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Jen Hayes gave her Auckland apartment a major makeover for $45,000

Constraints such as ‘time’ and ‘ankle surgery’ were mere molehills for Jen Hayes, who completely overhauled her Auckland apartment in six months


Jen Hayes gave her Auckland apartment a major makeover for $45,000

Who lives here?
Jen Hayes, 25 (engineering student and construction manager).

The project
Most people complain that home renovation is a long, drawn-out process, but not Jen Hayes. She had her apartment reno banged out in six months (including a break for ankle surgery) and even that seemed like a drag! Her high expectations make sense when you know she works as a construction manager heading up $200 million-plus projects. But the game is very different when it’s your own pad – and your own money.

Total: $45,000


+ Great location, 300m from the Grey Lynn shops
+ Easy access to all motorways
+ Close to the CBD and a short drive to cool suburbs including Kingsland and Ponsonby
+ Good layout with lots of potential for improvement

+ Dated and dark
+ In dire need of extra storage


Bathroom makeover

Being au fait with the construction world, Jen had a good understanding of the order in which everything should happen.

What did you do first?
I figured that living here while renovating would be messy so I started with the messiest task: ripping out my bathrooms. Once they were rebuilt (I did one at a time so I could still shower) I looked at the rest of the project.

Did anything slow down the process?
There were a few delays on the bathrooms due to custom-made shower bases, needing consent, and the Christmas/New Year break in the middle. I’ve learned for next time!

How did you choose your tiles?
The hexagonal tiles I used in the showers are quite popular but they’ve been around for ever so I didn’t think they would date quickly.

Are those the same floor tiles in the bathrooms and kitchen?
Yes, I made the decision just a few hours before flying to Sydney, so I bit the bullet and fronted up the cash. But it was worth it.


What did you learn from this renovation?
Because I work in the industry, I didn’t learn anything technical, but I did learn that I need to switch off mentally from projects – it felt like I was never away from work because if I wasn’t managing my large expansion project for my job, I was managing my own one at home. I couldn’t relax.

I also struggled to separate the emotion from my home renovation, even though I was trying to treat it like a professional project. I enjoyed the design element but should have handed it over to my builder to manage the execution. Financially, I had to live here or with my parents (for free) while I did it. For my next project, I have made the decision to rent and complete it from afar – I’m in a better position to do it that way now.

Style secrets

What’s your advice for making decor choices?
Keep your decisions practical at least half the time – for example, rather than buying a Moroccan pouf for a foot rest, I purchased one of Tim Webber’s bigger poufs that are quite solid on top so it works as both a footrest and a coffee table of sorts. I also chose a straight couch rather than an L-shape – I wanted the ‘L’ but that won’t necessarily work in my next house so I had to compromise and find a suitable alternative.


What choice gave you the best value?
Buying all my furniture, fixings and equipment (tiles, joinery, tapware, etc) upfront. Because I purchased these all in one big transaction, I managed to get a decent discount because of the size of the sale.

Favourite room in the apartment?
The lounge. It felt so cold before and wasn’t a nice place to be, but now it’s very warm and inviting. I splashed out on some pretty cushions and throws from Citta Design for the couch, which made it a super-cosy hangout last winter, whether I was reading a book, writing an essay or working from home. Before, I used to just stay cuddled up in bed on cold days!

What’s your top piece of design advice?
Choose a theme and stick to it. I used one type of timber and my theme colours (black, pale pink, white and army green) throughout, with handles, throws, linen, towels and artwork in those colours, too.


Jen’s storage hacks

  • Wall-mounted bathroom vanities look modern and add extra storage
  •  Crates are a cool way to store and display books
  • Make use of existing alcoves and gaps to build shelves for less-used items such as linen, suitcases and cleaning equipment

Words by: Debbie Harrison. Photography by: Todd Eyre.

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