The Serial Renovator

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COLUMN Carly Flynn
 

A burst pipe opens the floodgates to a renovation obsession for journalist and tv presenter, Carly Flynn

It all started with a leaky pipe. We were away in the Coromandel for a blissful summer camping holiday in our vintage Kombi van, when a phone call came through that started my obsession with renovation.

Unbeknown to us, a nail had penetrated a hot water cylinder pipe in 1972 and, for 36 years had plugged the hole, slowly rusting away, until – Bam! – in the heat of an Auckland summer, it exploded. 

Water gushed down from the second storey through the light fittings of the ceiling below, ruining the rustic wooden floors and turning the old MDF kitchen below into a swollen, saw-dusty mess. 

This was our second home. We’d owned it for about a year and, as is the life of a young couple in pursuit of owning their own piece of Aotearoa, changing the pink walls and gold ceilings was well beyond our reach. We were simply trying to make our monthly mortgage payments.

We were devastated, didn’t know where to begin, and were without one of the most vital rooms of a house. It was looking like we’d be spending more time in the Kombi, or at least with the camping stove in the old soggy kitchen, until the insurance came through.

Thankfully, we got a cash settlement rather than a replacement, but we quickly learned that amount wasn’t going to get us anywhere near a 2006 era model. And so the researching and negotiations with the bank and tradesmen began.

As a country we spend a massive $1.8 billion on renovation supplies and services every year, plus another $1.2 billion on appliances, flooring and textiles. That’s $4 billion on making our homes nice. 

couple looks at wall

We contributed nicely to that figure that year, replacing the kitchen meant also having to tackle the ruined floors, open up a previously dark hallway, re-plaster, re-paint, re-carpet and replace the electrics. We had a budget of course, but our tradesmen soon got used to us adding on new tasks daily and asking them to do just “one more thing”. 

Halfway through the project I realised how much of my grandparents Rotorua kitchen I was drawing upon - the stainless steel bench top, 1.5 wall oven, dark mosaic tiles - all reminiscent of a place I had happy childhood memories from. One of the centerpieces of the kitchen, a simple wallpaper splash back covered in glass, was by far the cause of most of our grief. I’d designed the kitchen around it, and it almost didn’t happen because of concern over moisture and ants being able to roam the space between. A handy plumbers tube of silicon put paid to weeks of concern.

Sometime during the next few months of living with an almost daily invasion of tradesmen and dust, I realised I was enjoying myself immensely, and had found a new obsession in replacing old with new.

I thrived on finding better ways for things to flow, to look, and to function. To make the house more “livable” even though people had been living in it for 60 years or so. The house became my masterpiece. We now have a new bathroom, new gardens, new fence, new paint, shelving, carpet, and the list goes on. 

Over the past six years I’ve always had something on the go - a shelf unit here, a new planter box there - and a favourite past time is looking through my scraps of home ideas and inspiration cobbled together from magazines such as these.

One thing I learnt early is that I’m a better planner than I am painter. It pays to call in the experts for the real work, the idea of DIY is much more fun than the reality.

It recently occurred to me though that my obsession with home improvement is not making me any money. I’ve managed to turn it into a part-time job which, when the day comes to sell, will hopefully pay off, but in the meantime it consumes any spare cash and time I have. 

And now with two small children to support, I have less time and less disposable income. I have to curb my renovation addiction, or fulfill it by living vicariously through magazines like these. That’s why you’ll be hearing more from me, over the coming articles on Refresh Renovations. At least it’s a real job.

You might be interested in how much does a basic kitchen renovation cost in New Zealand?

Renovate Magazine Logo This column by Carly Flynn featured on page 024 in Issue 008 of Renovate Magazine. Renovate Magazine is an easy to use resource providing fresh inspiration and motivation at every turn of the page.

 

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