Moving into our new home in London has been so incredibly different to the experience we had with our first home in New Zealand. As well as now moving with two children in tow, the house we have bought this time round is completely different to our first home. The biggest contrast is that we need to do very little to it – in fact this was one of the main things that attracted us to it. By contrast, our first home was a complete ‘fixer-upper’.
I’ll save the few little house projects we do plan to undertake in our new London home for another post. But tonight just thinking about the differences between our first two homes has made me want to write about them. And so, this isn’t a post about looking forward to our plans. It’s a post about looking back on our first home, our old home that is now someone else’s. And it’s about the lessons we learnt in that renovation project.
This little picture of me in our new bathroom in London is what made me realise just how different the two houses are. I felt compelled to take this as I wandered around our new house the first day it was ours, taking it all in. Why? Because I couldn’t believe how sparkly the tiles were, how bright and functional everything was, and how shiny and clean everything looked and felt.
It was so different from the first day in our house on Daniell Street in New Zealand. On that day we’d just opened the Veuve when Tony took a sledgehammer to our bathroom floor to see how rotten the floorboards were.
Tony and his wonderful old friend Anton ended up ripping out all the floor, adding some new piles in, regibbing the walls and then putting in a new bathroom suite. We paid for a plumber but other than than – they did it themselves. For a week we were bathroom-less. I cycled to the gym as soon as I got up each morning just to have a shower before work. At night we snuck into the hospital at the end of the road to use the bathroom.
We had bought a house with a horrid bathroom that tenants hadn’t looked after. We had known it was going to be first on our list of things to do. And while we smarted at the cost of the plumber, we bought the other suite in the sale and managed to keep costs low. We were so happy in the end with our little narrow bathroom where the shower didn’t leak, the floor didn’t squelch and the strange partition was gone forever.
A coupe of months later we tackled our next big project – the kitchen. It had been so dirty that I’d not been able to bring myself to use the oven those first few months. We began by ripping out all the units – Tony salvaged what he could for his shed, and the rest was dumped or sold. We found that part of the floor was concrete under the lino (the rest was beautiful ancient matai hardwood). We sourced some reclaimeed matai and eventually had the floor polished and that little corner told a story. Beneath it was a load of bricks which Tony later used to build a little wall for our feet at the breakfast bar.
With Anton, again, and his sister, Tony again rewired, repiled, regibbed, repainted – and basically did everything to get the space ready for our new kitchen. We splashed out on granite – Tony’s decision – and we loved our little blackboard wall we painted at the end of the room.
Thank goodness we embarked on this project in summer. I got bored of takeaways and washing tea cups in the bathroom sink – but at least it was warm outside and we could break up the sandwiches and takeaways with barbecues!
Once it was done, our kitchen was a joy. Milin would sit in his high chair at the breakfast bar and watch birds fly from their nests in our garden. We looked out on to a karaka tree, stepped out of the French doors on the deck, sat at a breakfast bar handpainted with Tony’s art and used the blackboard every day. A bell on the wall had been made at Tony’s grandfather’s foundry, our beautiful mango wood table was a wedding gift and became the place around which we spent many an evening with friends.
We spent a year painting walls, sanding frames, building things, fixing things, getting quotes, replacing glass, redoing guttering… it really was never ending. After we’d cleaned up the big front bedrooms, Tony built wooden wardrobes in the spare bedroom and a bedroom and shelving units in our room.
Again, everything was done on a budget (Tony carried the headboard he found second hand, online, home on the bus; the wood for the shelving, cupboards and drawers was quite cheap ply he stained himself…) – but in the end of it all, we were proud of our home.
This experience so far with our new home in London is so different. We are still looking forward to making it our own, but we are grateful not to be embarking on such a major renovation. With two little people around – it would just be too hard. We also know now how costs spiral… this time round, there’s no money for that!
I didn’t particularly enjoy DIY or renovating either – the bits I enjoyed were the smaller scale things which still made an impact. This time, we’re doing very little. We’ve got a list of nice-to-haves – and, in fact, we’re starting on one of them in a few days time… Overall though, our projects will be smaller. For now at least!