Visualising My Home

In the months since finishing my home, I’ve been frequently asked how I went about planning my home. Visitors walk around the open-plan ground floor and are in disbelief that this humble terraced home could offer so much space, especially considering how small it looks like from the outside. It wasn’t my intention to make so many changes to this small building, I’d initially planned on simply smartening up the place and flipping it for quick buck. However, once I started working on the place I soon realised that some real changes needed to happen if I was going to pass it on to a new owner.

The building as I found it was a typical one-bed terrace with a ‘vintage feel’ as the letting agent put it. This was a nice way of saying ‘extremely dated’. I knew what I getting myself in for to a certain extent: nasty old carpets, textured ceilings, thin windows – but what I hadn’t bargained on was the cramped space and uninspired design. My home was built at a time when houses were in much demand.

Designers and architects at that time did not worry themselves over considering what it would be like to live in these homes whilst they were drawing them up, they simply crammed as many units into the limited space that they had to work with. The result was homes like mine, and the hundreds that surround it: cramped, ugly and unpractical.

Thankfully, this is where my experience and connections in the print industry came in handy. I’d never redesigned a home before, but I did have the number of an old co-worker who did so for a living. The world of 3D visualisation is usually reserved for folks with a bit more cash going handy. It’s commonly used by property developers who are keen to show investors what their planned builds will look like in the context of the surrounding area, but it’s also used to model the interior of homes too.

I gave my pal a copy of the master plan for my home, alongside a few ideas that I had for the interior design and some images of the furniture that I was taking with me, and he put together a complete 3D render of what my home could like. This visualisation showed me the potential that my property had, but it was also daunting. There was so much to change that it would be impossible to do get it all done in a year. This is when I made the decision to start this blog and take my time transforming this ‘vintage’ terrace into a modern home that would match the visualisation.

Although I understand not every first-time homeowner has the good fortune to have a 3D visualiser on his beck and call, having the visualisation on hand was vital in guiding me through the renovation process and gave me some much needed motivation when it felt that the job was never going to end.

Getting Powered Up: DC-DC Converters & Home Audio

The relief of getting the ground floor of my home completed was something that I’d been looking forward to for some time. Although I’d felt a constant itch to leave my rented room, I’d at least felt comfortable enough to sit down and enjoy a bit of piece and quiet. From the first day of moving in to my new home I found it impossible to take a night off from renovation. The unfinished floors cried out to be sorted, the rough-hewn walls were a distracting eyesore and even the freedom of having no doors was one that was short lived.

Once all these important pieces of the design had been installed, I felt that I could finally start taking a step back and actually enjoy the home that I had spent so much time toiling over. My kitchen was one of the few parts of the house that was near enough completed when I moved in, so it was only the living room that needed properly kitting out. This was a room that I had grand plans for from the get-go, and I was keen to start funnelling my newly liberated time and money into creating the perfect space for me to be able to properly relax in.

Whilst I’m sure other people might have prioritised soft furnishings above hardware, I was keen to buy in the entertainment equipment that would provide me with hours of happy times. I’d carefully considered the dimensions of my room before ordering in the electronics, I didn’t want to dominate the minimal scandi-design that I’d spent to so long labouring over with a monolithic television and speaker set-up. I settled for a 32-inch television that would be just the right size and found a powerful (yet tidy) set of 5.1 Surround Sound speakers that would give me the clarity that I wanted without cluttering the space too much.

The electronic equipment that I ordered came from America, requiring me to also invest in a handful of military DC-DC converters. It might sound dorky, but it was these little technical tasks that I was looking forward to the most. Whilst getting the majority of the heavy-work done had provided me with some measure of satisfaction, it wasn’t until I was plugging in my brand new entertainment system that I started to get excited to start my life properly in my new home.

With the electronic entertainment system successfully installed, the only thing left to do was buy a sofa! Part of the joy of leaving rented accommodation is that you start to accumulate pieces of furniture and other item that you can afford to get emotionally attached to. Although I’ve belittled Ikea in the past, I found that they offered the best value for the style of sofa that I was looking for. I wanted a sofa-bed that offered me comfort, whilst also giving me options to have more folks stay the night should I ever get round to having a house-warming party…

Doors, Windows and Other Such Portals

Once the walls had been completed, it looked like things were really starting to come together. It had taken a good two months of hard graft to smooth down the rough walls to a pint where I was confident sticking some paint on them. Those two months had been slow and demoralising in equal measure; my progress was a little difficult to see, especially as I was completely new to all these skills.

I’d been a desk jockey for a years, so not only was I unfit, but I was also woefully unequipped to the task of decorating a house. The only tools I had at my disposal were the budget supplies I’d picked up from B&Q and YouTube.

Stuck within my limited budget as I was, I flat-out refused to part with the exorbitant money required to pay professionals to the do the job. I knew that the skills that I’d pick up on this job would be valuable and that this wouldn’t be the first house that I’d be renovating, so I got Googling and then got thoroughly stuck in. Putting the time in during this early phase was really rewarding and although it was difficult to see the initial progress, by the time the two months had passed my house was starting to resemble a home, although there were some rather important features missing: namely doors!

When you’re living as a bachelor there are a few necessities that you learn to live without. When I first moved into my new place, I understood that there was a lack of doors in the property. Alone as I was, this didn’t really bother me at first. Why would I need them?

In fact, during the first few weeks of settling into my new abode, the concept of a door-less home was practically liberating. I was free to wander through my new property unhindered my handles. I would drift seamlessly between kitchen, bedroom and bathroom; rejoicing in my new found freedom. An objection only arose when I had my first guests around. I’d gotten so used to my new door-free setup that I casually pointed my guests in the direction of the bathroom, without thinking that there would be an objection to my new care-free design. My parents insisted that very day to take me to find some doors for my new home.

Of course there were a series of modern interior doors that had been included in my initial design that I had planned on buying, but the expense (as well as my new found passion for door-free lifestyles) had led to me placing them at the very bottom of my priorities. My parents insisted that they be pushed to the top of my list, so off we went once more to the shops in order to pick out the doors that would suit my Scandi-style design.

Although I’d really enjoyed living my door-free life, I had to admit there was a certain comfort in having another piece of the puzzle in place. The rooms were much quieter with the modern doors in place and my Mother felt comfortable enough to visit the loo…

Balancing A Print Career With A House Renovation

As I mentioned in a previous post, at the time that I was saving for my first home I was lucky enough to be working in a half-decent job.

I’d studied graphic design in university and although I’d done this with the initial intention of setting up my own business, I soon found that there weren’t many clients who were willing to take on a freshly graduated student with no work experience and a portfolio of degree-level work. With my tail firmly between my legs, I went to the Job Centre and dutifully applied for any job that would take me.

As luck would have it, there were a number of firms in the area who were looking for junior designers, so I soon found myself put to work designing vinyl cut decals, creating branding for thoroughly dull companies and losing slyly siphoning off clients’ details to build up my own database of useful future leads. In hindsight, it was perhaps best that I’d delayed the start of my business, as the renovation of my home would prove to take up much of my spare time, when I finally got around to buying it, that is.

It took me just over 2 and a half years to get the money together to move into my new home, this move was delayed by the rising costs of ancillary matters such as solicitor’s fees and insurance for my new home. No one tells you about these added costs when you start to save; you set your budget for your home and then aim to pull together 5-10% of these costs with the hope that by the time you’ve saved it all your dream house hasn’t moved outside of your price range. After 20 months of scrimping and saving, I was finally able to put my money down and move into my first home, but I was far from done yet.

Starting, as I was, on the first step of the property ladder, I was forced to settle for a property that was certainly far from the dream home that I’d initially had in mind. Whilst my new home certainly had plenty of space, this space was far from in a finished state. My new home had been victim to a rather half-hearted renovation already and as such was left in a forlorn state of disrepair. Floors were half finished, walls had been gamely hacked at and then left to the elements. In short: it was a mess and a mess that was down to me to sort out!

The laundry list of tasks that were ahead of me was daunting to say the least, but that hadn’t stopped me from making a start. Every day I would return from work just before 6, quickly stuff a sandwich in my face and then get to work with whatever I had to do. One day it might be sanding down walls, the next day it might be pulling up floor boards. I’d work until 11pm every night and then sink into my bed for 11:30pm, before waking up at 7am to start it all over again. Naturally, weekends became dedicated to renovations, a job that would take me even more years to complete…

What’s Underneath Your Floors?

Have you ever taken a peek under your floor boards?

Nine months into the project and my dream home was starting to emerge from amongst the woodwork. The walls, beautifully smooth and painted, filled each room with bountiful light and the doors added a certain luxurious quality that made my house feel even more finished, but now that I’d achieved a good standard of finish to a portion of the home, certain aspects were now standing out…

The scrappy, half-finished floors had seemed to be very much part of the ramshackle whole when I first moved in, but now that the rest of the place was starting to shape up the ripped carpets, patches of concrete and splintered boards looked a bit of a show. It was at times like this that I was relieved that my home was as small as it was. The thought of renovating the floors in a house any bigger didn’t bear thinking about.

In a perfect world I would have been able to afford real wooden floors to go downstairs, unfortunately the cost of said floors was prohibitive. The living room, kitchen, hall and bathroom floors all needed re-hauling, whilst all the carpets upstairs needed replacing. Another visit to B&Q was needed once more, this time to drop what would be the largest sum of money that I’d budgeted for…

Whilst real wooden floors would have broken the bank, the wooden laminate flooring that I was picking up was by no means cheap. After spending a good hour or so deliberating over the right shade of slate grey laminate, I laid down the cash, loaded up the car and lugged my flooring back home to lay it to rest.

The first job that I had ahead of me was stripping back the ground floor. There was a mish-mash of carpeting, tiles and bare floors that needed to be properly treated before I even thought of slotting together my new tiles. I’d relegated the task of pulling back the floors to the back of my mind for some time, knowing that it would be a back-breaking job, but finally the day had come to properly put my back into some hard labour.

Armed with a crow-bar and hammer, I gamely put by back into the task and promptly put my back out, apparently lifting out floors was going to be a more taxing task than painting some walls. After taking a ten-minute power nap, I limbered myself up and got back to the task applying a bit more caution than I had done before. Using the leverage of the crow bar and remembering to use my legs rather than my back for power I was able to make good progress, it took a fortnight of evenings to completely strip the floors, allowing to start the task of fitting the floors!

Once the floors were cleared, the task of fitting the laminate tiles was a surprisingly easy one. The simple design of these modern tiles meant that once the edges had been properly fitted, placing the bulk of the tiles took less than an hour. After nearly 4 weeks of labouring, my ground floor was finally finished and I could start to relax in my home.

Talking Interior Design

My home wasn’t so much of a blank canvas, as a finished print which had been scrawled on and scratched so much that it had very little in common with what it had started out as.

My little terraced house was a real sight for sore eyes when I first bought it, but I knew what I getting myself in for and had no problem with tackling the massive amount of work that was ahead of me. Thousands of pounds had been dropped on my home and I wasn’t about to leave it in the state that it was.

Besides, now that I was living in my home, there was little else for me to spend my money on. Although I’d been tempted to celebrate the final purchase with a grand holiday or blow-out, I’d become so ingrained in the habit of saving money that the idea of actually spending the money made me inwardly wince. Spending my expendable income on materials for the house made a lot more sense, but before I could make any new purchases, I knew that I would have to set my mind on a unified design for the house.

Being a graphic designer means that I’m both cursed and blessed with an obsession for aesthetics. Whereas your average home-owner might simply look to a few magazines, or take a trip to Ikea to get some inspiration, I wanted my home to be a real reflection of my own taste. Before I started any serious work on my house, I set out a design to follow. My home was a tatty, terraced home that evoked a by-gone era of post-War architecture and brutalist design, it was a style that I wanted to subvert wit a chic ultra-modern design.

It’s all well and good saying ‘chic ultra-modern’, but for many these words will amount to a shrug. My plan was to use simple, affordable materials and good old-fashioned elbow-grease to iron out the many creases that this little house had accumulated over the years. Simple white, magnolia and pastel shades would dominate the colour scheme of my new home, with a focus on clean edges and utilitarian furniture bringing together the scandi-style that has become so popular in recent years. Not only is this minimalist design-trend timeless in its appeal, its also very affordable for those looking to stay within a budget.

Once I’d laid down my designs, the next job was to head out and buy some stuff! With my funds being rather limited, I was forced into buying my materials in piecemeal, but that was by no means a bad thing. There were so many little jobs to get done that it made sense to take things one step at a time. The walls were the first job to tackle, they were the biggest eye sore and were in various states of finish all over the home. In order for my interior design master-plan to be successfully executed I needed to strip back and smooth down the damaged walls, ready for plastering and painting. My journey to a finished home had started!

Making The Move From Rented To Mortgage

Nobody really likes to rent, but unfortunately everyone has to pay their dues, which means biting the bullet and handing over a tidy sum of cash to a landlord once a month whilst also somehow saving money for a deposit on a home that you eventually want to move in.

Unless you’re paid a handsome sum of money, or are particularly good at sticking within a low living budget it can be difficult to get this deposit saved up, which is why so many people find themselves stuck renting for years on end.

I was lucky enough to not get stuck saving for years on end as I moved to the North of England for University. Although it was a bit of a challenge for me to get used to the bitterly cold winters as a student, the bonus of settling in the North was that rent and house prices were significantly cheaper than down South. When I graduated and found myself a half-decent job, I was able to start focusing on saving money, although this proved to be a little more tricky than I’d thought it would be.

The problem with living as a young professional in a bustling city is that there is temptation absolutely everywhere. There are pubs and bars open throughout the week, offering tempting sojourns for men and women looking to blow off steam. A string of concerts and gigs are always on offer to music lovers, and then there’s the cinema for those looking to lose themselves in film for an evening. When you’re working full-time in a stressful environment, it’s only natural to want to be able to enjoy yourself in your spare time, but the most common ways of doing this inevitably involve spending money.

My first major step towards saving the money that I needed to put my deposit down was to fundamentally change the way that I spent my spare time. Since moving away from the South I had unknowingly developed a string of habits that were not only bad for my health, but also cost me a fortune. I had never considered that my weekly pack of cigarettes, or my regular visits to the pub would be costing me so much, they were so ingrained into my day-to-day routine that they were automatic spends – a self-imposed tax that I had come to accept.

Saying ‘no’ to pub trips and resisting the temptation to pick up a pack of fags on a Friday were my first real challenges, which were made twice as difficult when I had to deal with the biological withdrawal from these substances. I was crabby for weeks, easily distracted and sorely tempted to ditch in all of my efforts and head to the pub. However, after a month, something incredible happened: I saved money! When I spotted an extra £250 in my bank account at the end of the month, I realised that by making a few more changes to my lifestyle I could save even more money and be that much closer to buying my very first home…