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Seven Lessons I Learnt While Renovating!

We bought a house! Oct 15, 2019

Remember that time we did that renovation? And it took over our lives and it felt like it would never really be finished? Well its turns out that through that process I learnt a lot about, well, a lot!

I get a huge number of questions from you guys about doing your own renovations, and so I thought it would be useful to share with you a bit more about the experience of renovating, and the key things I learnt from the process. You’ll remember that I was pregnant during pretty much the whole renovation, and it’s hard to say whether that made it harder or easier. But it definitely made it different!

Don’t Overspend (!)

If you take only one thing away let it be this. When you’re planning your renovation, I found that it was so easy to get completely caught up with what you see online, and make a million mood boards with all your different ideas, and not really consider how much everything is going to cost. But at the end of the day, often what you’re seeing was built without a budget or upper limit. So unless you have bottomless pockets, it’s important to understand your budget before you get totally addicted to the idea or look of something specific. And you never know, a more affordable option might even be better in the end – I had to come to terms with no marble countertops in the kitchen… but it turns out I like the wood even better! Check out my post here about planning your budget. Ps. Don’t forget to include 20% in your budget for contingency.

Decide Where to Spend and Where To Save

Understanding your priorities, in terms of where you want to (and need to) spend your money is important. Which is why we hacked these mid century wardrobes and hand painted our cabinets a bespoke colour. All these details helped us to make the space feel bespoke, but weren’t expensive. But you know what made the BIGGEST difference to how the space felt? It was the time and money we put into getting natural light into the  house. Remember the before? It was dark and dreary! So we purposefully set a big chunk of our budget towards putting in great skylights, windows and repainting so that the space looked fresh and bright. In that way we focused our spending on something we knew was important, whilst trying to reduce spending in other areas. In this post I talk more about where to spend and save on your project.

Avoid Changing Your Mind

So you’ve done all the plans, you’ve specified all the materials and you’ve started building. But wait, you just saw something else on IG that you like! Which made you do a complete 180 on the design and materials… I know this feeling ever so well. But something that I learnt (ahem, Ben taught me) was really important through the renovation process was to choose something and stick to it. It can be really hard – I felt constantly bombarded by new ideas and virtually the minute I had decided what materials we would use I wanted to change them. BUT change is definitely not a good idea when it comes to renovating, because that’s when the cost and time blows out. So pick something and move on! And know that you can always tweak things a little when the renovation is over. See the materials we chose for our renovation here.

Don’t Go To Site Every Day

On the subject of avoiding changing your mind, one way to make this easier is to let your contractors get on and do what they need to do, without constant interruption or checking. It’s obviously different if you’re doing the renovation yourself or living on site, but if you aren’t it’s a good idea to take time between visits. I personally found that things can seem wrong or underwhelming if you go too often! Obviously when you do go it’s important to check things to make sure they are right, but daily checks ate just going to drove you and your contractors crazy.

Know That There’s Always A Solution

It’s soooo easy to freak out when you see something coming along in a way that you don’t like. We had that happen! As part of the development application we were required to put a car port at the front of the house. When it was built it had a sloped roofline (due to needing to allow for water runoff) and we both felt that completely ruined the front of the house. Luckily Ben came up with a fairly easy quick fix to flatten it and turn it into a feature of the house by removing the roof panels so it didn’t need to drain to the side. Ben also designed a really cool board formed concrete fence that really tied the whole front together. I actually really like how it looks now!​  So if you notice something that isn’t working at all, don’t freak out! Talk to your designer or architect about a left field solution that could help. There’s usually one.

Mix and Match For A Space That Feels Lived In

I know I talk a lot about this, but at the end of the day, I wanted a home that felt like us, and not like a showroom. So that meant layering – mixing and matching different eras, things from our travels, our past homes and my parents antique collection.​ I learnt a lot about this through trial and error if I’m honest! All of this came together to create a space that says so much about who we are and what we like, which is the thing I love about our house the most.  I would have included a lot more rattan but Ben convinced me that just splash of any one type of material has more impact, and he was so right.

Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

Renovating this house, writing a book, sitting next to Ben as he designs 15 – 20 restaurants a year has taught me a lot… But you know the one thing that has been the biggest lesson? Stop stressing about the tiny details! Honestly, chances are you’re the only person that will notice. At the end of the day, there’s always going to be small mistakes or things that could have been done better. I learnt that it was better to prioritise and focus on a few keys that matter the most, and let the small potter details go. This applies to renovations but also to weddings, your new logo…. Anything design related really!

And Bonus… Be Kind To Each Other

Finally, I learnt that although the house was important, ultimately the people who live in it (or are going to) are the most important thing. I know, it’s sooo easy to get stressed when you’re renovating and snap at each other – making big decisions (particularly about money) can bring that out in all of us. But I tried to remind myself that it just wasn’t worth it, and even though things can get frustrating now and again, it’s important to be kind to each other. And remember that everyone’s just trying to do their best. 🙂

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