I don’t mind a bit of “interiors porn”. I’ve had a subscription to a home magazine for years and love drooling over the flashy overhauls and clever interior design tricks. There’s something irresistible about the glossy pages filled with immaculately styled homes and aspirational mood boards. I’ve got piles of magazines with dog-eared pages, marking clever bathroom renovations and kitchen makeover tips. And yet, I have no intention of renovating. Just as I buy foodie magazines and never manage to cook a single recipe, I’ll never produce a mosaic feature wall! If I can’t make the latest Donna Hay recipe because it requires three unfamiliar ingredients, then I know renovating is not for me.
Our suburban house is screaming out for a renovation. I’d be happy to take an axe to my 80’s timber kitchen, and my laundry cupboard, aka “Euro laundry” is about as spacious as a tin of sardines. Definitely not suited to those with a “demanding” laundry schedule. The apricot tiles in our bathroom have no place in the 21st century and are only marginally nicer than the terracotta slate tiles in the living areas. “Your house would look great with polished concrete,” my reno friends say. “You should knock down the back of the house and rebuild. Just get some plans drawn up and you’d be amazed with what you can do”.
But here’s the thing. I am not a renovator. It’s simply not in my DNA; I am deficient in just about every area required to survive a renovation. Based on my observations, there are key selection criteria you must address, and I fall spectacularly short in every area:
- Ability to make decisions
As a self-confessed over-thinker who suffers from chronic decision anxiety, making big decisions, with potentially expensive consequences, sends me into a cold sweat. I have enough trouble making simple decisions about how to use up the remaining asparagus in the crisper. How on earth would I cope making a decision about the correct height at which to hang the kitchen pendant light, assuming I could even decide on which pendant to choose. And what colour to paint the walls. There’s only about 100 choices. And that’s just in white.
- Deep pockets
Money. And lots of it! Renovating, by all accounts, is a huge financial commitment, even for small jobs. If you’re not skilled in any type of useful labour then just keep adding zeros to your budget. Materials cost a lot. Labour costs even more. My husband and I have no suitable DIY skills, and no budget to finance those skills. Unlike TV shows that show miraculous makeovers coming in under budget, I’m told you need to add about 20% onto quotes to get a realistic figure. Unexpected costs creep up, and very few renos run on time or to budget. So not only do you need bucket loads of cash, you need bucket loads of patience, too.
- Fluent in reno talk
Reno-talk is a language I am not conversant in. I am surrounded by friends who are renovating. Talk at social functions is about architectural designs, rooflines, landscaping dilemmas, splashbacks, accent tiles, and flooring choices. As an observer it seems that you need to “belong” to the renovators club to truly participate in these conversations. But try as I might to contribute to these enthusiastic discussions, I am out of my depth and merely an impostor.
- Architectural Vision
Alost everyone I know who has ever renovated proclaims they designed the house themselves. The architect, or draughtsperson, apparently had little to do with the design at all. As someone who has absolutely no spatial awareness whatsoever I couldn’t conceive of coming up with a clever use of space, but apparently there are many would-be architects amongst us who can! But the real problem with my total lack of vision is simple: it means it’s going to cost me more.
- Living with family or in-laws
A large proportion of friends who have undertaken major home renovations have moved in with their parents or in-laws. In the absence of dollars, or sense, (pardon the pun) this may seem like a logical solution, and from what I can see, most parents seem happy to temporarily house their children and grandchildren. But, even if I had the money, the vision, the ability to make decisions and the reno-tongue, this is not going to work for me. Not even the shortest renovation in history could make this idea palatable.
From a safe distance I can see that renovating poses many challenges. Patience can run thin, money can run scarce, and drama can run high. Why go there? The timber kitchen isn’t all that bad. It’s actually very “solid”, so in the absence of that axe, it’s not showing any cracks. And I hear that apricot tiles are making a comeback….
Tell me, are you a renovator? Or, are you a renophobe, like me? If you’ve survived a renovation, hit me with your top tips below.
- First published on Debrief Daily.