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.
Photography via The Frugality