Their dream had always been to buy an ‘empty shell’ of a house and then put their own stamp on it, says Laetitia Brits. At the end of December 2014 this dream became a reality when Laetitia and her husband Shaun bought their first home. “We decided to start off the new year with a bang!”
Ticking them off on his fingers, Shaun lists the number of rooms the house had before they started demolishing and rebuilding: “It had a living room, entrance hall, dining room, kitchen, one bedroom, two multipurpose rooms, a small bathroom and one large room divided in two by means of shutters – and in the one corner it had a shower.”
But, says Laetitia, despite the weird collection of rooms and awkward flow, there was so much potential. They consulted an architect and structural engineer for advice on how to maximise the space – and then construction started in earnest. “We added a hallway, which divided the large room into two bedrooms. Some walls were newly built, others demolished and the old fireplace re-opened to provide warmth for the cold winter nights.”
Today their home has three bedrooms, a study and two bathrooms.
A slight setback
The Brits’s renovation began in May 2015 and wasn’t without its challenges.
“If I knew then what I know today, I would have run for the hills,” grins Laetitia. Shaun agrees: “It was, and will always be, hard work to renovate a house on such a huge scale.”
Barely six months after they started their project, the couple clashed with their builder so they decided to go their separate ways. Hesitant to trust someone new in their home, they decided to tackle the mammoth task themselves.
“Initially the house was practically unliveable. We slept on the floor and ‘bathed’ in the kitchen. On weekends and in the evenings after work we painted walls, ceilings, door frames, windowsills and cornices, installed and varnished skirtings, hung curtain rails, took on the roles of plumber and electrician, applied grouting and cleaned up incessantly.”
The pair soon discovered they were far more capable than they originally thought. “Shaun amazed me,” says Laetitia. “I always knew he was handy but not on the scale that our project required! These days I hire him out to family and friends because he’s such an expert,” she adds with a wink.
She says most of her inspiration comes from Pinterest but also from magazines – and of course “window shopping” in stores. “We’ve even been inspired to make our own furniture, lights and décor accessories,” she says, naming all the projects they’ve completed: lights and cement coffee tables, as well as a few headboards made from recycled shutters.
“There’s not a lot left of the old house, but we did keep some elements. The kitchen cabinets were brightened up with red paint and the wooden sliding doors in the hallway received a new coat of varnish,” explains Laetitia. “It’s now a comfy family home and we love living in it!” >>
1The cupboard was removed – this is now a hallway – and the carpets replaced with tiles. This room also received a new door, a fresh coat of paint and new cornices and skirting boards.