An Honest Chat About ‘Renovation Fatigue’ With Sarah Smith

Hello and welcome to week five of the blog series – An Honest Chat About ‘Renovation Fatigue’. This week I’ve been able to have an honest chat with Sarah, of @renovating_a_90s_house.  Sarah and her husband Andy started renovating their home in January 2018, and they are now adding the finishing touches to their beautiful family home.  My aim is to bring you a different story each Friday and hope that by doing this we can recognise how far we’ve come, but also share the reality of taking on a house renovation.  If you would like to be involved then please contact me either through this link or via Instagram.  That’s enough from me – over to Sarah!

renovating a 90s house - the face behind the account - sarah and andy

  • Sarah.  Lives with husband Andy, plus their two boys aged four and two.
  • Their house was built in the late 1990s and live in Hertfordshire
  • They started actually renovating in January 2018 but the planning started a few months after they moved in, early 2015.

Hi guys! I’m really pleased to write my first piece about our renovation journey and the fatigue that comes with it for Lydia.  Her feed has been a course of honest inspiration and her advice has kept me going and smiling through the highs and lows.  Here is a bit about me… I started my @renovating_a_90s_house account in March 2019 to allow my friends and family to follow the largest part of our renovation ‘by choice’, but also I wanted to document the journey for myself to be able to look back on.

My now husband and I had been living in London when we were expecting our first child, so after much debate we decided to move to my home town in Hertfordshire so that we would have my family close by for support and to allow me to go back to my role as a PR agency marketing director in the centre of London.  I didn’t go back, that’s a whole otherstory.

renovating 90s home - home pic

I knew we had found our ‘forever’ home as soon as I saw it online.  It was in a small cul-de-sac, wasn’t overlooked and was relatively new, built in 1998/1999 so thought there would be less ‘big’ stuff to do.  No spoiler alert needed, but that wasn’t the case, though it has meant we haven’t had too many unexpected and costly surprises.

We moved into our house just before Christmas 2014, and I was heavily pregnant.  Our main focus was getting rid of the yellow and brown opposing wall colour in the main rooms (living room, dining room, main bedroom) and getting our belongings unpacked ready for the little one’s arrival in February.  Also we removed the door from the kitchen to the dining room as they opened onto each other!

I don’t think it took long at all for me to start to plan what we might be able to do with the layout of the house. So we got in a surveyor to see if we could do a double-storey extension to create a larger main bathroom and rooms, plus open up the kitchen and dining room.  We couldn’t.  The layout of the upstairs meant it would need to be totally reconfigured. So now we knew that we could update our bathroom, adding in a shower over the bath.  Also, we were having problems with the grout falling out in the shower of our en-suite. So we booked in our bathroom fitter to work on both at the same time, saving costs.  We did have to wait a good few months for him, but it was worth it and allowed me more time to really think about how I wanted our bathrooms and more people were sharing theirs on instagram.  He started on January 4th 2018.

renovating a 90s house agent picture bathroom
Agent picture of the bathroom before
renovating a 90s house bathroom after
Bathroom – after

The bathroom was finished relatively quickly and easily so the en-suite work started.  Thanks to the fitter’s advice, we decided to move the walls of the en-suite out by 50mm each way to allow for a much larger tray.  A great decision.  BUT the knock on effect started.  We now needed to replace the carpet and skirting boards (our skirting no longer existed as 20 years on the height and shape had changed). Also, from doing the work we had found our header tank was full of rust, meaning that our radiators would need replacing.  So we bit the bullet, replaced all of them upstairs.  We also plastered the ceiling to remove the artex, changed the spotlights, painted the walls and the wardrobe doors.  The large bathroom cabinet needed additional batons to be added into the thin plasterboard walls meaning we needed to screw in from the smallest bedroom, the nursery.  So this room then needed to be redecorated. Same again, ceilings, skirting, paint and carpet, but we waited until the end of the year to do this.  The same again in the guest room as floorboards needed to be taken up to do the plumbing work and used this time to add in a socket above the drawers for a TV. And by this time we had worn out the 20 year old wool carpet on the stairs and knocked all of the woodwork so that needed a make-over. Before fixing all the bits we had damaged doing the works to the upstairs, we turned our attention to the downstairs toilet, this was over the summer of 2018.  Here we ripped out everything, taking it back to the plasterboard and updated it all, including the radiators, matching but not exactly replicating the upstairs bathrooms.  We also changed the flooring in the hallway and boot room to match the toilet as the old laminate was bleached in areas and really showed signs of ageing.  Also I had read about how to make a narrow hallway feel bigger. So new skirting again, got rid of the artex ceilings and updated the spotlights.  PHEW!

renovating a 90s house toilet before
En-suite before
renovating a 90s house toilet after
En-suite after

And then we thought, hey, lets knock the wall down between the kitchen and dining room (which was used as a playroom). We had it in our heads that this would last us a few years before getting on with the extension.  That was July 2018. We soon realised that this still didn’t give us the space we wanted to easily prepare food, entertain the kids and for my husband to work from home full-time in relative peace.  So we contacted builders, got an architect, applied for planning permission in October 2018.  Our builder started our major building works, our ground-floor, rear extension on 19th May 2019.  External build complete by April 8th and we moved out that afternoon for what would be six weeks, whilst the internal build happened, our kitchen and flooring was fitted, our living room gutted including the fireplace and the decorators to do their thing.  When we moved back in, it was like moving day but so much better.  Our extension exceeded our dreams and were just so happy. It took another two months to really settle back in with our belongings in the right place but still haven’t put any pictures/prints up, still working out where to put the dining table etc. We did have our patio done, which was a last minute decision and another good one.  Our garden, which was in a bit of a sorry state before the building works started, was now looking awful. I’m working hard on getting the garden looking a little bit more like it was before we started renovating, but also putting our stamp on the garden now.  And so it continues.

renovating a 90s house kitchen before

renovating a 90s house kitchen after stage 1
Kitchen – before

THE LOWS: I was diagnosed with PND and Generalised Anxiety Disorder in late 2017 so on the one hand I felt overwhelmed by the thought of work starting on the house (not realising just how much we were going to be doing) but on the other it felt good to have control over something.  The real low was the constant of it all.  The never ending packing up rooms and unpacking.  Of damaging something that we had only just got done. Feeling like the house will never be finished.  That there will ALWAYS be something else to do.  Also Ive not added finishing touches to any of the rooms which is something that constantly nags at me.  Should I have taken more time to do each room before moving onto the next.  Maybe.  But in real terms money said no.  It was better to have the builders here and just cracking on.  It was cheaper to get a plasterer to do a number of ceilings at a time.

THE HIGHS: actually going back to live with my parents, it brought us that little bit closer still; finally having rooms that make me smile, that feel inviting, work for us and feel like home.  I mean two showers!! It’s amazing.  My tiled hallway flooring, I love it.  And our kitchen!! My kitchen of dreams has made how we live day-to-day so much easier. Also I’m now proud to invite people over and don’t have to say, the toilet, aren’t these tiles hideous, it was like that when we moved in haha.  Having a cleaner and more open space which has more natural light has really improved my day-to-day anxieties and makes me calmer, as I can see the kids in the garden playing, can hear them around the house whilst getting my things done.

RENOVATION FATIGUE: After over a year and a half of having work done on the house, I feel shattered from it all.  I also really struggle with just sitting down and enjoying the house, as when I look around I can see all the things on the to-do list.  But for me, after not being able to go back to my career after having kids, i’ve been able to project manage each stage of our renovations, considering each decision, getting the best deals for appliances, lighting and other materials which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed.  It has been tough too. BUT in the words of Marie Kondo my house now ‘sparks joy’ (even if there are still lots of smaller bits to do).  To combat renovation fatigue i’ve done small things such taking a break from the to-do-list (a few days or a week) allowing me some breathing space to want to get back to tackling the list.  I’ve also stopped feeling like I should post daily on IG until I can plan a bit better.  And finally, headed out of the house for the day, doing something fun with the kids/friends/husband.  Now I’m off to put my feet up and enjoy the house for 10 mins 😉 My house, it will always be a work in progress.

rneovating a 90s house kitchen after stage 2
Kitchen – after

Thank you to Sarah for sharing their renovation story and having an honest chat about renovation fatigue.  You’ve created a beautiful family home!  Head over to @renovating_a_90s_house to see more pictures.

If you can relate to Sarah’s experience and feel that you also have something you want to share on this subject then please contact me to be involved.  Either use this link or contact me via Instagram.

Lydia x

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