years, avid DIYER Catherine Pate spent her free time tackling décor projects, restoring old pieces of furniture and doing minor renovations. So in 2013, when she came across a derelict house in her hometown of Porterville, not far from where she and her husband Warwick live, she jumped at the opportunity to get stuck into a “real” renovation.
First up was the home’s façade, which included a 10.5m-long stoep. Since they had a limited budget, Catherine, the owner of PR and copywriting company CP Communications & Publicity, and Warwick, who owns a waste transport business called Waste Pro, did most of the work themselves, including breaking down walls, plastering and painting.
It took the couple about three weeks to complete the stoep – they were only able to get stuck in during their spare time – and now it’s the ideal space in which to unwind and watch the tractors and horse carts mosey on by.
“I loved watching Elephant Cottage, as we decided to call it, emerge from being broken and neglected to being beautiful and proud,” Catherine says. >>
Catherine decided on a bright blue (Plascon Micatex in the colour Oceanos) for the restored home’s exterior. “My husband thought I was mad when I showed him the colour but once it was on the walls, he agreed that it was the right choice. Everyone in town was talking about it!” Catherine says.
“We painted the outside over a weekend so that when people drove past to take their kids to school on Monday morning, they got a surprise – we nearly had an accident at the intersection!”
The couple found the beautiful red front door, as well as various other décor items, at a second-hand store in Tulbagh.
“The door had been packed away in a shed; we needed a torch just to look around! It was a bit bent after years of leaning against a wall in this damp space, so we had to wet it and weigh it down with cement bags to straighten it. We then had to shave off a fair amount to ensure that it would fit the door frame, but it was well worth it and this stunning old door with her original post slot and door handle has now been restored to her former glory. The coat of red enamel was the finishing touch!”
What challenges did you face during this renovation? I think the biggest challenge was trying to get it done as quickly as possible. You can’t rush things when working on an old house, especially with a tiny team. Any advice on buying second-hand pieces? Solid wood is amazingly forgiving – you can really get away with a lot! Search scrapyards and on Gumtree – there are incredible bargains to be found. What renovation tips can you offer? Do a budget forecast then include a contingency budget for unplanned expenses and surprises – then add some more! What’s next? The front garden: we’d like to develop the bougainvillea hedge so you look onto a riot of different colours; with its thorns, it also serves as a good security measure and it provides privacy. We used stone chips as a waterwise garden surface but I’d like to redo the path from the front gate to the stoep with something more attractive than cement slabs. We are also waiting for the very young wild olive trees along the side of our property to grow.