Sarah-Jane and Matt’s house was built in the 1940s and extended in the 1960s. They stripped the house back and transformed it from a soulless box to a cheery, light filled home on a budget of just £25K. This included all the building materials, trades people, furniture and a hefty dose of graft from the couple. Sarah-Jane has very kindly provided before and afters of all the rooms so you can see the five month transformation. I’ll hand over to SJ for the tour.
This house was our first house so after we had paid a 20% deposit upfront, we had to be as frugal as we could with the rest of the renovations. We completely gutted the house, stripped it right back to foundations and the more we dug the more we found. The house didn’t look too bad when we bought it, just a little dated and tired and originally we had planned to merely redecorate but I am so glad that we decided to redo everything. New electrics throughout, new central heating, new roof, new skirting boards, new architrave, new door, new plaster …everything – we covered a lot of things that would have caused us problems and greater expense down the road! As we pulled up the floor we found that the foundations were rotten, when we pulled off the skirting board we found that this was rotten too due to an unnoticed leak (non of this was on the structural survey!) We heard from our neighbours that 6 months after moving in the electrics failed and they had to THEN rewire with a newborn baby and all the associated dust all over their things so had we not changed our electrics before we moved in we might have been in a similar situation too!
Stripping the house right back has given us the peace of mind that we know exactly what is going on under the floors and walls and, in theory, we should not have any nasty/expensive surprises which is worth every penny of the £25K we spent on the renovation. To try to keep costs down we did much of the work ourselves. I learnt how to use a mitre saw (which is terrifying by the way!!) and cut and fitted all the new skirting boards and architrave (with lots of tears) I also cut and fitted the wood paneling in the bathroom (more tears) and painted the entire house; aforementioned skirts boards, doors walls with several coats each which is long, tedious and soul-destroying (many more tears) Matt and I thought we would enjoy renovation but it turns out; we really don’t! Towards the end we began hiring in workmen to do the work for us as we were slowly losing the will to live.
As this was our first house we also had no furniture. As you can imagine we did not have much money left over for furniture so almost everything was bought second-hand from Gumtree or Facebook communities. I did not mind buying old wooden pieces and up cycling them. They are often much better quality solid wood items and look so good when they are painted. I did not use chalk paints as these are not long lasting (as all short cuts are) I did the traditional sand, prime and two coats of eggshell and a wax. My favourite piece that I up-cycled was the vintage bureau which I use as my desk in the office.
I found our gorgeous 1930s doors on gumtree too. I couldn’t believe that I found enough of the unusual matching style in the right sizes for our house! I love them and I feel that along with the thicker skirting board and opening up the fireplace they have completely changed the look of our house from a boxy ex-council house into a charming vintage cottage. Matt’s desk was a small dining table that we painted white. I loved the size of it, not too big and not too small and The shape of it look vintage and in keeping with the house. I reupholstered two dining chairs to be my office chair and bedroom chair. I love the fabric so much I made a throw for our bed too!
The only pieces of furniture that we did not get second-hand was our bookcase in the lounge as a good second-hand bookcase is like gold dust we discovered, and on the rare occasion that one becomes available it is sold within seconds! After checking gumtree about eight times a day for six weeks I gave up and we bought one from Ikea! and also the armchair in the dining room which is my favourite seat in the whole house and cost only £275 in the Homebase sale. We also bought all our light fittings new from Ikea or eBay. Apart from the light fitting in the hallway which bought second hand from Gumtree, removed the shades, sprayed it back and screwed kilner jars to act as shades instead and it works really well.
Our kitchen lights were made for us by our handyman after showing him a pintrest picture. They are planks of wood with three hanging black light fitting (Ikea) with a kilner jar light fitted as a shade (Jars bought from the Range) Our kitchen was second hand from Gumtree too. We had a quote for a new kitchen of £3,000 but we then saw this one on gumtree for £250 and liked it even better! It also had exactly the right size cabinets for us! (I meticulously measured!) We then sourced a reconditioned range cooker (my exact dream oven that I had waited 10 years to have!) and then bought a new sink and, worktops. We bought second-hand washing machine, fridge, freezer and microwave at a fraction of the price of new and two and a half years later, are still going strong! We moved in after just one month when it was just bare, wet plaster on the walls, no doors, no skirting boards, no shower, no oven and dust/rubble everywhere! It was horrible! We lived off a slow cooker placed on the lounge floor and a toasted sandwich maker. The whole renovation took five months in total but when you are living in disarray with constant delays with various builders it really took its toll and I was beyond breaking point with it all. We also work from home so there was no escape. We tried going on holiday but the knowledge that it would still be there when we got back was ever present! But now! …Now, everything is exactly how we wanted it. Everything makes sense and functions how we need it to for our lives. I still look around and can’t believe that we get to live here! It is just SOOO pretty and so very “me”! I feel so relaxed that the months of stress and heartache were really worth it now! My style is very cutesy/country chic but most of the stores that I loved were way out of our price range. Most of the decorations in our house (pictures, chalkboard, cushions, bed covers, lamps, candle holders eat) came from either The Range, Dunelm, B&M Store or Home Bargains.
Sarah-Jane’s cheerful abode may be our last home tour for a while. Tracking down newer build owners who’d like to have their homes snapped is proving trickier than I thought but I have a few ideas up my sleeve!
Photography by Sarah-Jane Ethan