Ten things Tuesday: the house we didn’t love, transformed into a home

When the Big T. and I bought our current house (only our second together), it was two months after we’d returned to NZ from the UK. We’d moved ourselves and the two year old boy child into T’s (incredibly tolerant under the circumstances) parents’ house and were trying to adjust to our new life and start a new business.

Life for a "little Kiwi" living at Grandad's place was pretty idyllic. The boy-child helping my father-in-law mow the lawn. Photo: Su Leslie 2000

Life for a “little Kiwi” living at Grandad’s place was pretty idyllic. The boy-child helping my father-in-law mow the lawn. Photo: Su Leslie 2000

While T. took over his parents’ little office, the boy-child and I looked at houses … and more houses. And did I mention we looked at houses?

The one we bought was the second we’d seen. It was also the one we’d walked into and said “we’ll never buy THIS house.”

But after four weeks and over forty real estate viewings, I woke up one morning to find a mouse running across the bedroom floor. Rodent-phobic, I shook T. awake and said “let’s make an offer on that place with the red bathroom.”

It was affordable and the owners accepted an offer below even their modest asking price. By lunchtime, we were back on the property ladder.

We’ve lived in our house for 14 years. For the first seven I didn’t love it at all. Now I love it a lot, but it’s time to move on.

The ten things that made our house into the home we’ve come to love:

Well, at least one person didn't mind having a red bath. Photo: Su Leslie 2000

Well, at least one person didn’t mind having a red bath. Photo: Su Leslie 2000

1. Getting rid of the red bathroom ware. Our house was built by its previous owners, who – to put it mildly – had an eye for a bargain. That is the only reason I can think of for installing a red bath and toilet with red seat and lid in the downstairs bathroom.

2. Replacing the fake wood paneling that covered almost every vertical surface in the house. Apparently, the previous owners’ had “got a deal” on a job-lot of hardboard with a sort of wood-grain paper overlay. Urgh.

Wood paneling and particle board on the floors. Brown, brown and more brown. Photo: Su Leslie 2000

Wood paneling and particle board on the floors. Brown, brown and more brown. Photo: Su Leslie 2000

3. Planting trees along the (55 metres) of front boundary. Our house is on a long sweeping corner. When we first moved there, we noticed that people out walking would – we thought brazenly – cut across our property. Some even let their dogs poo there. Then we discovered that in the absence of a physical barrier, people thought our land was a public reserve (though why that made it a dog toilet I don’t know). Reluctant to fence ourselves in from the world, we planted trees and ferns along the length of the front yard. Much nicer!

New, sophisticated stairway. Photo: Su Leslie, 2011

New, sophisticated stairway. Photo: Su Leslie, 2011

4. Moving the front door and replacing a set of French doors to create an extra bedroom out of what had become little more than an entrance-way  – and give us privacy instead of every visitor to the house staring in at the main living area through huge doors that were never opened.

5. Lifting the roof of the garage to turn an unusable storage space into a light airy, office for the Big T.

6. Getting rid of our old water tank and burying a new one in the garden. This means we still have fresh rainwater but don’t have a huge old concrete tank filling up the back yard.

7. Covering up the exposed timber beams and sarked ceilings. Not only does this make the whole house lighter and brighter, but it means we could add extra insulation into the old spaces for warmth and noise reduction. Yay!

The boy-child's "new room" Photo: Su Leslie 2008

The boy-child’s “new room”. Photo: Su Leslie 2008

8. Creating a new bedroom for the boy-child. As part of the large renovation we did to extend the house, the boy-child got to move out of his tiny “little boy” bedroom next to ours, into something much larger and grown-up downstairs.

9. Planting a vegetable garden and fruit trees. This has only happened in the last couple of years and we are still evangelical about the joys of walking outside to pick lunch.

10. Building a new kitchen and living area onto the back of the house. This has been our biggest project – and the one that probably gives me the most pleasure. When I first saw the house, I hated it mainly because the kitchen was an open space that was visible from the street and it was ugly. It was also small and had little useable bench space. Now I have a huge, fabulous kitchen with great light, two ovens, a gas hob and enough bench space for some major entertaining. And the best thing is, we planned, designed and pretty much built it ourselves. And when I say ourselves, I mean the Big T did the actual construction and I made a lot of tea and read out the IKEA assembly instructions.

The kitchen I always wanted. After 27 years together, the Big T and I have this - and we pretty much built it ourselves. Why are we moving again? Photo: Su Leslie 2014

The kitchen I always wanted. After 27 years together, the Big T and I have this – and we pretty much built it ourselves. Why are we moving again? Photo: Su Leslie 2014

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One of the best things we’ve done is create a collage of memories across the back of our kitchen island. Friends spend ages on the floor looking at the photos – and remembering the times we’ve shared together. Photo: Su Leslie 2014

11. Of course there’s a number 11! Because the best thing of all that we have done with this house is live in it! We’ve loved, laughed, cried, fought, grieved, entertained, planned, built, painted, plumbed and a thousand other things – the most important of which is to just be a family.

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6 thoughts on “Ten things Tuesday: the house we didn’t love, transformed into a home

  1. Great work to make your house into a home. I don’t have any photos to prove it but I have a feeling that when we were very young my cousins had a red bathroom too. My uncle was an architect and I bet it was in fashion at some point to have bright coloured ceramics. I don’t think it is a bad as looking back on 70’s (I presume?) style orange shag pile carpet though, perhaps that I just me?

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    • Thank you. I think you’re right about red being fashionable – probably in the ’70s. Our house was built in the ’80’s and the fittings were plastic, so I think it really was a case of cheap and cheerful. And I totally agree about the shag pile!!!!! 🙂

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    • So true Angeline! But unlike you I hate moving house. I spent my childhood and well into my thirties moving every couple of years and have really loved just staying put!

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