Renovating a home with hubby who likes to tear things apart and two tiny ‘helpers’ has its own challenges and blessings. See the before and afters of their reno below
When teacher Hayley and firefighter Isaac first met they were living on opposite coasts. Hayley was based at Mt Maunganui, while Isaac was in Taranaki but being in two different locations couldn’t keep these lovebirds apart. Fast forward to today and the couple has been living in New Plymouth for five years, recently finished a beautiful renovation and welcomed two children to their family, Thatcher and Sawyer.
The surfer couple was renting a home in Oakura, a quaint beach village just south of New Plymouth when they began the search for a home of their own. For the handy couple, the non-negotiables were simple, it had to be warm, light and have room to make improvements.
The couple found their ideal home by chance, hearing about it privately through a contact of one of Isaac’s work colleagues. The house was sun-drenched, had loads of windows and lots of living space inside and out – and it was love at first sight.
“The property was big enough to sub-divide, it had a pool for the kids, a great layout, so many windows, skylights and great lighting, and we wanted it,” says Hayley.“We could see the potential, and I could envisage lots of entertaining around the pool.”
After just one viewing, the couple jetted off to Bali and made an offer the next day while on holiday. By the time they returned, the house was theirs, and they were ready to move in five days later, paint brushes in hand.
Time for a change
But it wasn’t a simple move-in-and-enjoy. The house had previous renovations that were “interesting”. It was extremely dated and old fashioned. Although the layout didn’t need to change, everything else did, says Hayley. “We got the keys and realised just how bad the state of the house was. We stayed at my parents’ bach down the coast until the house was clean enough to live in. We moved in, but shortly after I found the entire house was riddled with carpet bugs. So we moved back out, ripped up the carpet and lived with bare floorboards for the following year.”
All the walls were wonky and none of the internal doors were the same height or size. There were homemade hooks for inside locks on the doors and all of the exterior joinery was painted beige, which Hayley took to using paint stripper and a water blaster.
Transformation on a budget
The kitchen needed a complete overhaul, but with baby number two on the way, they were running out of time to do it themselves, so they shopped around for something that was quality, affordable and suited their preference for Scandinavian style. “We went with a local kitchen place called Kitchen In. They were amazing. They were quick and were on the same page with our vision. Isaac did the tiling during my post-hospital stay with Sawyer.”
The couple planned a minor renovation of the bathroom, but as they started stripping things back it became apparent everything had to go including the wall linings – even the bath was about to fall through the floor. They sourced secondhand matai flooring to match the existing floors, Isaac installed new wall linings, and had a builder frame up for a new bath to install. To keep to budget, Isaac made the vanity out of solid laminated wood for around $500, including the basin, and did the tiling himself, opting for subway tiles.
With beautiful matai flooring throughout, they sanded the timber themselves, polishing them with a matte varnish to replace the gloss coating. The lounge walls had layers of wallpaper with skirting boards used as ceiling coving, so Isaac got stuck in again, ripping off parts of the walls and skimming other parts. He also replaced all the ceiling covings. Finally, it was time to paint, choosing to go with Resene Half Rice Cake throughout the house.
Teamwork makes the dream work
While the couple work well together, there are some stark differences, which they take in their stride. “Isaac was nicknamed ‘Four Corners’ by workmates, because when it was his turn to cook, his cooking mess would be all over the kitchen. It’s exactly the same when he renovates. He enjoys tearing everything apart instead of working room by room. I came home at 36 weeks pregnant, still teaching and had a two-year-old, to find Isaac had ripped out the kitchen, laundry, main bathroom and ensuite vanity. The only running water in the house was the ensuite shower. That was the biggest character building point of the reno journey.”
Hayley is a planner whereas Isaac is not, but it’s a yin and yan dynamic that works beautifully. With Isaac being so handy at DIY, Hayley trusts the process to him, while he gives her free rein over the styling. They both tag team looking after the kids with Hayley focusing on painting with Isaac doing the rest.
Embracing the chaos
Renovating this home has been a family project, with the kids ‘helping’ Dad with ‘building’ and ‘fixing’ things. “We have patched up many holes, dings and scuffs in newly painted walls, doors and also replaced window glass as a result of their ‘help’. Once the entire family ended up being covered in oil paint, along with the kitchen sink, bench and floor when Sawyer crawled into the paint and tried to eat it. In our panic to try and clean Sawyer up, Thatcher got into it.”
Family time is key for them, says Hayley. “We are fortunate with Isaac’s shift work and I’m not currently working full-time, so we get to have a lot of family time. Most days we will all have a hoon up and down the driveway on the skateboards, scooters and bikes and we all enjoy the pool multiple times a day during the summer.” With the sun covering the deck, this is where dinner is often served, and the family spend their evenings. “I love to entertain, and this house is great for that, with the kitchen and dining spilling out onto the deck.”
Tips and tricks to styling on a budget:
- Paint all of your skirtings, door frames and doors in a semi gloss paint – we painted ours matte first, like the walls, not knowing how hard they would be to clean and keep marks off. We repainted them after someone told us this tip and it’s been so much easier to keep them clean since then.
- If you have bought a do-up and there is a lot of junk on the property, or things need removing list it for free on your local community Facebook page or Marketplace, on the condition people have to remove it themselves. It saves things going to the landfill and also blesses people in need who maybe can’t afford it – and saves you the job of removing it. We got rid of all sorts, plants, trees, massive rocks from the garden, we even gave away the kitchen. It went to a family living near Wellington whose home had been vandalised and they didn’t have insurance – they were absolutely stoked.
Words by: Holly Jean Brooker. Photography by: The Virtue.