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. To see where this blog series started, then please click here. If you would like to be involved then please contact me either through this link or via Instagram.
This week Charlotte of @frenchlottie has shared her renovating experience. I’m sure many of you will relate to Charlotte’s experience and how the recent global pandemic has affected renovation projects. It’s those events that you have no control over that can send you into a spiral isn’t it. Please have a read and show her some love too. That’s enough from me, now over to Charlotte:
- Charlotte and Ben, and their cat Archie
- A two-bed Victorian semi-detached house on the border between London and Surrey
- Bought our first house together in March 2019 and been renovating it since!
We were renting in suburban London when we decided to take the leap and buy our first home. We quickly realised we’d need to move out further and look at properties that needed work to get the space we craved. When we first visited the house, it was gloomy and worn out. Still, it had good bones and we already had clear ideas about how we would change the layout for it to work for us.
Going back to bare bones
As many Victorian houses, on the ground floor the bathroom was at the back, tacked onto the kitchen which cut off the view and light from the south-facing garden. Upstairs, there was an odd box room/third bedroom you could get to by going through the second bedroom so we moved the door, had some of the chimney breasts taken out, created a corridor and turned the third bedroom into the bathroom. I love having the sun pour in while I’m getting ready in the morning!
The owners had lived there 53 years and their botched DIY jobs over the years meant we needed to have the whole house rewired (we found some frankly illegal and dangerous wiring!). We also had it replastered, replaced the windows and got the original Victorian pine floors sanded and brought back to life.
In May 2019 we moved in with our sofa, bed and the bare essentials as we knew we’d need to move things around a lot. By December 2019 we’d boarded the loft, replaced all the internal doors, finished painting the two upstairs bedrooms, the bathroom was plumbed and tiled, and the sitting room downstairs was painted and liveable. We roped in friends and family to help with everything from wallpaper stripping, fitting new pipework, to painting and were pleased with the progress we’d made. All in time for part two…the extension!
When you walked in the existing front door on the side of the house, you were faced with the steep narrow staircase up to the bedrooms, and had to shuffle into the sitting room to then close the door and access the back of the house. I suggested we move the front door and turn the existing dining room into a (very) spacious entrance hall with storage (number one priority!). Luckily Ben was totally on board with the idea. We could then extend the existing kitchen and create an open plan kitchen/dining room looking out onto the garden.
Building works started in January 2020 and the builders were making really great progress until we encountered a party wall issue. They’d started building the new extension wall astride the party wall boundary, rather than against it as the architect drawings had shown (which, in hindsight were incorrect). The party wall surveyor made matters worse and works were stopped for six weeks while we got the neighbours to agree where the boundary line is and let us carry on.
And then, just as the builders were getting started again, lockdown happened. Luckily our contractor ordered loads of supplies just before, so his team was able to carry on. However, he reduced the number of people on site and some materials ran out of stock which slowed progress down by about a month. Works stopped and started a lot which was frustrating as we couldn’t get on with other things as we weren’t sure when they would be back.
Months of uncertainty, dust and clutter everywhere, and a garden full of building supplies and mud took their toll and we started hating the house, which was particularly hard during lockdown. Luckily, we have a couple of friends down the road and we created a bubble with them, which allowed us to escape and eat proper meals at a dining table now and then!
We also had a holiday at the end of August which has really helped me feel more positive about the house. And we came back to a working kitchen which I’m so happy about after cooking with a microwave and slow cooker for eight months (although I’ve perfected microwaved poached eggs!).
The builders have minor snagging to do and then we have a lot more to sort before we can move the rest of our stuff in. As we both have demanding jobs, it can be hard to find the headspace, energy and time to DIY. Although we have done a lot (particularly Ben!), I’ve felt guilty about not doing more ourselves as so many people on Instagram have shown it’s possible. But the reality is if we did it all it would take a few more years rather than months. And I really want to start living in this wonderful home we’ve (nearly) created.
It’s a privilege to be able to renovate a house but there are so many decisions to make which can be quite overwhelming. Instagram accounts like @houseofspolland and the #mydailyrenovation community have SO many amazing tips and advice! There’s a huge amount of research needed to do a renovation and if you need help, ask. People are very willing to share lessons learnt, tools used and recommend suppliers.
Thank you so much to Charlotte for her honest chat about ‘renovation fatigue’ and I can relate to a lot of the way Charlotte has felt, as I’m sure you will too. I love the new kitchen – what a triumph!