Things sound a lot different in many USA subdivisions. HOA's don't seem particularly active in our region. City councils have most of the power of bylaw and architectural control, except for any special policy areas governed by senior levels of government, like conservation and flood plain/water management (which can involve all three levels) and HOA's can't really affect that except to remind councils to enforce or amend existing bylaws.
We recently partially remodeled a 40 year old home in a late 70's early 80-'s built subdivision. I gutted the first floor and rebuilt everything I could, and hired experts for the things I couldn't. I acted as the general contractor when I wasn't smashing, scraping, stripping, refinishing and/or installing. You don't know until you get into it, but some work is surprisingly cheap to pay for while other things are deceptively time consuming. Many little jobs that seem simple require precise methods or attention to details or you may end up with serious deficiencies even if the initial result looks good superficially. Luckily, there's a ton of high quality tutorials out there if you're somewhat mechanically inclined.
Here's what I learned.
Minor structural consulting is cheaper than you think and worth the security. Don't skip it. I had two LVL beams installed on the first floor, so I could make most of it into an open concept. I checked the span tables at the lumber yard to get an idea and then had a contractor get a drawing signed off by an engineer. Beams installed and inspected for a lot less than I had anticipated.
Plan, plan, plan. Not everything we did was as efficient as it could have been for a couple of reasons. Life gets in the way and some things get done out of order when you're living in the space you're renovating. You'll waste huge amounts of time setting up and cleaning up if you don't stage things right. Plan it out over years if you have to, so you're not taking things down and re-installing them to make way for the next stage.
With that in mind. Respect the space. I looked at a lot of renos and new builds before buying our place with a clear set of renos in mind. You can do virtually anything to virtually any property, but for every lot/house/neighborhood there's a point where it's just not worth the cost or aggravation relative to what you can achieve. Find a new building, or embrace the character of the one you have.
Anyway, I think I have a few weeks more before having to return to the office, so it may be time to get after the last trim items. The home had wood door and interior window casings, so I saved those - stripped, sanded, filled, built-out with back-band, thicker baseboards, and painted white to finish the lower trims. It started life in a high gloss honey colored oak. Doors were crappy hollow slab lauan, and got changed out for filled composite single panels I found on sale. Still cheap, but more contemporary looking and a bit weightier.
Then I got lazy. I never got around to installing panel molding and crowns. I'm deciding between using poplar and MDF - since it will all be painted white (ceiling colour) or wall colour. Unlike the doors/windows/baseboards, none of these should come into contact with moisture unless there's a big failure somewhere else that would ruin the drywall anyway. So, what do you think?
There's a bit of premium for the poplar, but our local supplier is excellent - have never gotten stuff that is not consistent, smooth and true - he supplies up to 16 ft lengths. Just not sure it's worth the expense...