Hello! Hope that you’re well and that you’re ready for another instalment in the blog series An Honest Chat About ‘Renovation Fatigue’.
Through this blog series I have been able to open up the discussion about the reality of taking on a renovation project – the highs and the lows, the stresses and strains and the effort it takes to transform a house into a home. If you would like to be involved then please contact me either through this link or via Instagram.
This week Kelly of @lifewiththeowens has shared their renovating experience. Kelly and her family are now the other side of the big renovation works that were needed and they’re making it their home. Please have a read and show Kelly some love too. That’s enough from me, now over to Kelly:
- Kelly, Tris and Sophie
- 1930s detached house in Cheshire, North West UK
- Bought November 2017
We are Kelly, Tris and Sophie and we live near Wilmslow in Cheshire. Tris and I met while working together over 5 years ago, via a mutual friend, and I regaled him with my disaster dating stories (we were both using the same dating app!). I then drunkenly texted him and asked if we wanted to go on a date just before Christmas and the rest is history. I’m an Executive Assistant to a Chief Financial Officer by day and he’s a Project Manager.
We decided to take the plunge and sell both of our apartments to move in together 2 years ago. We had an offer declined on another house and were feeling a bit low. Tris flew out to India with his project he was working on in the summer, so Sophie and I were on our nightly walk (with ice cream) on our favourite road in our village. We saw the house was up for sale, but was out of our price range and hadn’t come up on our Rightmove searches. I immediately called Tris to tell him and he said, ‘let’s go see it’.
We both fell in love the house immediately. It’s a 1930’s 3 bed detached home, with the most gorgeous Yorkshire stone on the roof, which gives the house its distinct character. It had been lived in for 50 years by the same family, who had grown up and left the father alone. He had recently passed away at 92 years of age, so the house was in need of some serious tender loving care.
We ended up in a bidding war with two others, but having met the owner’s daughters by chance on our second viewing, we wrote a letter to accompany our bid, and they chose us. They turned down an offer £10k more than ours because they liked us and wanted a family to make special memories in the house like they did!
We got the keys at the beginning of November 2017 and immediately started stripping the several layers of wallpaper off the walls. Sophie’s bedroom had 7 layers!! We ripped up the grotty carpets, demolished fitted wardrobes and knocked down the wall between the bathroom and the separate toilet, in order to create a larger family bathroom. It took 3 full weekends of stripping walls to completely finish ahead of the plasterer arriving.
We had a full new bathroom fitted, a window blocked up and an airing cupboard knocked down upstairs to create a new larger family bathroom. We had to have a full electrical rewire throughout the house (so many light fittings were at the front of the rooms rather than in the centre). We also had the whole house replumbed and the boiler moved to the garage, plus new radiators in all rooms. We had all of the rooms replastered and then we painted the house ourselves. We opted for new 1930s style doors, to remain in keeping with the style of the house, fitted upstairs.
As we both worked full time, we could only focus on the house at weekends and evenings. I project managed the full renovation myself as Tris was working away in Germany for most of it. I would drop Sophie at school, then meet with the builders and other trades first thing to discuss plans and make decisions before heading to work. I would then visit the house after work to check on progress.
We were in a position to move into the house on 20 December, we celebrated with a bottle of fizz! We spent the time off over Christmas to make a start on painting the rooms and woodwork.
I decided it would be a good idea to surprise Tris by painting the hallway while he was away, but it took forever to cut in so only got half way before he returned home. We are still continually looking at ideas to improve our home and I don’t think the renovation ever stops, but phase one took us just under 2 months. We are now moving our attention to the garden but this job is huge! And we recently got engaged so we now need to channel our funds there for the time being.
I would have left the carpets down a lot longer. We ended up with lots of paint stained floorboards and the thought of sanding those down once we moved in was a complete no no, so we carpeted upstairs instead.
I would have taken longer to think about the fire in the living room and had one fitted. We had 30 minutes to decide if to keep the bare brick wall or plaster over and I opted for the latter and have regretted it since.
I would have insisted we didn’t have flooring fitted downstairs until we had the doors and frames changed downstairs. Tris hated the bare floorboards and we didn’t have enough money in the budget for both flooring and changing the doors/frames. It’s now too difficult to change the doors and frames (as they are metal ones that go under the floorboards) now we have flooring down. If we had waited another couple of weeks, we could have then had the doors and frames changed to match the original 1930s style ones we had fitted upstairs.
The bathroom – I would have spent a lot longer using Pinterest for the dream bathroom, whereas we opted for practicality and clean which appealed to Tris more. I look at bathrooms on Instagram and feel jealous we didn’t do something more unique. I guess that would be one of the first rooms we would change if we redecorate!! Film and record the progress on an Instagram page! I only started the page a year after we’d finished the renovation. Would definitely have helped with motivation.
Seven layers of wallpaper in one room and spending every weekend doing that equals cramp in my arms and wrist. I couldn’t straighten my hands for several weeks afterwards!
Losing full walls of plaster, as it had blown, after a day of stripping the wall felt like a complete waste of time and effort.
Taking wallpaper off ceilings is not fun. The melted glue drips onto your head, you never feel clean, your hair turns to crinkled hard concrete. Your hands are dried out from washing them regularly. Paper falls on you. On your skin. It’s gross dirty work!
Undertaking a full renovation in the depths of winter meant our daughter had no choice but to sit on a picnic chair watching her ipad, if she was bored of helping out. She couldn’t really play out so trying to keep her occupied too was tough. It also meant if people came to visit it was freezing, as we had no radiators or heating until early December. And the hours we had to work on the house were limited to 3pm…unless we used trade spotlights in order to carry on into the evenings.
Some days it felt like it was never ending, and sometimes it felt like progress was slow, and that we would never have a pretty home. I remember, having spent the weekend with Sophie, cleaning the site following it being plastered. We swept and hoovered the dust, we used white plaster paint on every wall and ceiling upstairs. It was absolutely back breaking just the two of us (Tris was away again, are you seeing a theme here?!). I was so proud of our work and left on Sunday night feeling the house was starting to take shape. On Monday evening, I visited the house after the builders had been and it was like a war zone. There was a sheen of red dust hanging in the air, where the builder had used an angle grinder to make the upstairs door frames wider so they fitted a standard sized door. The freshly painted white walls were bright red! I cried. Big ugly sobbing. I felt utter despair, which is stupid as we were only half way through the project but I hate mess.
We got so lucky with tradespeople and timings. We were able to finish the renovation, in the main, by 20 December and moved in, albeit with bare floorboards and unpainted rooms in time for Christmas. We had our first Christmas dinner on picnic chairs around a tiny table!
Knowing that our time spent working out where light switches and plugs went was not in vain, as we really haven’t had an issue since living here.
We started the renovation before we had an Instagram account. I used Pinterest to choose my paint colours, by looking at what colours I had pinned most (meaning I was drawn to those). I’m so pleased with my choices and haven’t redecorated in the time we’ve been here as we are so happy with them.
It was absolutely tiring and mentally exhausting. Every waking spare moment was spent renovating or cleaning or painting. We had no social life. Our daughter was literally abandoned for 1.5 months. My arm got cramp that didn’t go for months. I never felt clean. We felt we couldn’t spend money on anything but the renovation.
However, I wouldn’t have it any other way. We were lucky enough to have an apartment to stay in during the renovations (my flat sale fell through 3 weeks before completion) and I don’t know how we would have done it without heating and light during winter. We love our home now and was well worth the blood sweat and tears to bring it up to the modern standards of a family home. We still have a kitchen extension and utility room to complete but those will have to wait until after we get married in June 2021! Yes, we didn’t kill each other during the renovation and actually, I’ve got the best partner. He’s usually patient and a master at DIY now.
Thank you so much to Kelly for her honest chat about ‘renovation fatigue’. Head over and follow @lifewiththeowens to see them continue to transform their renovated house into a home.