If you are thinking of renovating your home with your partner or are even half way through no doubt you will have already encountered a number of renovation and romance frustrations! I know they say moving house is stressful, but what they don’t say is when you have unpacked the boxes and got your feet under the table the real trouble starts!
Arguing over who should have done what, who gets to pick the colours or furniture and the late night decisions about the most menial things you probably didn’t even know existed is the rather less talked about side of doing a house up.
The truth is, it is often hard work with plenty of big money decisions needed for a home you will have to live with for a while at least. If you are working full time and trying to do the property on the side you will have extra pressures too, and don’t even get me started if you are living in it at the same time. I am sure brick dust and half-done jobs have ended many a relationship!
But as a couple who have two buy-to-sell renovations under our belts and one dream home renovation 85% complete (and we are still happily together), I think we can speak from experience.
To mark our one year wedding anniversary this weekend, I thought it would be fun for Will and I to dish the dirt on our renovation and romance situation with a fun Q&A, and a some pieces of our best advice for couples undergoing a renovation too.
Reading Will’s answers really made me laugh and realise just how like-minded we are!
What is the best thing about renovating with Will/Claire?
Claire: Will has got so many qualities that has made him so great to renovate with. The first one is he is brilliant at sourcing items. I will come up with a look or an item that is quite often not suitable or way out of our budget. Will then spends hours trawling the internet to find it or something similar that we can have. An example of this is our bathroom floor – I wanted a wooden floor but it wasn’t practical so Will found wood effect porcelain tiles which look beautiful and are very practical. [See our bathroom tour here].
Will: Claire has a great eye for design and is very creative; she brings really contemporary ideas to life in our period Edwardian home. She manages to apply her ideas in a way that really compliments my tastes too. I’m a huge fan of fancy but small hotels – Claire has created that boutique hotel look in our very own home, a brilliant environment to unwind in after a hectic day at work.
What is the most frustrating or challenging thing about renovating with Will/Claire?
Claire: Will is a brilliant decision maker – he will quickly make a decision and never think about it again. This is the opposite to me! I think about things over and over and consider all possibilities, often changing my mind along the way. In fact, I bet this is the answer Will will give! But whilst this can be good, it can also be really frustrating because if I really want him to reconsider something, he is a closed book!
Will: Claire can spend weeks choosing a colour for a wall; we have enough tester pots to have a good go at the fourth rail bridge, plus who knew there could be so many greys.
How do you think you compliment one another when renovating?
Claire: I think we make a great team! I spend a lot of time considering the overall look and Will makes it happen. He has patience to find the things we need to get the look we want within budget and also to pull the details together such as writing detailed notes for tradespeople. He also keeps me to budget – we would have gone bankrupt long ago if it wasn’t for him reeling me in and on the flip side of that I push him to consider things he wouldn’t have on his own.
Will: Claire has the vision, the style and the expensive taste! I then spend hours on the internet finding the look without the crazy price tag and I relish trying to bring Claire’s vision into our home on budget. Our kitchen island pendents were meant to be over £300 each; I found very similar ones, albeit not the on trend brand for a fraction of the cost.
What is the funniest renovation moment that you’ve had?
Claire: Only a couple of months I was at home meeting with our garden landscapers and Will was at work and I lost our cat (she is a house cat after an accident so doesn’t go outside). Incidentally I randomly found one of our floorboards up and I didn’t know how it had happened. I called Will at work panicked that the cat had escaped whilst I was in the garden discussing the plans. Will was adamant she must have squeezed under the floorboard. After a stressful 45 minutes I pulled up some other floorboards in a different room and the cat came out, absolutely filthy and covered in cobwebs. We realised that the electrician had cut a floorboard and not nailed it back down. The cat must have stood on one end, flipped it up and fallen in! I think she had a great time under there as for days after she kept going back to the same spot!
Will: We had only been living in the house for a few weeks and we were watching television in the living room one evening. The house was not nice when we moved in, but when a tiny mouse ran across the carpet and then disappeared under the door to the hall we knew we’d got some serious work to do. A few weeks later we opened a kitchen cupboard to discover a fury rodent had eaten our Easter stash of chocolate – empty wrappers and nibbled foil the only evidence left at the crime scene. It was time to start the renovation!
Has Claire/Will insisted upon something that you weren’t sure about?
Claire: Will loves to do funny things with LED lighting strips! He insisted upon putting LED lighting strips under the shelves in the kitchen and in the in-shower shelf. I am still not 100% convinced with it but all our male friends love it so it must be a guy thing!
Will: I was very sceptical about the blue velvet sofa; but to be fair to Claire it really works in the living room.
What has Will/Claire got really wrong?
Claire: Haha! We are just in the middle of doing the front sitting room and we are re-installing a fireplace. I really wanted it to be a working fire but lets just say that won’t be happening now!
Will: Its safe to say I can’t think of any particular howlers on either of our parts – maybe Claire disagrees!
What has been Will/Claire’s best idea?
Claire: Will had a clear idea how the kitchen extension should look and be. He spent a lot of time making the architects redraw it to his requirements and the end was result was brilliant. [See our kitchen tour here].
Will: Claire’s best idea was to buy the house full stop – it was in an area that wasn’t on my radar so I would never have found it; it was a very sad house which Claire saw the potential in and now we both love it. I always used to like new builds too; now I’ve really fallen in love with period properties with their high ceilings, big rooms and big gardens; although they need a lot of love and money throwing at them every single year! Our window fitter recently summed it up nicely; when you buy a period property, you’re really just borrowing it for a few years and then passing it on to another family. It fascinates me what life would have been like in our house back in 1912 – with gas lighting and no broadband!
What has created the most debate?
Claire: There has been a lot of debate over almost everything 🙂 But when we were renovating the second floor into a master suite we had a space that was being divided up in to a dressing room and a bathroom. I was adamant the dressing room should be bigger, whilst Will wanted the bathroom bigger. Will’s brother is our builder and was naturally on Will’s side. I remember standing up there, when it was a building site lit by torches after a long day at work needing to make the decision then and there, stamping my foot in frustration. Perhaps not my finest moment! In the end, we compromised …. but I would still like the dressing room to be bigger!
Will: We spent a long time debating where the stud wall would go between the bathroom and dressing room. I wanted a bigger bathroom at the expense of the dressing room – Claire the contrary. After drawing many lines on the floor we eventually reached an agreement that suited both boy and girl!
What does Will/Claire think was their idea, but really it was yours?
Claire: I suggested that we integrate speakers in to the kitchen extension that hooked up to our Sonos system. Will thinks it was his idea. It wasn’t!
Will: Claire would claim the ceiling feature above the kitchen island was her idea but I’d have to disagree – there’s probably quite a few other examples where Claire claims I try and take the credit; my memory isn’t great so I forget who actually comes up with the idea so just take the credit myself!
What have you compromised on?
Claire: There has been so much compromise on everything and I think that is how we have made it work. For example in the kitchen I really wanted a Belfast sink but Will was adamant we didn’t have one. I also wanted a painted kitchen and he wanted a gloss kitchen. In the end he got his sink and I got the painted kitchen. I got a little bonus as managed to persuade him that we have a Belfast sink in the utility room.
Will: I love my lighting and so I put in strip LED lights on the underside of the floating kitchen shelving. Claire hated this look and insisted they were disconnected – we left the bottom shelves connected but the top shelves sit on the wall all sad and dark today.
What are your tips for other couples undergoing a renovation?
Claire: I have loads!
Play on each others strengths and let the other person do what they are good at.
Compromise, compromise, compromise.
Communicate – where things have fallen down with us is when we ‘thought’ we’d said something and we hadn’t or hadn’t been clear enough.
Use pictures – If I have tried to explain something and Will has not been able to envision it, a picture has always helped. Recently I wanted to paint a room in Downpipe. Will was dead-set against it until I showed him my inspiration.
Allocate jobs and tasks and update each other on where you are with them.
And finally, be kind to one another.
Will: Live in the house for a little while first and get to know your home and how you will use it; only then start spending cash on architects and builders to create your perfect living space. And finally, accept you will have disagreements along the way as we all have different tastes, but try and find a compromise which you can both live with.
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Photo by Xander & Thea