Answering your DIY Qs…
This year it will be five years since we bought our little flat, I actually had to go back and check that – and even then I didn’t believe it! Time flies when you’re living in a constant cloud of plaster dust.
Over the last five years, Jordan and I have had a lot of work done to our flat – we bought it knowing it needed a lot of love and I think we’ve given it quite the facelift!
It’s honestly been such a learning curve, we’ve had some ups and downs along the way and we’ve learned a lot. For the most part we played it safe with this flat, but I think now knowing what I do, I’d be a bit more experimental next time. More experimental and more relaxed! Probably more patient too…
I asked on Instagram if you had any questions for a big Q&A, so here you go – all my renovation advice in one handy post…
How Did You Get Started With Renovations & Planning?
Slowly! Honestly I’d do it all differently now but we really did have limited funds for the first year or so, so we did what we could at the beginning. We lived with the place, got a feel for what needed to be changed and then made decisions – it’s our first home, after all.
The only thing we did before we moved in was paint the walls white in the main rooms, but Jordan was away a lot with his band so it was me on my own trying to get everything done, and by then we just wanted to be in the flat and not have to pay an entire months rent on our old place so we moved in without changing much.
From there we did as much of the smaller stuff ourselves as we could, and then slowly planned a bathroom renovation on a budget. Around this time, a pipe in our kitchen burst and we ended up flooding our downstairs neighbours and pulling half the kitchen apart trying to fix the issue – we’d also been living without an oven for almost a year after it broke – so we decided to get the kitchen done too.
I spent hours upon hours searching the internet for the best deals, imagining the tiles with the cabinets, planning the rooms… I didn’t have any experience in designing a kitchen or bathroom at all, so I just went with neutrals and planned to add more colour later. I think you just have to do what you can!
How Did You Finance Your Renovations?
Again, slowly! I don’t mind investing in our flat because I know it will add value, and I also think of it as a bit of a dry-run for when we get our forever home. A chance to learn and make mistakes now when it doesn’t matter so much.
I’d say we have done it on a budget, but we haven’t really stuck to too much of a budget at the same time – it costs what it costs! We’ve tried to save where we can, but also tried to spend money where it matters. Our kitchen and bathroom are both mostly IKEA, and they’re more long-term projects that we did on a budget at first and then added to them as we went along. When I look back at photos of the kitchen right after we had it “done” I’m always so shocked at how bare it is, but my tastes have changed so much since then and I understand more timeless styles now so I think I was right in leaving a lot of the decoration stuff until later when we’d lived in the place a lot longer.
How Much Of Your Renovations Did You DIY?
Both Jordan and I are complete novices when it comes to DIY, even now after almost five years of renovating we are still pretty terrible – we’re also busy people and sometimes it’s easier to get someone in to do it properly.
We did a lot of no-experience-required jobs like stripping wallpaper, ripping out the bathroom, painting the doors, putting up prints and occasionally changing the light fittings. We have a good handyman that we call for bigger jobs (tenement walls are notoriously hard to work with!) and other tradesmen we use for other projects.
Do You Stick To A Budget?
Not really, we’ve renovated slowly and I usually weigh up whether I think the changes are worth the money. We never set aside a certain amount to stick to, and thankfully we haven’t had to do anything too massive – the kitchen was a huge job because we changed the entire room and all the plumbing etc., but we knew it would be worth it.
How Much Have You Spent On Renovating?
That’s a tough one! It’s quite hard to add up what we’ve spent as we’ve done it over the course of a few years when we’ve had the money, rather than save up and do it all at once. I tried to go back through some old receipts and emails to add it up, so here’s a little breakdown. Please bear in mind that our flat was in serious need of DIY and internal repairs, it’s a Victorian tenement and although on the surface it looked like it was liveable, it was in a bad way!
Kitchen // around £10000 in total.
£6000 labour; including removing the old kitchen, changing the layout, moving and plumbing in the sink on the opposite wall, plumbing in a washing machine on the opposite side of the room, building a pantry with plug sockets and shelving, adding a gas pipe and installing a new cooker and hob. Removing tiles, sanding the floor (we got the hallway and living room done at the same time), plastering the walls, building the new kitchen, tiling the backsplash, installing a new boiler, fitting new lighting.
£1800 for the IKEA kitchen, plus sink and appliances (dishwasher, oven and hob)
£1500 – a little extra was spent on the worktops from B&Q and we also bought a new fridge, washing machine, string shelving and freezer.
Bathroom // around £4000 in total.
£840 for materials (new tiles, a new sink unit and bath)
£3000 labour, I can’t remember the actual total but I think this will cover stripping out the old bathroom, tiling the floors and walls, replastering the walls, fitting underfloor heating (gifted for review) and plumbing in the new vanity and bath.
As for the rest of the flat, we’ve probably spent around £4000 in total replastering and painting every room, and the reclaimed flooring was expensive too – I think around £4000 again. I cringe when I think about it, but it’s been the least hassle out of anything we’ve had done!
The floors in the other rooms have probably cost around £2000 in total, if you include the sanding and varnishing of the floorboards (twice, ugh!) and the cost of the kitchen tiles too.
Any Renovations You Wish You Had Done Differently?
Oh, so many! The entire process has really been a learning curve, I think I’d do most of it differently if we were to do it all over again. Second time around I would definitely spend some time doing the bulk of the work before we moved in – especially plastering, painting, fixing the woodwork, doing the floors etc.
The age of our flat means that it does need some TLC, and I feel like we would have saved so much time, effort and money if we’d had it all decorated before we moved in.
I think I would have also embraced natural textures and more neutral colours – I’d love to have more wood, and maybe some darker colours that aren’t pastel. I definitely played it safe with this flat, but I’d love to get a bit more experimental with the next one.
Did you have any help with the design process?
No, and I kind of think that shows at times! I went in blind with both the kitchen and bathroom, using the Ikea kitchen builder to design the space even though it was going to be completely altered. Looking back I have no idea how I pulled it off, from the planning and the measuring and order, and explaining it all to the builders… and there were no major fuck ups either so well done me.
I am lucky in some senses that Jordan is easy breezy about everything, so he leaves the decisions to me. A big responsibility! He says every time “I like everything you do”, although in the last few years I’ve managed to convince him to get a bit more involved – I actually think he has a better eye for it than I do sometimes. He gives a more objective view so I always value his opinion.
How Do You Deal With Living In A Building Site?
By reminding myself constantly that it’s only temporary! My parents renovated their home slowly when I was a kid so I have memories of my childhood being surrounded by plaster dust and bare walls, so it wasn’t completely foreign to me – but I still hated it!
When we’re getting any sort of work done to the flat, I leave the house in the day and get the tradesmen to text me updates. It means I can work from somewhere else and be warm and comfortable! I try and organise the chaos too, so even though everything is in uproar, we can still get to everything we need.
The kitchen was probably the worst, it took a while to have a functioning cooker etc. so we set up camp in my office (it really helps having a spare room!) and microwaved meals for a couple of weeks. It was kind of like camping, although I was very pleased to be able to cook again at the end of it.
What Do You Do With All Your Old Furniture Etc?
Occasionally I’ll replace some of the older more worn pieces with forever pieces, so I usually put the unwanted furniture on Gumtree. Other times we’ve realised a certain piece of furniture we have isn’t right but we still love it, so I might give it away to my brother to look after, if he needs it – that way we can always ask for it back later on if we get a house or whatever. Everything else I take to the charity shop for someone else to cherish.
I think it’s also important to note that part of my job as a content creator is to reshuffle my spaces and try new looks – it is sometimes work for me to swap out pieces in my home and experiment with new designs and styles. I also get offered new furniture and homewares as part of this too, so in that sense this isn’t always your typical home.
How Do You Make Popular Pieces Your Own?
I think this is why it’s good to shop at places that aren’t the main high street stores. By picking up little accessories and soft furnishings from Etsy sellers, places you’ve discovered on your travels, second-hand shops etc. you can have a bit of originality in your home.
I love the odd IKEA piece and I think there’s so much that goes unnoticed from places like IKEA – sure, there’s the cult buys but there’s so many other brilliant additions too! You just need to shop around and choose carefully.
Any Renovation Advice For Newbies?
Yes, so so much! I might write this down for myself should we feel the need to take on a fixer-upper again. Here goes…
– If you’re a first time buyer, live in the place for a bit first before you commit to anything huge. Unless it’s a total fixer-upper, that is! I just think you need to sort of grow with the flat a bit before you understand how you’re going to live in it.
– Your tastes will change, but I think you sort of have to experiment with colours and styles before you understand what you like. When we moved in to this place, I was 23 and I was in to a very Scandi style. Five years on and I think I’ve found my own style finally, I much prefer the Southern Cali sort of vibe – lots of light and natural materials, with pops of colour from soft furnishings. I don’t think that will change drastically any time soon, but I think I had to try my hand at a few different styles before I could find what was “me”.
– Good tradesmen are hard to come by, they’re like gold dust really. Do your research, ask around, check their reviews on MyBuilder/Facebook/Google and ask to see previous work. Then once you’ve found someone good, hang on to them!
– Don’t stress too much. Things will go wrong – the amount of times we’ve caused water to pour in to our neighbours flat is unforgivable. Our windows used to leak every time it rained, I’ve just about given up on our floorboards because we’ve had them sanded and varnished twice and they’re back to being a mess weeks later! It’s a wild ride and there will be many ups and downs, but it comes with DIY I’m afraid. Learn from your mistakes and try to think of the money/time spent as an investment.
I hope this helps in your renovation efforts, in truth I think there’s really only so much you can read before you just have to get stuck in and learn for yourself. I’ve loved working on our home, it’s been such an on-going project but more like a passion of ours – we got the bulky bits done and then left the fun decoration parts to dip in and out of when we fancied it.
Are you planning any big renovations soon?