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A major DIY project returns a Christchurch villa to its former glory

For this Christchurch couple, their passion and knack for DIY helped to transform a forlorn villa and get their foot on the property ladder

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Who lives here: Emmett Williams, industrial electrician, Hannah Williams, stay-at-home mum and Jed, 2, plus Sadie the Labrador.

A major DIY project returns a Christchurch villa to its former glory

Emmett Williams loves a project. A hankering for a doer-upper attracted him and wife Hannah to a tired villa on a tree-lined street in the Christchurch suburb of Beckenham. They loved the friendly neighbourhood and the proximity to extended family, the Port Hills, parks and walking trails, and had a clear vision of how to transform the neglected villa into a delightful family retreat.

What did you like about the house? 
The place was completely original and it had been tenanted for a long time. We could see the potential and we loved the location.


More then a facelift 

The couple planned a drastic renovation in keeping with the style of the home, even though they knew from the outset that many of the original features were not salvageable. Emmett, a master electrician and jack of all trades, tackled most of the renovation himself. In November 2014 he gave up work for five months to concentrate on revamping the villa, hoping to make it habitable before Hannah had their first baby.

What did the renovation involve? 
We gutted the entire place. We wanted a premium restoration so we rewired, relined and replaced virtually everything.


Good things take time

As is often the way, the job took longer than anticipated. When the family moved in, little Jed was one day old and the entire rear of the home was incomplete. It took another few months of working weekends and nights to complete the renovation.

What did you learn from the DIY process? 
Being realistic about time and your level of ability is important. Emmett is of the opinion that if he can do something himself, he won’t pay someone else to do it. It saves a lot of money but does take time. However, it helped that he was in a trade and was able to share skills with his contacts.


All the details

Tell us about some of your colour choices.  
I used lots of test pots on the walls and am delighted with the colours we chose. Reinstated picture rails provided a handy divider for two-tone colour in the bedrooms and lounge. For the kitchen we chose black cabinetry that was in keeping with the era of the home.

What aspects of the build did you spend time on? 
The skirting boards and doors were quite battered so we chose to replace them – we also noticed that all the interior doors were different. As the hallway was a focal point, we felt it was important that all the doors leading off it had the same profile, so we spent a lot of time going around demo yards looking for doors. We eventually found four that were the same, then had to find three more to match. We also had skirting boards made to replicate the originals.

What was a priority for you?
The house was cold and draughty when we bought it and typical of a villa in that only the lounge was heated while the rest of the house was freezing. As we were bringing a newborn into the home, we wanted to make sure the entire house could be at a constant temperature, so we invested in quality insulation and a ducted heating system.


What was one of the issues you had to solve? 
Storage was definitely a big problem and one I wanted to fix for us and future owners of the home. We put two double cupboards in the laundry and wardrobes in each bedroom. We also opened up and lined the roof cavity to create a large storage area.

Best lesson learned? 
The more you can complete before you move in, the better. The front of the house was finished when we moved in, but the rear was a mess. We lived out of cardboard boxes for months – getting cupboards was one of the last things we did.

Until next time

How did you work as a team? 
We both knew what we wanted the renovation to look like and trusted each other with decisions; Emmett did the renovation and I did the interior design. Emmett would say: “Right, I need to paint the master bedroom tomorrow. What colours have you chosen?” We used tradies for plumbing and some tiling but all the handiwork was done by Emmett and me.


Any challenges you faced? 
The main challenge was living amid a renovation with a newborn. I’m sure Emmett felt pulled in all directions – he was trying to finish the house and I wanted him to spend time with our new son. Luckily Jed was a dream sleeper as Emmett constantly had nail guns and tools going right outside his door!

Is there anything you would change?
The site is quite small for a child and a dog and we only have a single garage. That is not ideal for Emmett – he’s a tradie; he needs space.

Would you renovate again?
We love living here and love the area. We have not had many spare weekends over the past few years but home is wherever your family and things are, so we look forward to another project.


Makeover highlight
We are most proud of keeping the heritage look of the home and restoring it to its former glory. Although we had to replace some items, we always tried to respect and preserve the original style of the building.

Any reno tips? 
Always allow a contingency in your budget. We estimated a $100,000 renovation budget but, towards the end, that was too tight. We over-spent by about $20,000. Also, it is worth shopping around and pricing options before you make a decision. I saved on curtains by buying fabric on sale.

Words by: Ady Shannon. Photography by: Kate Claridge.

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