier quickly

Attention to the instructions, good installation and understand their limitations is important. 

Time is money and by researching quick wins and fixes you can eliminate stress and gain the feel good factor.

These are just a sample of some of the ‘retrofit’ ideas out there. Check out your particular needs and the options, before diving headlong into a messy project you may not need to do.

Whether you are looking to renovate one room, the whole house or embark on a complex refurbishment project, Design Help can help you avoid costly pitfalls and achieve your interior goal with our  professional know-how. 

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