A Slow Guide to Renovating a House

People say that the three most stressful life events are getting married, having babies and moving house - and that’s just moving house, not spending six months renovating! This past year, from looking around houses last autumn to finally moving into our new home in the middle of June, I’ve been bombarded with so many different emotions. The worry of not being able to have the house that we fell in love with, the impatience of waiting so long for everything to go through, the panic of having too much to do, the unrest of not really having a home for four months, the excitement at finally moving in, the contentment of feeling settled in, and, yes, the constant stress throughout the whole process. So many people have asked me how I coped with the stress, how I juggled my work with the renovations, and how I managed to do everything so quickly yet still maintain my slow living ethos. For anyone else taking on the mammoth task of a big renovation project, here are my tips, along with a few before & after photos of our house.

Make lists

I’m a little bit obsessed with making lists in every aspect of my life. I have to-do lists on the notes of my phone, notebooks filled with lists for my work, and lists of blog post ideas or books I want to read. When it came to our renovation, I was the organised one, trying to maintain a sense of sanity by making lists of absolutely everything. There was a general list of the big jobs that needed doing and the dates they were to be completed by, as well as smaller, ever-changing lists of jobs that we needed to do in each room, work for the garden and shopping lists of things to buy. I had to constantly cross out and amend these lists, as work wasn’t completed in time or workmen changed their schedules, but having everything written down helped me to ensure that everything ran smoothly.

Accept changes to your plans

When we first got hold of the keys, I was adamant that we would be living in the house within two months. However, work took longer than we thought it would, problems were encountered and things didn’t always work out exactly as we had planned. Throughout the project, I had to accept that things were moving slower than I would have liked, and also that changes had to be made to our original plans. Rather than getting stressed out (most of the time!), I had to learn to let these changes happen. There were also changes that we had to make due to funds or feasibility. Our kitchen layout changed slightly, we couldn’t restore the original floorboards as we had wanted, and some plans (the garage conversion and front decking) have had to be put on hold until we can afford them.

Be flexible with timescales

Leading on from my previous point, our original two month plan quickly went out of the window. Two months in, our house was still an empty shell with tons of work that still needed completing. It was an incredibly frustrating time, but I just had to accept that was the way it was and allow myself a little flexibility with my timescales. So things took a little longer than I wanted them to? Looking back, now we are settled in, those extra few weeks really didn’t matter to us and it was worth it to have everything done as we wanted.

Embrace slow decorating

I don’t know if that’s really a thing, but that’s what I’m naming it! Rather than finishing everything before we moved in, we did the bare minimum and have been slowly decorating ever since. We painted most of the downstairs and our bedroom, and completely finished the bathroom prior to moving. Everything else we have worked away at whenever we had chance. We gave ourselves the summer off, as the weather was so nice and we wanted to explore our new home, and came back to the decorating the past couple of months. Now, we have almost finished but there is still one room to completely decorate and lots of little touch-ups that need doing. We also still don’t have internal doors for the upstairs rooms, there are no curtains or blinds on any windows, and we need lamp shades and lamps in half of the rooms. This hasn’t stopped us from settling in and feeling comfortable in our home, and it’s been nice to live in the space before making decisions.

don’t make hasty decisions

Leading on from my slow decorating mantra, I really think that you need to live in a space before making all of the decisions. Since we’ve moved in, we’ve purchased furniture, lighting and textiles after we spent time in the house, waiting until we knew exactly what we wanted for that particular space. This ensured that we didn’t make hasty purchases that we later regretted. I’m trying to buy less, and only buy things that we really need or truly love. Slowing down your purchasing decisions helps you to do this.

find the right work people

At the beginning, we so desperately wanted to get the ball rolling that we hired people who did sloppy jobs. As our renovation progressed, we learnt not to give the jobs to the first people we met, but to wait until we found the workmen/women that were right for us. This may have meant certain jobs taking longer than we wanted (we had to wait a month for our bathroom fitter to start) but in the long run, it has meant that we are happy with the finished results.

Are you renovating a house? Let me know if you’d like any further advice.