Why demolish your old home when you can give it a makeover at a fraction of the cost, asks Hema Vijay

From faces to homes, the makeover culture seems to have captured the urban imagination. But, redoing homes is no longer just about giving old furniture an overhaul and throwing in some exotic elements such as black pottery or metal art. Architectural renovation is very much part of the package.

This is probably why many architectural firms now have separate divisions for makeovers. “If the building is outdated but strong, going in for a makeover makes great economic and environmental sense, rather than knocking it down and erecting a new structure. At 10 per cent of the cost of creating a new structure, an old building can be transformed into a beautiful one,” says Vijay Bargotra, initiator and creative head, Faceliift, a division of design firm Dhrishticone.

For instance, Faceliift gave Radhika and Santhana Krishnan's house in Mylapore a flamed granite wall cladding for the front elevation and a wooden-louvered façade. The air-conditioners' condenser units and exposed drain pipes were concealed. Frosted glass panels replaced the traditional steel grill parapet over the portico and the overhead tank was relocated further behind. The damaged driveway was restored by rearranging the original stones with firm concrete grout, and planters dressed in flamed granite were added.

Then, there are the makeover consultants who come with blueprints on the new look of the house as well as pointers on sourcing the material and labour, and even a schedule so that the renovation doesn't leave you struggling with the chaos associated with transforming houses whilst still living there. Some firms offer a 3D view of the property as it would look, post-makeover. “Clients can visualise the new look and suggest modifications,” says architect Vikram of Golden Section Interiors.

The makeovers are not restricted to spacious homes; even single rooms get the treatment. For instance, Vikram transformed his cramped and rundown, 500 sq ft, 20-year-old flat in Adyar into a free-flowing, classy and contemporary space by breaking down the loft slabs, a few internal cross-walls and built-in cupboards to create a large space (measuring 15 by 15 feet) with an open modular kitchen at the far end, a dining area in the middle, and a living area at the opposite end. He also merged the tiny toilet and bathroom into a sleek washroom with a glass panel to separate the dry and wet areas.

Then, there's the commercial spaces segment. When Off Centered took up a 900 sq ft, Madras tile-roofed building in Vepery for its office, it retained the load-bearing cross walls, but incorporated several ceiling and flooring levels within the semi-circular space to create a funky, modern ambience.

You could convert an old, unused balcony into a study, knock off a cross wall to fuse a cramped kitchen and the dining area, upgrade rooms, create a home-office and incorporate spectacular membrane structures and pergolas in place of shade roofs. You can also opt for wall treatments (paint jobs, murals, textured finishes or replace concrete walls with toughened glass) and floor treatments (stone, wood, tiles, toughened glass); work on the ceilings (plaster board, grid) and windows (dressings, grills, curtains, blinds), or work on the electrical fittings (conceal unsightly wiring and get sleek switchboards) and lighting arrangements (use diffused, spot, cove and mood lighting). “You can do a lot working with just colour, texture, lighting and feature elements,” concludes Vikram.