What To Expect When You're Renovating - Part 4 feat. Restoring Lansdowne
It's that time again, where I speak to one of Insta-land's most esteemed house renovators to get the down low on their doer-upper. Past subjects have included Katie Woods from Come Down To The Woods and Alex Stedman of The Frugality. This week I'm chatting to the mega talented Kristine Hall of Restoring Lansdowne fame...I know, I know, I'm too good to you.
Following the huge success of Restoring Lansdowne, Kristine is about to launch her Interior Styling consultancy after leaving her previous career in banking behind to see the renovations over the finish line. She said: "I was helping women start businesses so it was really interesting and rewarding but the whole corporate world just wasn't for me."
Kristine and her husband Dan painstakingly did up their Victorian terrace in East London over five years and finally finished work at the end of 2017. Their moody Inchyra Blue living room has the esteemed honour of being the most liked room Made.com have ever posted to their Instagram. But it wasn't plain sailing. Read on to hear more about the challenges Kristine and her husband faced on the road to creating their dream home.
Hi Kristine, tell me a bit about how you came to start 'Restoring Lansdowne', and how it looked when you took it on?
My husband owned the house before I met him and he had been renting it out while he took some time off work to travel the world. When he got back, he met me and we moved in together for a while, then started to think about whether we should move into this house that he owned. I wasn’t too keen on moving to the suburbs at first, but it was where my husband grew up and all his family is here, so it's home for him. And I loved living in the city but then I started to long for a calmer life, for more normal neighbours and for a bit of peace and quiet.
As it happens, his tenants were coming to the end of their lease and so we decided we would take it on. It needed so much doing to it and hadn’t really been touched.
What was your starting point?
We have been working on it for five years now, give or take. We started doing it room by room, because we were both working at the time. The bedrooms came first and for the most part it involved starting again and taking them completely back to brick. Next was the kitchen, which we got builders in to do because it was a bit beyond our DIY skills. Then, starting in September 2016, we did basically everything else. We knocked the living and dining room together and transformed both bathrooms.
Do you think you realised what you were taking on?
We were probably a bit naïve. We both had busy jobs and it was a lot of work which totally took over our lives. I ended up leaving my job before we started the last major project, because by that stage I realised what was involved in getting things over the finish line. But when we first started in some ways it was easier because we were doing a lot of the work ourselves, one room at a time and with no deadlines. I mean, we had no social life whatsoever but at least we could make decisions in our own time and buy things in our own time. It was less pressured.
Having said that the kitchen was a whole other story, we were definitely naïve going into that one.We tore down the back wall, dug up the concrete floor and when we came to tackle the chimney area we realised there was an old partial chimney breast still in there and when they took it out they realised the one above it had been left unsupported. Basically the bits that were supposed to be holding up the upstairs weren't there! So that was a bit of an unexpected surprise!
What have you learnt about yourself throughout this process?
I’ve been surprised about how determined we’ve both been to get it done and how organised we’ve been to make sure we are really clear about getting what we want.
And your biggest shocker?
When we were doing our loft extension, I was away one weekend and my husband was woken up by the sound of water gushing in. There had been a huge rainstorm and although the builders had assured us that they had sealed it as well as possible, the water was flooding in. We had no roof and no stairs going up to it so my husband was left running up and down a 20ft ladder in his dressing gown and slippers with buckets and towels trying to stem the flow of water. He did his best but we got some water damage to the rooms we had already finished. I think that was the most surprised and most depressed we have ever been during the renovation process and we are only just ready to laugh about it.
What skills have you learnt throughout the renovation?
Well I’m very, very good at painting! You find yourself learning loads of stuff about the most random things. I would say my husband is the DIY genius, and I’m the creative director. I became really good at micromanaging. The builders realised pretty quickly that I didn’t want them to make decisions about anything and I wanted to decide every detail.
Did you become more decisive?
I still consider myself to be really indecisive but in some ways the renovation process can be so exhausting that at some points you just give up a bit and find yourself say “Fine, fine, whatever”.I still think a lot about every single decision for the house which definitely makes my life more difficult.
What is your biggest achievement in the house?
In our dining room we have a built in bar area. When we knocked the wall down between the living room and the dining room when the builders took the chimney out, they found yet again that the chimney breast upstairs had been left floating on the floorboards and wasn’t supported. So they told us they were going to have to add huge brackets to support the weight of the chimney upstairs which would then drop down below the ceiling line. Something I definitely didn't want. So we decided to have them build a false chimney breast to fit an Ikea kitchen unit and created a bar area. We made these decisions in two days because we wanted to keep the building work going, and I am so pleased with it. Because it came out of something which could have been a real eyesore and my husband did loads of the work himself, which makes it extra special.
Is there anything you are not happy with?
Just small things like plug sockets being in the right place. We have a shaver socket in the bathroom which is really crooked and it’s really obvious to me every time I clean my teeth which really winds me up. But all things considered I feel very fortunate that we don’t have a lot of regrets.
What advice would you give to anyone who is considering taking on a renovation project?
Being on site and micromanaging is really important. People think they can go away on holiday and come back and have their bathroom done, but I think you need to be there everyday because if something goes wrong, the longer it takes for you to realise the harder its going to be to fix it.
On a personal level I'd say to make sure you give yourself a break. We went 10 weeks without a kitchen and basically lived in the lounge with a microwave and a kettle. Your diet, your exercise regime and your social life goes out of the window so be nice to yourself and give yourself a break when times get tough. Oh and get a good hoover...get a Henry, they can stand up to anything!
Thanks so much for the low down on Lansdowne Kristine!