5 things I wish I knew before
we renovated our home

With Jaynie from Blacklist Studio.

Take two people with no building experience, lithe body types and too much enthusiasm and you have a recipe for renovating disaster! But somehow we managed to make it out alive, with a home that we knew we would love forever, or at least until our creative brains got bored and wanted to do it all over again.

When we renovated our 50’s bungalow we had a budget of just $30,000 to gut the entire home and create a blank canvas for ourselves, and our children. It was a wild ride and I can’t wait to share more of it in the future but for now Nathan and I thought it might be handy for someone, or at the least, for ourselves to come up with the 5 things we wish we knew before we started renovating.

1. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

It’s ok to ask questions. We are big on not calling in favours, most of our friends are busy people with full lives, but in the initial stages we really needed help from friends who actually knew what they were doing from a practical, construction perspective. So we asked them to help. We asked them to come to the house before we had bought it to make sure what we were envisioning was actually possible. Then we took them for dinner afterwards.



In regard to design, cheap doesn’t always = nasty. And expensive doesn’t always = good.

Some of our most-loved furniture pieces we have found on the side of the road. From our Parker buffet to our daughter’s bed. We have always opted to buy Limited Edition prints of artist’s work that we loved, over originals because, well, we weren’t able to afford the originals. We choose pieces that matter to us, not what might matter to most. We frame poems and cards and drawings from the children. We raid second-hand stores and recycle bottles and jars, and fill them with shells and other collectibles from holidays we go on.

We have bought more expensive pieces as the years have allowed, pieces that we know we will treasure forever, but these are rarities, and must fit into our personal aesthetic. We know our house is a luxury surf shack, in the sense that it has the little luxuries that make home comfortable, like ducted air, beautiful kitchen and bathrooms, but we want to ensure we maximise her inherent style. We don’t want to make her into a contemporary masterpiece. We want to retain her character and allow our accessories to enhance her natural charm.


Out of the can white is the best kinda white (if you like white).

We tried them all: Antique White USA half strength, quarter strength, Lexicon, Whale Bones… all of them. And for our personal preference straight from the can is the best – Vivid White. We did both inside and outside this way and we love it. I would not recommend however painting the exterior of your home 8 months pregnant in the height of Summer.

4. POOL’S AREN’T A money PIT. 

Keep the pool! Initially we had an uninformed opinion that all pools were expensive and time consuming to maintain, so when we put down the deposit for our dream unrenovated old house we were initially going to fill in the pool to create more backyard space for the kids. Let me tell you straight, if there is a pool, DO NOT get rid of it. Even if you’re not self confessed ‘pool person’. That pool will save your life (especially if you have kids under 10), and will be the watering hole for your kids friends, where you can eavesdrop on the school yard goss. Needless to say we didn’t end up filling in our pool and use it daily.


During the renovating process, you’re going to have to spend money on the unseen and it’s going to make you want to cry, but safety first. We had to rewire our entire house, which cost lots of money, and I would have rathered a beautiful something, anything rather than that, but I also didn’t want to be awoken by the newly installed fire alarm one night either. It was cheaper (& safer) to rewire than rebuild a smoking house.