Category Archives: renovation

Christchurch Cottage Renovation: Vol. I

Christchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio Home

It’s a great pleasure to introduce you all to something REALLY different for Studio Home, but a journey nonetheless that many of us dream of (and do!) undertake.

It was March 2015 when my sister and brother-in-law; Caroline and Simon Curtis, purchased this grungy, damp little cottage on a full size section in Christchurch. Part of me saw the charm, for sure, there were lovely original details and a sweet balance to its front facade. But, the sensible internal voice screamed “the inside is SO GROSS!” and “…how much work will this take??!!”.
Unlike me, they are outrageously hands on, practical people – a real team in that sense.
My sister is freakishly strong (true story!) and innately frugal. She would never buy anything without filtering through Trade Me first OR working out if she could make it herself.  Simon is one of those guys that likes to research, train up, gear up and get making. He is fastly becoming the “can do anything” man in our world, as I am sure, at some stage he has observed and learnt how. Anything! I tell you.

Early on in their relationship they converted a Ute into an amazing, ‘go anywhere’ travelling machine to circumnavigate Australia. They followed this up with the complete renovation and upgrade of a retro caravan which they shipped back to NZ with them in 2014. Before hooking into a full house, they were invited to design and construct something as part of the Rekindle “Whole House Reuse Project” – they chose to make a functioning glass house (which you will see below) .
So the little workers cottage in Addington, Christchurch really did seem like the right progression for them…..

I share this background information with a purpose – the resulting project has been incredibly D.I.Y and hands on. They have done a jaw dropping job on a budget (which you will witness the full outcome in posts to come), but it’s important for anyone considering a major renovation for profit to really digest the dirty, tough, uncomfortable stages and jobs you have to tick off getting there!!

The post below shares the beginning of their renovation, the upgrades they have completed and a pictorial summary of the chaos that ensues. Over the last few years, renovation has been undertaken amid full time jobs,  sports and biking injuries, operations, time on crutches, the homecoming of an old grumpy cat, the acquiring of 2 chooks, a pretty brutal pregnancy and the arrival of their daughter 9 weeks early!
Living in an active renovation wouldn’t be for everyone but Caroline and Simon are a shining example of how this can in fact work. From my point of view it’s down to their shared attitude of “it’s not where you are are, it’s who you’re with” and they most certainly are patient enough to play the long game.

Their story offers some really valuable realities about the whole ‘do-it-yourself’ renovation process in New Zealand. If you take your time to read, you will notice they purchased a whole ton of new, slightly damaged or barely used products from Trade Me. I have marveled at their finds – many of them brand new such as the woollen loop pile carpet and tiles.  It has really refocused me to research more carefully in the future!
While they have undertaken 90% of the work themselves and occasionally with some parents and friends thrown in, they DID call in experts when the job called for it. And these were all done on a referral basis – use your networks!

I hope you enjoy your introduction to this project and the information shared. Standby for more updates to come including their completed interior and then taking on the exterior and landscaping. And thanks to the Curtis’s for being such sharers!

Christchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio Home
Caroline and Simon with their glasshouse made entirely from parts of a home dismantled following the Christchurch earthquake.
More on this at the Rekindle Whole House Reuse Project.
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Christchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio Home
The “Before’s”: Addington Workers Cottage constructed between 1880-1890.
2 bedrooms, 1 bath plus sleep out. 80 sq m sitting on 511 sq m section.
North facing and distant view of the Port Hills over the back fence.

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What was it about this little workers cottage that attracted you?

Caroline: It was likely to be cheap as it looked like a wreck, in a location that we were not otherwise able to afford. We were also keen to save it from its inevitable “3 town house” planning consent demise!

Simon:  It felt and looked neglected but with good little spaces (inside & out) in a really convenient location. With no structural issues and mostly all cosmetic adjustments – this is the fun stuff and was appealing. The house being north facing and the fireplace are bonuses in the frigid South Island.

Christchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio Home
Christchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio Home
Christchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio Home
Christchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio Home
While a MASSIVE job – saving all the wood from the felled trees in the backyard ran the fire for more than a winter and the chip was used across the garden and to trade for plants from friends.
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What motivated you two to take on such a meaty project with the aim of undertaking so much of the work yourselves?

C+S:  We optimistically romanticized about what the house and garden would look like and couldn’t realistically see why it couldn’t be achieved.

Saving money and adding value to the property are our key motivators.

It’s also fun to reinvent the property on a shoestring, it’s a more of an organic process. So you have to be open to other ideas or products and be flexible with your timeline. Lucky for us we’re both problem solvers and enjoy the challenge of learning new skills and techniques.

Christchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio Home
New back fence built with help of Father in Law
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Christchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio HomeChristchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio HomeChristchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio HomeChristchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio Home
New bi-fold window (found on Trade Me) going in as well as full re gib, re insulate and replacement of back wall weatherboards.
In laws on the job again!
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20160101_123827 Christchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio HomeChristchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio Home
New bath in (from Bunnings) and plumbed with help of Pete the Plumber!
Next was waterproofing…
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Christchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio Home Christchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio HomeChristchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio HomeChristchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio Home

Many an enthusiastic renovator would have been intimidated by this project!
What made you think that you were capable to take it on?

Simon:
  I’ve worked on large commercial and residential developments in Australia in different stages of my working life, so the scale of a two bedroom cottage with sleep out I was comfortable with.

Caroline: … and I love Trade Me.

C + S: Not having a fixed timeline takes the pressure off the budget, and our motivation keeps us ticking along. We can have multiple little jobs going on in different rooms or spaces. Finding materials that suit our style and budget, whenever!

Christchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio HomeChristchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio HomeChristchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio Home Christchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio Home Christchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio HomeChristchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio Home
Whipping up a new home (made from an old crate and cupboard door for the opening roof) for the arrival of the chooks; Lil and Riv from Little River.
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Christchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio HomeChristchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio Home Christchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio Home
Anne was our Dulux Colour Consultant who we found hugely helpful!
She is an interior designer in her own right and having the chance for her to visit us at home for a consult was invaluable.
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Christchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio HomeChristchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio Home Christchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio HomeChristchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio Home
Carpet layed…….yes!
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Christchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio HomeChristchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio Home Christchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio Home

What are some core lessons learnt so far that you could share with would be renovators?!

Simon: Research the hell out of everything before you start (e.g. services, products & suppliers). We’ve found that in some cases (e.g. plastering) it pays to get a skilled professional with all the right tools for the job. This has saved us so much time and money, and you can see the results in Jesse’s perfect finishing. Something I would not have been able to accomplish, my plastering looks like a cheap rendition of stucco.

Get at least three quotes from three different suppliers/installers or service providers. This then gives you a pretty good idea of a ball-park figure, as well as keeping the tradies competitive on pricing. For plumbing, tree removal and electrical work, the variation in pricing between businesses was astonishing and saved us close to $23,000.

Initially we thought selecting a colour palette for our house would be a breeze, strangely it was a lot harder than expected. We had to consider natural light coming into the rooms at different times of day, how they look all together (it’ a small 80 sqm cottage) & consistency of features (e.g. architraves throughout, linking to the period features on the external walls).
We engaged a Dulux Colour Consultant; Anne who helped us narrow down our ideas and what we liked into a collection of colours that suited the cottage’s feel, décor and eclectic knick-knacks we’ve collected on our travels.

Christchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio HomeChristchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio HomeChristchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio Home Christchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio HomeChristchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio HomeChristchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio Home

The cottage is packed with personality and is certainly transforming into a warm, inviting and lovely place to call home. Are you worried that your “investment property” might be turning into your dream home?! Leaving will be tough!

C + S: We have been discussing this recently as finding a slightly better property in a similar area is well and truly out of our current (and near future) financial reach. As the NZ property markets prices increase, it becomes less of a ‘win-win’ and more of a ‘win-lose’ situation. Our plan was to buy a house with fewer renovations, more bedrooms and bathrooms, climbing the property ladder so to speak. This is with the aim to eventually own our home outright, and then build a brand new ‘dream’ house.
We may just have to jump to building the ‘dream’ house next.

Personalising a house definitely turns it into a home, which pulls at the heart strings more than the purse strings. Especially when you’re looking at the work that you’ve put into it every day and can reminisce about the weird old times together as a growing family and with friends. Getting to know the families in the street, the local business owners and trouble makers adds to the nostalgia of the cottage.

We were looking at moving on from the cottage within approximately 3 years, but that only leaves just over 6 months to finish the rest of the renovations and then sell, without much time to enjoy the fruits of our labour. It is said by property investors that houses are a long term investment….

Ultimately the number of bedrooms will push us out, if we decide to further expand our family, which will make the decision easier when the time comes.

Christchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio Home
The BIG push to complete painting the living room. Their daughter Ada has just been born at 31 weeks and was in residence (and doing very well) in the neo natal ward just down the road at Christchurch Womens. Caroline seen here helping between visits.
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Christchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio Home Christchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio HomeChristchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio Home

The realities of “live in” renovations is that progress happens in surges. What were the spaces that you tackled first to get this cottage livable and what materials/projects were required in each?

Simon: We brought the house in March 2015 and it needed a lot of the initial work make the it weather tight prior to the onset of winter (enter the catch phase, spoken by John Snow: ‘Winter is Coming!)

Order of improvements we have undertaken to date:

Felling of trees and backyard clean up: We did this straight away as were concerned about access in the future. With a professional crew we felled 4 large trees which shaded the yard, took up a lot of space and were approaching the age when they could become a danger. But we kept ALL of them to slowly work through for fire wood and chip as garden mulch. We even traded this mulch with friends in exchange for plants. Big job but definitely worth it. During this time we also built a new back fence and a year into the project built new, secure front gates for the street access.

Full house re-wiring: for insurance requirements and resale.

Under-floor insulation and damp-proofing membrane: for warmth and preservation of timber flooring.

New Fireplace: for warmth and resale.

Bathroom : On moving in we were faced with very low water pressure, a hot water cylinder that needed to be removed from the kitchen for space (have upgraded to a new instant gas hot water system installed) and the shower head was so low that it just showered my belly button.
This was also our first serious interior upgrade. We installed almost everything ourselves as well as gleaning tiling advice from builder friends and learning as we went.
We did paint this space but have repainted after learning some valuable lessons on white paints not all being “white” (eg. purple tinge) !!

Products and Places : 
Replacement Shower & Floor Tiles: from Trade Me
Bath & Fittings (e.g. shower head and mixer tap for sink): from Bunnings
Floating Vanity & Sink: Trade Me (slightly damaged stock from earthquake )
Bathroom Vanity Bench Top: Custom made and built of recycled Rimu by us (from a demolished earthquake home)
Paint: Dulux Wash’n’Wear  – Colour: Mt Aspiring
Custom Mirror: Made by Commercial Mirror & Glass
Floor Tiles : Trade Me

Kitchen: As you can see we were dealing with a tiny bench space and no storage. We had a window of public holidays to get it done before the really beautiful sister-in-law can to house sit for us while and we went away on to my younger bro’s wedding in Bali.
Large bi fold window, cabinetry work, tiling, floor finishing and painting have now finally been completed!
We hardly know ourselves! We also knew when to call in the experts or ask advice from builder friends and this led us to use a pro tiler complete the floor and back wall tiles.

Products and Places :
Kitchen Cabinetry & Pantry: Kaboodle Brand (Bunnings)
Cabinet Handles: re purposed and sanded from original cupboards.
Shelving (incl. hardware): Bunnings
New Fridge: Trade Me
Dishwasher & Oven: Second hand from Appliance Works
Rangehood: Bunnings
Kitchen Benchtop: Custom made and built of recycled Rimu by us (out of a family friend’s old roof)
Replacement Bi-Fold Double Glazed Window: Trade Me
Replacement Wall Tiles: Bunnings
New LED Light Fittings (over benchtop): Supplied & Installed by Christchurch Electrical
Plumbing: contracted professional
Paint: Dulux Wash’n’Wear – Colour: Mt Aspiring
Wall Tiles: The Flooring Centre
Tiling: contracted professional

Master Bedroom : Was the easiest room to complete, as it had the least amount of work required. I built a wall to wall bank of cabinetry and wardrobe space and we are now just about ready to complete it with doors and finish with a lick of paint.

Products and Places :
Built-in Wardrobe: Custom made and hand built by us, materials from Bunnings.
Wool Looped Pile Carpet: Brought off Trade Me
Curtains: Made by Caroline and her mother. Fabric brought at Femme de Brocante and sewn over top of heavy, lined, good quality second hand curtains found at an op shop in Ashburton.
Curtain Rails: Trade Me
Bed: The Warehouse
Paint: Dulux Wash’n’Wear Low Sheen – Colour: Puhoi

Second Bedroom (Ada’s / Spare room): with a baby on the way, it made sense to put it next on the list. We had to completely re-gib over the old lath and plaster walls before painting and finishing with carpet. We’ve also designed and built a floor to ceiling wardrobe with narrow bi-fold doors we found on Trade Me and adapted to fit.

Products and Places :
GIB: Placemakers and installed with bro-in-law
Plasterers: contracted professional
Timber Framing for custom built-in wardrobe & Skirting: Bunnings
Bi-fold Door for wardrobe: Trade Me – adapted
Paint: Dulux Wash’n’Wear – Colour: Kakahi
Curtains: Made by Caroline and her mother. Fabric brought at Femme de Brocante and sewn over top of heavy, lined, good quality second hand curtains found at an op shop in Ashburton.
Curtain Rails: Trade Me
Wool Looped Pile Carpet: Brought off Trade Me

Laundry: next busiest place for a new family member! It has been a relief to create a tidy space that we can close a door on! We built the shelving, framed up and hung bifold doors here – this also acts as a transitional space to our back door and toilet.

Products and Places :
Paint: Dulux Wash’n’Wear – Colour: Mt Aspiring
Timber framing for custom built-in wardrobe, Skirting & Bench: Bunnings
Bi-fold Internal Doors: Trade Me
Washing machine: Brought second hand from a friend
Plasterers: contracted professional
Taps and laundry sink: second hand items from Op Shop
Floor Tiles: Trade Me
Tiling : contracted professional

Toilet: We did this at the same time as the laundry. Moved and reduced the door frame to also create right space for a cavity slider. Replaced the existing vanity and sink with cool original from bathroom, plumbed into a re purposed chest of drawers. Also removed the old pink toilet for a new loo, much to the delight of Caroline.

Products and Places :
Toilet: Trade Me
Vanity: old solid wood chest of drawers found on Trade Me
Sink & Tapware: Re-purposed from the original bathroom
Sliding Rail Door: Trade Me
Plasterers: contracted professional
Paint: Dulux Wash’n’Wear – Colour Waitiki Landing
Floor Tiles: contracted professional

Lounge/Dining Room: We’d carpeted this room quite early on (once we found carpet we liked AND the right quantity) to increase the thermal qualities of this large space, as we spend most of our time here. Plastering (including skimming the ceiling) was completed by a great contractor who impressed us with his record breaking completion times!
Then, with the help of my mother in law we did a massive effort to get it sanded and painted before the arrival home of our tiny daughter Ada. Caroline was working with us post cesarean and daily visits to Ada who was still in hospital growing as she was born at 31 weeks!

Products and Places:
Wool Looped Pile Carpet: Brought off Trade Me
Paint: Dulux Wash’n’Wear – Colour: Mt Aspiring
Plasterers: contracted professional
Curtains: Made by Caroline and her mother. Fabric brought at Femme de Brocante and sewn over top of heavy, lined, good quality second hand curtains found at an op shop in Ashburton.
Paint: Dulux Wash’n’Wear Low Sheen – Colour Mt Aspiring. Door frames and window architraves in gloss, Mt Aspiring Quarter and accent above original wall panels in Pukaki Half.

What is next on the list to tackle and move toward a state of completion?

The outside! We are so lucky to have such a big section and want to do the house and space justice.

– External painting, including roof
– Lay and landscape front patio area for next summer’s entertaining.
– Restoring the sleep out to become a third bedroom with ensuite AND provide storage.
– Large rear back deck that will link the back door to the sleep out
– Landscaping around the old cattle trough raised vegetable garden beds
– Installing brick edging around garden beds and driveway, shingle the driveway
– Installing carport

Christchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio HomeChristchurch Cottage Renovation #christchurchcottagerenovation - The Curtis's transform a workers cottage in New Zealand // as featured on Studio Home

Coming soon from Christchurch Cottage Renovation we will have Vol. II
“The Interior Completed!”
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You can follow Caroline and Simon’s progress in real time via Instagram
@binkerbinkerbinker
#christchurchcottagerenovation

 

 

*** The Curtis’s were also thrilled to work with Dulux NZ in the supply of their paint.
Rest assured their colour and product choices are very much their own ***

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