Does anyone else love those kinda interior articles where they pick an expensive ‘investment piece’ and then source a budget option that is often very similar? I love it when magazines and bloggers try to make their content accessible to people like us who have a realistic budget and can’t blow the families’ winter shoes and coat budget on a new lamp.
Sometimes I find myself getting frustrated though, because even the ‘budget option’ makes my debit card quiver with anxiety, which, all things considered, is a bit unfair on the author really. Everything is relative and they can’t please everyone. I’m sure spending £179 on a coffee table IS a budget option for someone, and, in a similar vein, when I suggest spending £40 on a coffee table as a bargain, others may disagree with me too.
With that in mind though, I’d love to let you know about some of our own resources for spending less money as well as sharing a few of our mistakes so you can learn from them…
I can honestly say it’s the best £1000 we’ve ever spent. We’ve never had a huge budget for doing up this house, but to spend 1/6 of that on getting rid of the old UPVC door and transforming our homes curb appeal was definitely the best decision we ever made. I absolutely hated our old door, and I hate to admit I’m this shallow, but it genuinely made me feel embarrassed about the house. We’d worked so hard on transforming the interiors, but 95% of people only ever saw that horrible plastic white thing more akin to a static caravan home than a Victorian cottage in the beautiful South Downs National Park. I remember our first Christmas in the village, taking Darcey for a little walk in the pram to get some fresh air and coming home to Matt exclaiming ‘I swear we have the only UPVC door in the WHOLE village, everyone has beautiful Christmas wreaths on their beautiful Farrow and Ball doors and ours is just BLEURGH!!!’ (You may come to realise I’m never one to understate my feelings…)
It was definitely at the point where we had to strip the wall in the girls room right back to the original wood when I thought we were never going to achieve our three week deadline. It was also the moment where I sent an urgent plea out to good friends requesting help with the decorating. Quick!!! Darcey has to sleep in this room in 8 days!!! PLEASE help. Emotive? Guilty. Using a baby to get you free labour? Guilty. Desperate? Hell to the YES.
Due to previous damage and decay we had to strip this wall right back and our plasterers boarded it up for us and re-plastered. It was an unexpected and unwelcome job but it had to be done and at least it gave us a bag full of wood perfect for kinder on the fire?! (Essential to clasp onto any positives you can whilst going through a renovation I think!)
Before we bought ‘The Otto House’ we rented a large, detached three-bedroom house with an enormous studio in the garden. Like many here in the South of England we had to downsize to get on the property ladder so storage has always been a bit of an ongoing challenge. I am a curtain-maker by trade and not only used the old garden studio for making curtains but also for hoarding HEAPS of fabric, wallpaper, paint, magazines, books and anything else remotely crafty. It was like a creative paradise to me and something which I am sure I will never have again, but I am so very grateful for the two glorious years I spent stitching away in there whilst the sun streamed through the double doors. (And the winters spent in a coat, hat and gloves bent shivering over my sewing machine, but, you know, that sounded less poetic!)
As first time home owners there are certainly many things you have to consider that I’d never even thought of before. Now don’t get me wrong, I am really happy with the overall finish and we certainly have made a huge aesthetic transformation to what we started with, but there are some aspects of our renovation that I would do differently if I could.
So, firstly, why the rush?!
We were living in rented accommodation and managed to get a three week overlap where we could live in the comfort of one home, whilst drastically changing the next. Most of the work required was dusty and messy and in a small two-bed, we knew there would be no ‘give’ once we’d moved us, a baby, and all our stuff in, so we really needed it to be liveable and child-safe by the end of those three weeks.
People often ask us how on earth we do it all whilst looking after the children and to be honest with you, there is no magic answer. There is no wand that turns a dingy and dated hallway into a new fresh, practical and modern entrance unless you’re willing to put in the hard work (or hard-earned cash). Whilst we don’t have much of the latter, we have attempted (and completed) many DIY jobs around the house so here’s a few tips that we’ve learnt along the way…
Two of the things that get the most comments over on my Instagram @theottohouse are our bathroom tiles and this exposed brick wall. It really was so very simple to do and at next-to-nothing cost, is a great way to add character to a room on a low budget, but despite that we still felt pretty intimidated by the job and almost didn’t go for it. Do you have similar apprehensions? Read on to see how we did it and how we feel about living with exposed brick, one year on.
When we picked up the keys for our first home ‘The Otto House’, we had three weeks to get it ready for our little family. At the time Darcey had just turned one, and although a walk in shower with large white plastic handrails and a fold down seat may be welcoming for a weary mama after a long sleepness night, it certainly didn’t please me aesthetically or suit our needs as a family bathroom. Thankfully a builder friend of ours was on hand to help us with the tiling and plumbing so we could crack on and get it finished in the couple of weeks before move in day.
We started by ripping out the shower and the awful faux marble plastic surround that had been literally glued onto the tiles beneath it. Having spent ages trying to take the tiles off the wall around the fireplace downstairs, the thought of more tiles that needed removing (especially ones not factored into our tight time frame) was as unwelcome as a James Blunt song on the radio. I needn’t have worried however as the tiles only required a few forceful taps, a bit of leverage with the chisel and they all fell down, bringing the wall with it!