Karen Clough is a full time Content Manager for a Digital Marketing Agency but when she isn’t working she is blogging about renovating and decorating her house. We caught up with her, to see what advice she would give to someone considering a home renovation project.
Renovating a home is such a big job, how, why and when did you first decide to buy a house that needed so much work?
As a young couple of 20-something year olds, Joe (my then boyfriend) and I knew how lucky we were to be in a position to buy our first house. Because of the housing market in 2006, we were somewhat limited with what we could buy. We could either buy a finished house, but run the risk of never making any money on it, and potentially not liking the area. Or, we could pick a nice area and await the moment that a ‘fixer-upper’ caught our eye. We chose the latter. We bought our house in a sorry state. Whilst in a lovely area, this particular semi-detached had sadly suffered from being empty for over a year, and we soon discovered it had never been updated since being built around 1930. We took on the challenge to update the house, give it new life that it deserved, and say hello to our first family home. Three years later, Joe and I are now married, expecting our first baby in 2014, and still decorating! But we’re loving every minute and learning a lot along the way.
What’s the most fun part of renovating and what do you really hate more than anything?
The best bit is being able to create your dream house. When you’re starting from scratch you have so many opportunities to start over. If you don’t like a wall, you can tear it down. The downside is, it’s messy, expensive and time-consuming work.
Which part of your home are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of our kitchen/diner. We spent nearly 2 years without a kitchen in order to extend at the back of the house and build a kitchen big enough for us to one day share with our family. It was a huge job and very draining but now it’s done, it was worth the wait.
What are the best ways to save money when renovating a home?
I think you get what you pay for when it comes to labour work such as plastering and construction. It’s expensive at first but saves you money in the long run to have it done by a professional. To save money on everything else, we’re big fans of sales, scouring the internet for discounts, and also buying second hand online. With a bit of vision and a lick of paint or two, a piece of furniture off somewhere like Preloved can go far! We’ve done this plenty of times.
Was there any point in the process where you just wanted to give up? What did you do to turn this around?
Plenty of times. But, we knew that living in what felt like a building site was always a temporary arrangement. At one point during the renovation of our kitchen, we had a hole in the side of our house in the middle of winter, and it was just so cold! We’ve slowly but surely learned to laugh at the situation, and I think a good attitude and sense of humour is vital when undergoing major house transformations. It won’t be forever after all!
Is renovating expensive?
Yes it is expensive. Renovating relies on ensuring foundations of your building are secure, and for many – including me! – it’s not a good idea to undergo some of it yourself. Decorating on the other hand can be cheap if you’re willing to do some searching. Something doesn’t have to be new to be amazing. Whilst we have plenty of bargain furniture in our house from the likes of Ikea, or ornaments from the supermarket home sections, some of our favourite pieces in the house were found second hand from car boot sales or online. All it takes is a bit of imagination to make it your own and give it a new lease of life.
How do you get inspired?
Like most home bloggers, Pinterest is great for ideas! And I love reading other interior blogs to see how people in a similar situation to me have chosen to decorate. Personally I take a lot of inspiration from our parent’s homes too, as they hold such fond memories and I love trying to mix traditional with modern.
What are the pros and cons of DIY?
DIY is a great hobby. You can do things so much cheaper than when hiring a professional, but you need to be prepared to make mistakes along the way. It’s all part of the learning process!
If you were to give advice to anyone thinking about renovating a home, what would you say?
Do one room at a time. For us, we’ve done every room at once, meaning everything is half finished and we don’t have anywhere to truly relax once we’ve spent a day at work and then the evening working on the house! Pick either your lounge or your bedroom and prioritise these, so that you always have somewhere to escape from the madness that comes with renovating.