Home renovation

Top 5 Dos and Don’ts of a Home Renovation by a Real Couple

When Nadine Bacchus-Garrick and her partner Juls bought their first home in April 2020 – a two-bedroom Victorian terrace in south London – they did not expect to undertake a renovation in the midst of a pandemic. “We got the keys the week the British government announced the lockdown,” says Nadine. “We were excited, but also worried about the stores closing and being able to start the renovation.”

Nadine Bacchus-Garrick and her partner Juls are documenting the renovation of their first home on the Instagram account @rona_renovation. “It’s totally new for both of us,” says Nadine. “Juls is a leather craftsman and makes all of his products by hand, so he’s a handyman, but I have a background in public relations and work in a fixed office. Many of the men in my family work in commerce, so I had a rough idea of ​​what to expect.”

Despite the challenges, the couple wanted to realize their dream home as soon as possible. “People less fussy than us might have simply put on a lick of paint,” admits Nadine. “When we investigated extensively, we found that a lot of structural work needed to be done, and much of the work that needed to be done was hidden.”

There were rotting joists, holes, dampness and messy electrical appliances. “It was built in 1901 and just wasn’t up to 2020,” says Nadine.

One of the biggest challenges in renovation so far has been the shortage of plaster in the UK due to closures. “It was stressful,” says Nadine. “We were a small group from the renovation community informing each other, and we had to get up at 4 a.m. to line up for plaster!” As a result, finishing the master bedroom plasterwork was a major milestone. “This is such an exciting landmark for all home renovators because it means you can finally think about decorating,” Nadine wrote on Instagram. “I will never again take plaster available in stores for granted!”

As they began the transformation, Nadine was put on leave and wanted something to occupy her time, so she started an Instagram account, @rona_renovation, to document the progress. “The account has become such a beautiful part of my life and has brought nothing but positivity and happiness,” she says. “I’ve met some brilliant people, and it’s also been a source of really practical advice.”

The couple moved into the partially completed home in September 2020 and are halfway through the project. Below, they graciously share key takeaways from their experiences, though the work is far from done. “I have big, pipe dreams about what I want to do next,” says Nadine. “It’s not our last project. After doing this, I can’t imagine walking into a house and loving it exactly the way it is!”

Tackle the bathroom first

“My number one tip is to do your bathroom first, even if you live in your renovation,” says Nadine. “All the other essentials you need you can use freely: you can fit a kettle, microwave or camp stove in any room, but you can’t fit a shower!” So, spend some money and time tidying up the bathroom like you won’t regret. It’s so nice to be able to end a very hard day in a beautiful and new bathroom.

When the couple started the renovation, it was almost impossible to stock up on hardware stores that were closed by the pandemic, so they started by emptying the house, namely the bathroom. In the process, they discovered rotting joists under the floor, all of which needed to be replaced, a problem that had been pointed out by a surveyor before buying the house. “It’s definitely worth investing in a structural survey to give you some insight into what might be wrong with the property to help you budget and plan for the renovation,” says Nadine.

“Seeing our finished bathroom was huge, because it was the first room we finished,” says Nadine. “I designed and planned it so meticulously and put my heart and soul into research. I also bought a lot on eBay which was pretty scary and felt like a gamble!”

Superstore porcelain tiles and cream paint by Little Green Paint Company showcased a La Redoute vanity and a Tap Warehouse sink. “Our bathroom wall sconces from Dowsing & Reynolds are always my favorite item in this room,” says Nadine. “At this point, my love for them is low-key, which creates a problem because no ceiling light can compare.”

The floor tiles were chosen to mimic the type of concrete flooring found in contemporary Mediterranean interiors. “There are so many great patterned tiles out there that are so much more interesting, but I really can’t trust myself to settle for them for years to come,” says Nadine.

Prioritize with your builder

“Talk to your builder about the structural ideas you have early on and go for the ones you are passionate about at the start of the renovation,” says Nadine. “You might want to knock down a wall, remove or re-establish a mantelpiece, but you can’t go back and do those things; you have to do the messy jobs first.”

During the first week of renovation, Nadine and Juls, with the help of Nadine’s father-in-law, drilled through a wall to create an open-plan living and dining area. “It would have been insane if we were living in the house among dust and trash, but we know that’s the reality for most renovators,” says Nadine. “Fortunately, we were able to form a bubble with my mum and stepdad, and we lived with them for a few months so we didn’t have to live in the rawest part of the renovation when there was no No electricity or plumbing.”

Don’t lose sight of your own style

“Social media can be a great tool for inspiration, but it’s important that you stick with what you love,” says Nadine. “I’ve seen some cool decor on Instagram that are really colorful and quirky, but Juls and I are drawn to simple Scandinavian-style interiors, and I want to create a sense of calm in our home.”

“As a black couple from London,” she continues, “we’re also very keen to bring in some of our own culture. Your home says a lot about who you are, and it would be strange if it wasn’t a common thing. yarn. We’d like to collect things over time through travel, probably art and textiles. I’m half Jamaican, and would like to go there and find pieces for our home. Juls is Nigerian, and I want to do the same there.”

Most of the floors in the master bedroom needed replacing. “Juls has been on a ground crusade this week trying to figure out the puzzle of how we can make this work and cut costs,” Nadine wrote on an Instagram post. “Many trips to reclaimed wood locations, floors reconfigured once and then again, but he did it!” They also salvaged the original floors under the bathroom tiles.

Nadine describes the renovated room as “serene and simple”. The walls are painted Strong White by Farrow & Ball and the radiators were purchased on eBay.

The bedding, mirror, bedside tables, lamps and planter all come from British furniture retailer MADE.com.

Keep a very detailed budget plan

“Keep track of your budget and don’t try to increase your budget with money you don’t have,” advises Nadine. “You’d be surprised how easy it is to forget that when you’re renovating. If there’s something that’s over your budget, you have to accept that you might have to do it later or do it now. a different way. We have a detailed live spreadsheet for budgeting – I even put lunch in there; that’s how it got granular!”

“It’s also a good idea to decide early on what things you need to have and what you can compromise on,” she continues. “For me, I was determined to have wall sconces in our bathroom next to the mirror, as it has always been my bugbear that I could never see my makeup at night. This meant the electrician had to run extra wires, and Juls thought it was a bit unnecessary…but for me it was worth it.I also wanted brass fittings in the bathroom, but when I calculated the price, I couldn’t not justify it financially. So, I gave up on that idea and just got chrome, which I love now. It’s important not to get carried away.

“The first thing you like is often the one you have to choose,” says Nadine. “I ordered hundreds of bathroom tile samples and settled on the first one I liked. The same goes for the paint samples. I tested all the neutral shades, and it’s always the first one or two that I use. Don’t complicate things too much and trust your instincts.”

Invest equity

“Roll up your sleeves and do a lot of the work yourself, it’ll save you hundreds of pounds,” says Nadine. “We organized our own dumpsters and filled them ourselves, which was no joke! It was physically intense, but it saved us money. I also landed millions questions. The closer you are to the process, the better you are able to make decisions.”

Most of the original chimneys had been filled in, and Nadine and Juls decided to inject some old-school charm into their home by reopening them. “It was a grim job,” recalls Nadine. “But, we are super happy!”

The bathroom required major work at the start of the project, including the demolition of a brick fireplace mantle. “The whole bathroom had to be redone, and it was a slow burn that destroyed the existing bathroom,” says Nadine. “I wouldn’t say I’m picky, but I’m not the kind of person who volunteers for dirty jobs. I haven’t shied away from doing some of the filthy jobs here, though, as it’s our home .”

“I surprised myself at how gritty and dirty it was, and how ready I was to get stuck,” Nadine continues. “It’s a very good reminder of your abilities. We asked my father-in-law, [who’s a builder], for advice, and if we couldn’t reach him, we found the answers on YouTube. The lesson is that you can really get your hands on most things with the right attitude, a bit of bravery and YouTube.”

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