People's Choice Awards Winner: Renovation of the Year 2023

Congratulations to Melbourne Renovation Consultant Leigh McDonald!

Leigh Mcdonald standing in front of his award winning renovated kitchen

Every year, the Refresh People’s Choice Awards are our most anticipated event. In 2023, we had five categories: Bathroom, Kitchen, Conversion/Extension, Whole House, and Biggest Transformation. With nearly 90 entries, 2023 was our most competitive year yet! The sixth and final category, Renovation of the Year, puts the winners from each previous category head-to-head to decide which home renovation was truly the best of the best.

2023’s winner is no stranger to the People’s Choice Awards, having won over a dozen awards with Refresh since 2021. Congratulations to Melbourne Renovation Consultant Leigh McDonald for his show-stopping transformation of a family home in Ferntree Gully, Melbourne.

 We sat down with Leigh to find out what it takes to produce successful renovations time and time again. Here’s what he had to say:

Bathroom with black fixtures and clean tiling

Renovating at the right time

The amount of work and planning that goes into these renovations is staggering. Leigh makes it look easy, but what really goes on behind the scenes? In regard to this year’s winning project, the homeowners struggled with costs before working with Refresh. 

“There’s always a right time to renovate,” says Leigh. “Helping clients understand that things don’t happen overnight allows trust to build between us so they know we have their best interests at heart. These clients were given massive discrepancies in pricing for the work they wanted to undertake, and it wasn’t until we developed concept designs that they realised their dreams were attainable.”

Favourite features

Leading a team of 10, Leigh had a lot of moving pieces to coordinate on this project. But the results speak for themselves. 

“I feel the overall finish has come up really well, and we have been able to create two living zones for the family – a kids zone and a parents’ zone – with the kitchen in the heart of the home, bringing everyone together. I feel the colours really work well together. The teak barn doors against the tiles with black hardware look particularly fantastic.”

Talking strategy

As a project manager, Leigh says communication is key. First-time renovators experience a lot of uncertainty, so making that extra phone call to remind them everything is going well is always appreciated. Leigh’s also an advocate for Refresh’s 5-step process to help keep everyone on track. 

“Following the process is essential to our success. It's during this time that clients get to know me and understand how I’m different from other typical builders and why that’s important to me. It’s imperative that we manage our client's expectations and deliver on our promises.”

Leigh also believes that the success of any business is dependent on those who represent it, from the internal employees to the on-site tradespeople. “We have to keep these relationships top of mind and ensure our brand is being well portrayed.”

Living room with new carpet and sliding barn style door

Common misconceptions

With all the experience Leigh has gained over the years, he’s noted a few patterns and misconceptions amongst homeowners.

“Pricing per square metre doesn’t make sense.”

“Sure, when you’re talking about buying materials, that can work. But most builders never talk about the other costs of renovating: building permits, council fees, storage, and temporary living costs. These have a significant impact on the final price tag, and since they’re not often part of the conversation, homeowners are surprised to find out how much these things cost!”

“Moving plumbing doesn’t have to be expensive.”

“In a lot of projects, plumbing gets cut out and removed anyway, so moving a tap from one wall to another doesn't add significant costs. At least not enough to deter you from getting the best layout you can!”

“You’re not paying for an installation. You’re paying for the job to get done.”

“When it comes to trades, you’re not just paying for someone to install something. You are paying for their tools, their time, their training, licences, safety costs. You’re paying for the materials, their expertise, and the years of experience it took to obtain it. A job is never as simple as it seems on the surface.”

Kitchen with waterfall marble kitchen island

Looking at the year ahead

Leigh acknowledges the uncertainty that lies ahead with both real estate and major building companies, and notes that renovating and adding value to your property is a smart move. With so many homeowners wanting to take advantage of this market, he’s looking forward to expanding his team so he can help as many Melbourne homeowners renovate their properties as possible. 

Want to work with Leigh?

Get in touch with Leigh and his team at Refresh Renovations Melbourne to arrange a free consultation. 

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