Today we feature our second real home. It’s the home of lifestyle contributor Bianca Packham and her husband Sean. After renovating their beloved cottage themselves, they settled in towards the end of last year. Yes that’s right, they did everything themselves. (Read more at the bottom). When Bianca emailed me she said her home is perhaps “more different than pretty”. And in a way I agree, but it’s refreshingly unique. Purple walls are certainly not for the faint hearted. But I believe that you can get inspiration from all of our featured homes.
Even if it’s not your taste or style. Perhaps Bianca’s home just inspires you to paint your walls a bold colour or to get that piece of furniture that you really, really want. What’s more is that Bianca and Sean are really proud of what they accomplished on a tight budget. And they have good reason. Their house looks amazing. Thanks Bianca for opening up your door to The Pretty Blog! P.S. You have to read the Q & A, I had a good laugh. Anyone who has ever renovated a house can relate to Bianca and Sean’s DIY stories.
Tell us a little more about your house. Why you “fell in love with it” and how you renovated it.
After a few months in a larger home my husband and I went in search of something a little more manageable and closer to the hustle and bustle of the city. I spotted an interesting property in the heart of green point on a real estate website and new I had to see it. The cottage we now own is one of 12 heritage cottages from the late 1800s. Former slave quarters they were renovated in the 80s into individual cottage apartments, each with their own front door and original brass knockers. We visited the unit only 2 times before making an offer, each for only a few minutes as the smell and damp was overwhelming.
But we’ve never been afraid of a challenge and this little unit had some good bones including solid wood doors, brass handles and original Delft tiles around the fireplace. But it was ultimately the communal inner courtyard that sealed the deal. A Melrose Place-esque oasis with a beautiful old pool. In three weeks we stripped, patched, painted, plumbed and moved into our new home. And in the two weeks that followed we received our new kitchen cabinets and finished a few smaller painting projects within.
You worked on a tight budget but your house looks amazing. How did you manage to do that.
As a freelancer I was able to shift my schedule to spend my days on site as the foreman. With me in charge we didn’t pay the usual fees for a contractor to stand on site and so I simply paid for the labour and transport of materials. One day, covered in sawdust and paint I was even asked by a fellow shopper in my local Builder’s Warehouse if I was a contractor. It appears I certainly looked the part and having come from a family of renovators I took it as a great compliment. Once the heavy work was out of the way a few family and friends helped us clean, patch and paint every inch of the place until that dreadful smell of smoke, damp carpet and years of neglect no longer wafted in the interiors. This was by far the hardest thing I have ever done but when I sit in my beloved purple living room I couldn’t be more proud of what we achieved. I’m also very blessed to have a retired architect as a father. He’s overseen the building of everything from shopping centres to private estates and even at the ripe old age of 72 he helped me plaster and patch the cracks throughout the house.
And as if I couldn’t be any luckier my father-in-law is a plumber and he helped us with all of our new plumbing. While I haven’t had such a close relationship with him before, the days spent on site together while my husband was at work allowed us to truly bond for the first time. In the end we were able to save a lot of money purely though our DIY efforts. Everything you see in the pictures was hand-painted by me, my husband or a family member. I even spent a good few ours flat on my stomach touching up the paint on the skirting boards because I’m a little OCD like that. This process certainly wasn’t easy. At one point, while standing soaked in my semi-demolished bathroom as a burst pipe filled the cottage with water, I thought I had lost my mind. Renovating isn’t for the feint-hearted and a DIY renovation is simply for the downright insane. If it wasn’t all for the loopy giggling from hours of paint fume exposure I think I’d have crawled under a rock and died.
What’s your favourite piece of furniture/piece in your house?
Hands down would be my striped Art Nouveau love seat, chair and screen. This set was in my parent’s rental for almost three years and was covered in a tatty zebra print when I finally got my hands on them. Just before moving into our new home my husband resprayed the wood and we sent them to a family friend to be reupholstered. I have an incredible weakness for stripes, especially the black and white kind.
What did you splurge on
While recovering the Art Nouveau trio was most definitely a major splurge, I would have to say my clawfoot tub comes a close second. Everyone wanted me to get a normal tiled built-in bath but I refused. I’ve always wanted a freestanding bath and I wasn’t about to let anyone say otherwise.
Any bargain finds?
The leather Eames-style recliner in the living room was bought during a major sale at Chair Crazy just as we were about to move. If I recall the chair was marked down 30% and due to some minor damage to the wood on one of the arms I received an additional discount on top of that. While this isn’t your average bargain I knew this would be the one and only time a chair like this would be even remotely discounted and it also just so happened to be the last one. It’s also my answer to my husband’s desperate plea for a lazy boy which I utterly refuse to allow in my home! It’s by far the best seat in the house and when paired with its footstool its the ultimate lazy boy replacement.