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Sometimes it‘s the smallest decisions that can change your life forever. – Kerri Russell

We were warned that renovating is the biggest test on a marriage and one of the most stressful things you can do in life – I beg to differ. It has been one of the most rewarding things we ever did, we dreamt, talked, planned and compromised all the way to changing our home from drab to fab!

Our story started 10 years ago when we bought a 70’s red face brick home, I don’t know why, but houses talk to me, asking to be fixed up.

The Challenge:

The house had a major identity crisis! Double garages and a house front that didn’t match the rest, a single garage and servant quarters that only served as a dumping ground for unwanted and unused clutter. The garden was totally overgrown and we found a nursery only after we had cleared the backyard. The fiberglass pool was cracked and the last remains of green water, a haven for frogs. To put it bluntly, the place was crying out for attention; was dark and dingy with pine ceilings and in need of lots of love.

The Process:

We didn’t have the money or the time to do it all at once but over the years we tackled one thing at a time. Being realistic of what we can do ourselves and what we can’t, led to some of the work being hired out to professionals.

We started remodeling and replanting the garden with plants from friends and family. This made a huge impact. The metal cabinets and yellow tiles in the kitchen made space for a lovely beech wood built-in-kitchen. The moldy, grimy blue and white shower became a tranquil space. The single garage, was a nightmare revamp but eventually after three different contractors became my tranquil studio come guest cottage which I now absolutely love.

Last year we decided to change the whole front of the house and roof, making it lighter, more functional and giving it an identity. I had compiled an ideas file over the years with pictures torn from magazines and brochures. We constantly edited our ideas and made sketches and notes on how the space should look and function.

We had a pretty good idea what it would cost but decided that we did not want to compromise on quality.

We were lucky to find an architect, Dirk Boshoff, who listened to what we wanted. He looked through our ideas file and soon he had our plans ready.

The biggest hassles were getting the building plans approved, namely the relaxation of building lines the previous owners had breached, to ensure that all the paperwork was done correctly , to stay focused and to press on all the time. I should have listened to people who had done it before and got a runner to sort the plans with the Town Council; this would certainly have sped up the process.

We dreaded looking for a reputable contractor / builder, as our studio revamp was such a catastrophe. We looked at buildings that were built in our area and contacted different contractors. We met with each one and looked at what they had done elsewhere. The tender process ensued. The contract was awarded to Hennie van Niekerk, who coordinated the various activities, got professionals in and ensured that materials were on site as and when needed. It is extremely important to follow your gut-feel and to be able to communicate easily. He suggested his suppliers from where we could choose our materials but didn’t mind us sourcing our own. Time and time again his quotes were better than ours for the same quality finishes. We made the scheduled payments and withheld the last amount until all the work was completed according to our specifications.

Demolition started in the first week in September and our deadline was the 15th November which would give us two weeks before my husband’s 60th birthday to put in the finishing touches. Everyone thought us totally crazy, “it will take months longer than you anticipate. “

We were advised to evacuate but decided to stay put. We lived in the back of the house after a partition was put up in the passage to protect us from the dust and the grime. We used the spare bedroom as our TV lounge and stored most of the furniture in the other.

We oversaw the project daily to catch the mistakes as they happen. Every evening when my husband came home we walked around, looked at what was done and discussed what needed to be fixed or changed. In the morning I would discuss our snag list with Hennie and find out what the next steps were and what decisions we needed to make or what we needed to do next.

Points that made it easier:

  • Lock away implements and tools, as your own workers might use the crew as an excuse for things disappearing.
  • Remove plants from the areas that will be renovated. Plant them into pots and the back garden to be reused in the new space.
  • Hire a toilet for the contractors.
  • Keep a file with the plans, contracts, delivery notes and payments.
  • Make rules clear; no stompies, and plastic or cans to be thrown into the garden; take care of plants and other existing structures.
  • Put up a enclosure for your dogs away from the building site, so that they won’t escape or befriend the crew.
  • Plan electric outlets carefully so that they can be chased before walls being plastered
  • Pull in wires for telecom, aerials and security before the ceilings go in.
  • Don’t skimp on quality finishes.

What we did:

  • Changed the 70’s face brick to Tuscan style home.
  • Removed internal walls to create a functional airy open plan space.
  • Incorporated a patio into the house to create a new entertainment area.
  • Changed the pine ceiling to seamless ceilings with down lighters.
  • Retiled with light coloured ceramic tiles.
  • Repainted internal and external walls.
  • Installed new windows and stacking folding doors to make optimum use of natural light and easier movement between the pool and house.
  • Replaced garage doors with wooden sectional automated doors.
  • Replaced kitchen counters with granite, bathroom vanity tops with ceasarstone.
  • We restored and refinished old furniture ourselves to fit in with the more modern feel.
  • We built a divider out of railway sleepers and large frosted glass sheets to block the view into the passage and the main bedroom.
  • Graeme from Brunsfelsia Landscapes and Irrigation transformed the construction site, into a tranquil space overnight incorporating many of our ideas into his plans.
  • An independent contractor, Lenny, built the new koipond
  • My husband installed the deck and stairs toward the front door.
  • Yolhard Décor made the wrought iron side gates and balustrades.
  • The interior decorating and design was done by me.

We were ecstatic that the renovation was completed the week of my husbands birthday, leaving us running around hanging paintings and adding final touches just before the guest arrived, but it was done in time and looks stunning.

The decision to renovate our home has indeed changed our life… the space is awesome. The biggest thrill is to hear the wow’s as our friends arrive for a visit. It was worth the time, the planning and the effort.

Should you want the contact details of any of the contractors or need any advise on interior decorating, changes you want to make to your home, paint techniques or colour choices. I’m at your service.

Heidi Meyer

Professional Organiser

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