When asked; “Have you filed for divorce yet?” at a kids birthday party I was rendered speechless. My husband and I were in the middle of explaining our home extension to someone.

All photos by Sara Heidinger Photography and edited by Moi (amateurly).

Luckily when my jaw is on the floor my chatty hubby is a champ at scooping up the conversation. Call me naive but just because our project has been smooth-as-double-glazed-glass, it’s not the same for all couples. Pro Tip: It helps if one half of the partnership is a project manager in construction for a living. Yup.

Advantages aside, this was a massive undertaking for a young family. We built an extension twice the size of our home and managed the build and trades ourselves (when I say ‘we’ I mean ‘Matt’).

The Brief

Take our (barely) 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom 1950’s style home and add an open plan kitchen/ living area and a parent’s retreat with walk-in robe and studio/ office space. Without demolishing anything (due to our previous renovation on the original house). Plus, stick to a skinny budget yet make it look awesome.

The Work

Good thing my beloved adores his career because doing his own personal build seemed to give him extra enthusiasm. Something to be grateful for when upon his return from a 12 hour workday he would bounce into the backyard measuring, locating mistakes, figuring out how to fix them and lining up the next round of tradesmen.

Even though the Husband knows everything about building, he still included me in every single decision (even when it needed to be explained five times.) Dude has the patience of a Saint.

Master Bathroom
Modern Industrial Living Room

The Secret

What really made our reno a success is teamwork. I trusted his experience with construction and he trusted mine with finishes. We worked harmoniously on design with our wickedly talented architect. The result is a completely unique home which is an amalgamation of both of our tastes. (He is drawn to modern minimalist where I lean toward vintage classic.) We settled on modern industrial with a classic twist, something we both love. Now after just a few months in our new space I would not change a single thing. What a great feeling.

Stairwell and Pendant

But back to the initial comment which rendered me mute, I thought back to the survey I took on Houzz.com.au about couples and renovations. From the questions in the quiz I should have guessed that building and renovating is highly stressful for a lot of peeps. You know the whole; “rate the difficulty of the renovation on your relationship” type of Q and A.

Matt and I related more to this quote in the Houzz article:

“While renovating is challenging, it can strengthen relationships. Many people reported that after completing a renovation project, they now spend more time at home together, eat and cook more at home, and have more company over. A large majority of people in many countries also said they feel more comfortable, happier and more organised at home.”

Master Bedroom in Progress

The Change

Our home is finally finished. It means so much more to us than just more space for more stuff. It means our daughter will have room to play, I have a dedicated place for my business, and we will be able to host family holidays and overseas guests.

Art Studio and Office

The new part of our home is warmer and brighter. I cannot say enough how much this has positively affected my mood. The renovation has completely changed our day to day lives.

Our glorious kitchen.

I’m looking forward to being able to relax with a glass of wine in our new living room and talk about anything other than construction and design. Who am I kidding? We’ve already started talking about our next project. 

Have you survived a home renovation? What was the most difficult part? What was the easiest?

Author: dawnrieniets

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20 thoughts on “Relationships Can Survive Renovating

  1. Wow, it all looks amazing!!

    Posted on October 25, 2016 at 8:06 am
    1. Thank you!! We’re absolutely loving it.

      Posted on October 25, 2016 at 8:08 am
  2. Yes, we added on a two story addition to our small house to add a master bedroom with bath and a bedroom with full bath upstairs for our son. We hired a contractor for the work and it was a very basic build out–nothing fancy. We did do some work on our own–pulling off the old back porch and siding from the back (which was fun–really–demo is good), cutting down a tree in the backyard (100% done by Chuck and hauled off little by little), then doing all the final trim (Chuck) and painting (both of us). The results are pretty bland. We’re not good at finishing nor creative, like you guys, but we LOVE the extra space. It also allowed us to put a French door in a wall between the front room and the old back room (which was our old bedroom), which freed up a lot more space for the piano and got the table out of the kitchen–whew. We still eat dinner most nights in front of the TV, which works for us (though they say it’s bad) because we have shows we really enjoy together and discuss. Evenings are very busy for my son so relaxing and watching TV while we eat and laugh before he locks himself in his room for homework is all right by me. My husband and I can argue over loading the dishwasher so home improvement is just par for the course–we do what we can.

    YOUR SPACE IS AWESOME!!! OMG…It’s beautiful. What a marvelous retreat for you and your family. I’d never want to leave if I lived there. You need to get that into home magazine. Wow, wow, wow!

    Posted on October 25, 2016 at 12:54 pm
    1. Even a blank canvas can be a wonderful space! Our extension is essentially a large concrete box- guess it’s all what you do with it. We were lucky to have a creative architect who worked hard to squeeze in almost everything on our wish list. You guys are creative! Look how musical you all are! That’s wonderful. And as for eating in front of the tv- I think it’s great if it inspires conversation, especially with your teenager! I love tv and totally don’t think it’s the devil. Thank you so much for the lovely compliments on our home- we are loving the crap out of it. I hardly ever leave!

      Posted on October 26, 2016 at 2:03 am
  3. This looks great, Dawn. I love your home!

    Posted on October 26, 2016 at 1:18 am
    1. Thank you so much!! I should have a Pipster gathering now that I have the room! xoxox

      Posted on October 26, 2016 at 2:04 am
      1. Excellent idea!

        Posted on October 26, 2016 at 5:34 am
  4. I love your barn door with external fixtures! We want to put on in closing off our hallway, one day. I keep putting it off because I would like to paint first and then I watch the kids run their cars into the walls. LOL

    Plus those stairs – Wow!

    Posted on October 26, 2016 at 1:55 am
    1. Thank you lovely! OMG the barn doors right??? They were made local by the Merri Barn Co. From reclaimed barn timber. <3 I ordered the fixtures on eBay. (Almost every decoration in our home is the result of bargain hunting, there was not much left in the budget for that!) <3

      Posted on October 26, 2016 at 2:05 am
  5. Your renovation and styling is amazing, Dawn. No way would my marriage survive a reno x

    Posted on October 26, 2016 at 3:50 am
    1. Thank you so much Dani! I think I’ll be styling and decorating little bits and pieces for years to come. As for you and your partner- You never know!! Haha! Xoxo

      Posted on October 26, 2016 at 5:44 am
  6. HOLY SHIT THIS IS AWESOME. That is all.

    Posted on October 26, 2016 at 9:14 am
    1. Thanks legend!!!

      Posted on October 26, 2016 at 11:59 am
  7. It looks wonderful, Dawn. Well done to you both for making it so harmonious too. x

    Posted on October 26, 2016 at 12:01 pm
    1. Thank you so much! Overall it was a wonderful experience, tiring and long at times but otherwise satisfying.

      Posted on October 27, 2016 at 12:21 am
  8. Dawn once again you amaze me !! I love it…….. please come home and help me !! Doug and I are working on our home but the budget is tight so it’s inch by inch

    Posted on October 26, 2016 at 2:31 pm
    1. Thank you so much lovely! I hear you on the budget thing. We left no budget for decorating so have been really scrappy and creative about what we do to deck it out. Luckily Matt is pretty handy so he’s been able to knock up some mirrors and shelves (that I saw on Pinterest) and I’m always scouring markets, thrift stores and even Kmart and Ikea for bargains. Little by little it’s coming together but I’m sure it will take years before it’s really DONE. And by then I’ll probably want to redecorate! xo

      Posted on October 27, 2016 at 12:24 am
  9. Oh wow! I’m impressed. You got madddd style girrrrrl. Loves. <3

    Posted on November 17, 2016 at 4:53 am
    1. Thanks! We are totally in Luuuuurrrrvvvee with the final product. It’s been such a fun and crazy project.

      Posted on November 17, 2016 at 8:45 am