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It’ll All Be Worth It | Renovating With Alex From The Frugality

Author: Lauren Coleman

If there’s an Instagram Story I’m permanently glued to it’s that of The Frugality. Someone needs to give this girl her own TV show. Fashion Editor Alex Stedman’s videos of her North London renovation has me gripped and I cannot wait to see how her and husband Chris transform their tired Edwardian home.

I’m always surprised in the RMS comments just how many of you are making Kirsty Allsopp proud. With sledgehammers, paint brushes and planning permissions frequently mentioned it seems a renovation bug is taking hold. Therefore I caught up with Alex recently to check in on her progress and hear her tips on coping with a huge renovation project. Be warned. It’s a bit dusty.

Renovation is Not Romantic

I’ve always been pretty good at seeing properties for their space, features and as a blank canvas. Dodgy furniture or textured walls never put me off. However, when we saw our house we were pretty naive to say the least. We knew it would be a lot of work, but we didn’t REALLY know it would be a lot of work. We said it’d be like camping, but never REALLY thought about how similar to camping it actually would be. When we moved in just before Christmas, we had no heating or hot water and there wasn’t a single surface you could touch with your bare hand that wouldn’t be covered in brown dust. And then the realisation hit that this would be like this not just for a month or so, but for a few years. We adjusted, because you have to – filling up the outside toilet (because the upstairs one flooded and the ceiling caved in) with a bucket to go to the toilet because we had to remove the water tank, wearing coats and outside shoes inside because it was so cold and no plumbers could work on the house over the holidays, or brushing my teeth in the bathrooms of restaurants before meetings as we had no running water. These were the times when we were looking at each other thinking ‘did we really think this through?’

The Dust Gets Everywhere

Five months in, I have to cleanse my face about 5 times a day, and every time the cotton wool pad is grey with dust and dirt. And to the untrained eye our house seems pretty liveable now. Everyone who comes round loves the house, but they always leave with dust and dirt all over their clothes from where they accidentally relaxed and leant on a wall!

A Good Builder Is Worth Their Weight In Gold

For our loft conversion in our last flat, we didn’t have the best builders. They took off with a huge list of snagging issues and never returned our calls again. With this house, we did a bit more research and went for a recommended builder – he is fantastic. Careful, kind, great attention to detail and good communication skills – and we’re sticking with him. Having someone you can rely on for a build takes so much stress off you, especially when you’re busy working every day yourself. That said, we recommended him so much that we had to wait 3 months to get him back!

You Will Probably Never Have a ‘Weekend’ Again

When anyone asks what I’m up to at the weekend, they already know the answer. It’s either painting, stripping wallpaper, clearing or putting shelves up. When doing everything from scratch, there is just so much to do! And even when you give yourself time to relax, you feel guilty: because there’s so much to do. And also because you start to enjoy it…I love the satisfaction of painting a wall or sanding down floors. It becomes addictive.

Every Week Everyone Asks You When You’ll Be Finished

If I got a pound every time someone said ‘you’re almost done, aren’t you?’, I’d probably have paid a builder to finish everything by now! It’ll wind you up and it’ll probably never be completely ‘finished’ in your eyes but just go with it and say ‘yes, getting there!’.

It’ll All Be Worth It

Everyone says this and sometimes it seems like it’ll never happen. But I always look to the real reason we bought this house – we could never afford this style of house in London if it weren’t in this condition, and in 5-10 years we’ll have this house, in our style, potentially with a family running around in it, and it will ALL BE WORTH IT.

As you can see from the bottom gallery and header image, Alex’s house is really starting to take shape. To check in on her progress be sure to nip over to her blog or Instagram Stories.


Photography via The Frugality

Lauren likes Paris, Prosecco and Paint Charts
Follow Lauren on instagram @mrslaurencoleman

9 thoughts on “It’ll All Be Worth It | Renovating With Alex From The Frugality

    1. I thought of you Rebecca when I put this together! You should be so proud of yourselves though. As Alex says it will be so worth it! x

  1. We always wondered what our friends said on the way home from visiting us after we bought our run-down cottage, “are they mad?” was probably the favourite. You have to be a special sort of person to do a renovation, I listen to people who have had a new kitchen, how they can’t stand the mess, they have no idea, try living in a unheated caravan for 18 months as there isn’t a clean room in the house. But I wouldn’t change it for the world, eight years on (still not finished) I love to look back at the photos and see how far we’ve come, totally agree about the builder, with not a straight wall or floor anywhere and working with the constraints of Grade II listing, we really couldn’t have done it without him.

  2. Yes to good builders! Don’t believe the stereotypes, you deserve professionalism, understanding and partnership- and they are out there! My husband’s building company have a high street shop so you can go in and talk to someone whenever- I wish more builders did this.

    It looks awesome- and your tale of no water brings back memories of moving into our first owned house and showering in the garden with a bucket and scoop after we ripped the bathroom out! We have it so cushy living in the farmhouse while we do the barn!

  3. We have been renovating our house for the last 18 months and agree with everything said above. Ours was originally a 5 year project but we got a bit carried away and ended up doing everything together and should be ‘finished’ in the next few months. I say ‘finished’ as absolutely agree that it’ll never be completely finished but then hopefully it will be smaller jobs not what I would class as major renovation.
    I think its really important to have one nice room you can escape to when the mess gets bad but you kind of just have to accept that your house is going to be a mess for a while.

    1. Carly I admire you. Our one year project will end up being three so I’m in awe of anyone who can do it quickly! x

  4. I have been following Alex for a while now and felt her pain when she moved into her new home at Christmas as we had just completed on our housevin Cornwall and was also renovating at the time (although not to the same level) I love seeing how the house is coming together and her amazing ability to cope with living in it as they do it. What she has done so far looks so good

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