Renovations – we’ve been busy!

We moved into our new home just over a month ago, and boy, have we been busy!

The house we’ve bought is an absolutely lovely old villa, right in the middle of Mornington, which is one of Dunedin’s oldest and most central suburbs. It’s a great place to live.

The home is on a double block – rare so close to town – with a lovely flat garden.

It’s a lovely flat garden, and will be easy to maintain. I just need to clear out the overgrown stuff first!

We have five bedrooms, one for each of our four kids. Also rare, in a town that is about 90% three bedroom homes.

It’s exactly what we wanted, and we’re very happy, but when I say it’s an “old villa” I mean OLD!!!

The home had been owned by the same family for about 80 years, and although basic maintenance had been done, little else had, for a long long time.

There was no heating at all, apart from old fireplaces that don’t work very well, and we live in a COLD climate. From what we can tell, the people who lived here either froze each winter or just used lots of little electric heaters they plugged into the wall and put up with a huge heating bill.

As for the bathroom, well! It’s original, in every sense, and the plumbing is antiquated.

The bathroom is antiquated. We’ll be gutting it completely, replacing the shower-tub combo with a glass-fronted walk-in shower. The vanity will be replaced with a much smaller model to take up less floor space. We’ve already purchased the 3 in 1 heater/extractor fan/light as well as a heated towel rail and will be fitting both over the next couple of weeks.

The kitchen is not much better.

When I said the kitchen was OLD, I meant it!

We knew all this, and it was reflected in the sale price, but what it all means is we’ll be doing a lot of renovations over the coming few years, and I’ll be blogging all about it here, as I think (hope!) it will interest you.

We intend to bring this beautiful old home kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

Quality heating

Our first step was putting in two kick-ass heat pumps – one in the living room, and the other in the hallway. We also changed all the locks, as a standard measure moving into a new home.

The living room heat pump. We didn’t mess around, but bought a really powerful machine that would heat the room well.

The heat pumps we bought are a wonder, and over the first few weeks we could literally feel the home drying out and becoming warm and inviting. It was an amazing thing to feel. The old musty smells have disappeared, and the home feels comfortable, warm and dry.

The hallway heat pump is a slimline floor model and it works really well to keep the bedrooms warm and dry.

Insulation

The second step was to check our insulation. I called upon the Warm Up NZ initiative, a government scheme to get homes across the country properly insulated, and they did a check on our home.

We’re fully insulated, top and bottom, and on all accessible side walls.

While here, the Warm Up NZ guy recommended our next step should be thermal curtains on all windows, starting with the top storey.

Thermal curtains

This week, I ordered new thermal curtains for all windows on the top storey. These were easy, as I could just buy ready-made curtains, then I’ll re-hem them over next week. Two sets had to be ordered online, and should come in the post in the next few days or so.

This will make our house look better and stay warmer.

My partner’s daughter chose ivory curtains, his son chose plain black, and my son chose black with a pattern. For the landing, I chose grey with a vine pattern.

I’ll take “before and after” photos when these are all fitted.

Replacing light bulbs

We’re going through the house and replacing all standard light globes with ultra-efficient LED bulbs. This is not cheap, as the bulbs retail between $7 and $13 apiece, and we have about 20 bulbs to replace!

We started with the living areas and hallway, and are gradually working our way around the house. This will cut our power bills significantly.

New smoke detectors, and a fire blanket in the kitchen

The house had old-style smoke detectors, and not enough of them! We’ve replaced these with modern fire detectors that only need replacing every 10 years.

We also bought a fire blanket to keep near the very old stove, in case of emergency.

Fibre!

Within a week we had a fibre connection to the internet installed. The kids were very happy about this!

Where to next?

Our next steps will be replacing the hot water system with gas, and getting started on the bathroom renovation, as it’s more necessary than the kitchen. We’ll be completely gutting both, so this is not small tasks.

In the meantime We’ll also be working on the garden, clearing away overgrown plants, and putting some new fruit trees in.

Widening the driveway will happen in a year or two, but first I’ll be clearing all these overgrown plants away!

Blended families, minimalism and compromise…

I’m a busy mum with two kids of my own – a son (12) and daughter (10).

And kind of like The Brady Bunch, I’ve inherited another two kids with my partner, who has primary custody of his son (16) and daughter (11).

Four kids. Yikes! I often wonder how on earth this happened to me. But it did!

Mixing families is never easy. Over the last few years, as we’ve introduced our kids to one another, we’ve all had our share of ups and downs, and we’re doing pretty well, I think.

But with mixing families, we also have to make some concessions. One of the concessions my partner and I decided we wouldn’t make was on giving the kids space of their own.

Our options, when we first moved in together, were as follows:

a) Put the boys in together (16 and 12) and the girls in together (11 and 10, but from different families in each case, and my daughter has special needs and doesn’t sleep well)

b) Put his kids in together (a 16 year old boy with an 11 year old girl) and my kids in together (a 12 year old boy and a 10 year old girl with special needs)

c) Give the oldest (his 16 year old boy) a room of his own and make the others share in some way

d) Give the youngest (a girl with special needs a room of her own) and make the others share in some way.

None of the sharing options worked well. So we settled on a different option altogether, and decided that all of the kids needed their own room. Their own space.

It was hard finding a home that was big enough on our particular budget, and in the end, the home we’ve found is beautiful and in an ideal position, but it does need some work. We’re going to have to roll up our sleeves and get busy! That was the compromise we were willing to make.

The compromise we made also meant that my dream of owning a smaller home went out the window. I’m now the minimalist with a five bedroom home!

I’m the minimalist with the five bedroom home!

What I’ve learned from this is that people are more important than ideals. The house is bigger than I wanted, and I feel like an old fraud, preaching minimalism while living in a big house. But it is what we need, for our particular circumstances, with four kids from two families and one of those kids with special needs.

The truth is, minimalism means own what you need, and nothing more. If you need a big home, then buy the big home and don’t feel guilty. I need a big home, every square foot of it will be used.

My version of minimalism might be different from yours, and yours might be different from the next person’s. Have what you need, and be content. We’re looking forward to moving into our new home, and everyone having space of their own.

Sometimes space is a good thing. Especially when you’re blending families 🙂