When Nadine Bacchus-Garrick and her partner Juls bought their first home – a two-bedroom Victorian terrace in south London – in April 2020 – they never expected to do a renovation in the middle of a pandemic. “We received the keys in the week that the British government announced the block,” says Nadine. “We were excited but also concerned that the stores could close and renovations started.”
Nadine Bacchus-Garrick and her partner Juls are currently documenting the renovation of their first house on the Instagram account @rona_renovation. “This is completely new for both of us,” says Nadine. “Juls is a leather craftsman and makes all of his products by hand. So he’s practical, but I have a PR background and work in a stationary office job. However, a lot of the men in my family work in retail, so I had a rough idea of that what to expect. “
Despite the challenges, the couple strived to make their dream home a reality as soon as possible. “The people who are less picky than us may have just painted it,” admits Nadine. “However, when we did a thorough investigation, we found that there was a lot of structural work involved and a lot of the work that needed to be done was hidden.”
There were rotting beams, holes, damp and random electrics. “It was built in 1901 and didn’t live until 2020,” says Nadine.
One of the biggest challenges with the renovation so far has been a lack of plaster in the UK due to lockdowns. “It was stressful,” says Nadine. “There was a small group of us in the renovation community who were tipping each other out, and we had to get up at 4am to sign up for plaster of paris!” As a result, the completion of the master bedroom plaster was an important milestone. “This is an exciting landmark for any home renovator as you can finally start thinking about decorating,” wrote Nadine on Instagram. “I will never again take it for granted that plaster of paris is available in stores!”
When they began the transformation, Nadine was put on vacation and wanted something to take up her time. So she opened an Instagram account, @rona_renovation, to document the progress. “The report has become such a beautiful part of my life and has brought nothing but positivity and happiness,” she says. “I’ve met brilliant people and it’s been a really handy source of advice too.”
The couple moved into the partially completed house in September 2020 and are roughly in the middle of the project. In the following, they kindly share the most important findings from their experience, although the work is far from over. “I have some big dreams about what I want to do next,” says Nadine. “This is not our last project. After that, I can’t imagine going into a house and loving it exactly the way it is!”
Attack the bathroom first
“My number one tip is to do your bathroom first, even if you’re renovating,” says Nadine. “Any other important thing you need, you can freestyle – you can put a kettle, microwave, or camping stove in any room, but you can’t freestyle a shower! So you throw money and time into sorting out the bathroom as you will.” Don’t regret it. It’s so nice to end a really busy day in a nice new bathroom. “
When the couple began the renovation, it was next to impossible to get supplies from hardware stores that were closed by the pandemic, so they started gutting the house – namely the bathroom. During the process, they discovered rotting joists under the floor, all of which had to be replaced – a problem that had been reported by a surveyor before the house was purchased. “It’s definitely worth investing in a structural study to get an overview of what might be wrong with the property so you can plan and plan the renovation,” says Nadine.
“The completion of our bathroom was huge as it was the first room we completed,” says Nadine. “I designed and planned it so carefully and put my heart and soul into research. I also bought a lot on eBay, which was pretty scary and felt like a gamble!”
Porcelain superstore tile and cream paint from Little Green Paint Company set off a vanity and tap warehouse basin from La Redoute. “Our Dowsing & Reynolds bathroom wall lights are still my favorite thing in this room,” says Nadine. “At this point, my love for them is reticent and creates a problem that no ceiling light can compare.”
The floor tiles were chosen to emulate the type of concrete flooring found in modern Mediterranean interiors. “There are so many beautiful patterned tiles that are much more interesting, but I really can’t trust myself to be happy with them in the years to come,” says Nadine.
Set priorities with your builder
“Talk to your contractor about structural ideas that you came up with early on and decide on the ones that you are passionate about at the start of the renovation,” says Nadine. “You might want to knock down a wall, remove or put back a chimney – but you can’t go back and do these things; you have to do the messy chores in the beginning.”
During the first week of the renovation, Nadine and Juls – with the help of Nadine’s stepfather – knocked through a wall to create an open living and dining area. “It would have been crazy if we had lived in the house between dust and rubbish, but we know that this is the reality for most renovators,” says Nadine. “Luckily we were able to bubble up with my mom and stepfather and we lived with them for a few months so we didn’t have to live in the roughest part of the renovation when there was no electrical or plumbing.”
Don’t lose sight of your own style
“Social media can be a great inspiration tool, but it’s important that you stay true to what you want,” says Nadine. “I saw some cool decor on Instagram that is really colorful and quirky, but Juls and I are drawn to simple Scandinavian-style interiors and I want to create a sense of calm in our home.”
“As a black couple from London,” she continues, “we are also very interested in weaving a part of our own culture together. Your home says so much about who you are and it would be strange if it weren’t for the practice . ” We’d like to collect things over time through travel – probably art and textiles. I’m half Jamaican and I would love to go there and get pieces for our home. Juls is Nigerian and I want to do the same there. “
Most of the floorboards in the master bedroom had to be replaced. “Juls was on a crusade on the floorboard this week trying to solve the mystery of how we can do it and keep costs down,” wrote Nadine in an Instagram post. “There have been many trips to reclaimed lumber yards, floorboards have been reconfigured over and over again, but he did it!” They also saved original floorboards under the tiles in the bathroom.
Nadine describes the outdated bedroom as “quiet and simple”. The walls are painted Farrow & Balls Strong White and the radiators were bought from eBay.
The bed linen, mirror, bedside tables, lights and planter are all from UK furniture retailer MADE.com.
Have a seriously detailed budget plan
“Keep a record of your budget – and don’t try to expand your budget to include money you don’t have,” advises Nadine. “You’d be surprised how easy it is to forget about this during the renovation. If something is over your budget you have to accept that you may have to do it later or otherwise. We have a detailed live table for that Budgeting – I even put lunch on it; that’s how detailed it got! “
“It’s also a good idea to decide early on what things you need to have and what compromises you can compromise on,” she continues. “For me it was a big challenge to have wall lights in our bathroom next to the mirror, because it was always a mistake that I never see my make-up in the evening. That meant that the electrician had to run additional cables and Juls found all of this a bit pointless … but it was worth it to me. I wanted brass faucets in the bathroom too, but when I cost it I couldn’t justify it financially. So I scrapped that idea and just got chrome, what I love now. It’s important not to get carried away. ”
“Often the first thing you like is what you should choose,” says Nadine. “I ordered hundreds of tile swatches for the bathroom and picked the first one I liked. The same goes for color swatches. I’ve tested every neutral shade out there and it’s always the first or second I go with. Don’t overcomplicate things and trust your instincts. “
Invest some welding capital
“Roll up your sleeves and do a lot of the work yourself – it will save you hundreds of pounds,” says Nadine. “We organized our own jumps and filled them ourselves, which was no joke! It was physically intense, but it saved us money. I also asked millions of questions. The closer you are to the process, the more you can get better Decisions. ”
Many of the original chimneys had been filled in, and Nadine and Juls decided to give their home an old-school charm by reopening it. “It was a dark job,” recalls Nadine. “But we are very happy!”
The bathroom required extensive work at the beginning of the project, including demolishing a brick chimney. “The entire bathroom had to be replaced and it was a slow fire that tore out the existing bathroom,” says Nadine. “I wouldn’t say I’m picky, but I’m not the type to volunteer for grubby jobs. However, I haven’t retired to do some of the gross jobs here since it’s our house.”
“I surprised myself how gritty and dirty it got and how ready I was to hold on,” continues Nadine. “It’s a really good reminder of how capable you are. We asked my stepfather [who’s a builder], for advice and when we couldn’t reach him, we found the answers on YouTube. The lesson is that with the right attitude, a little guts, and YouTube you can really handle most things. “
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