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Back in February 2020, our dream became a reality when we moved into our very first home – we were lucky that we moved in just before the national lockdown. We always wanted a full renovation project where we could turn a blank canvas into a home that had our style in every nook and cranny, so we were ecstatic when we found our little gem.

We knew it was going to be a big job and, most importantly, we knew it would take time - and be very messy! We’ve learned a lot over the last 12 months about renovating and wanted to share our top tips on how to stay sane and save money while doing it.

1. One at a time

This was a tip I picked up from my family when they were renovating our family home – only ever renovate one room at a time. It may sound obvious, but if you’re living in your house while renovating then try to stick by it or it’ll feel like you’re living in a building site rather than a home. I also think this tip is more important than ever due to the lockdowns. With us all spending more time than ever before in our houses, it means it’s harder to escape from the dust – so make sure you have at least one room that is a dust-free zone so you can relax. This will help you remain positive throughout the project.

Here’s the order of the rooms we’ve renovated

The bathroom, spare room and downstairs hallway are on the to-do list for this year!

2. Someone’s trash is another’s treasure

It’s time to make Facebook Marketplace Link opens in a new window and Gumtree Link opens in a new window your new best friend. Seriously, the number of amazing finds on there is frightening. Plus, the bragging rights that come from finding a piece of treasure for a fraction of the price is golden. Have a look below at some of the best finds we’ve bought from both websites:

The best way to find bargains is to set up alert notifications on both Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree. You’d be surprised at how quickly things like kitchen appliances sell! We also use both platforms to sell anything that we’re not using any more.

From wreck to ravishing: Arianna's fireplace surround, before and after

3. Here’s one I made earlier...

We’ve all made Pinterest Link opens in a new window boards of items we’d love but then either can’t find them in any shops/websites or the price tag is way out of budget! Well, we’ve been there – we really wanted a black and gold radiator cover for our living room, but they were extortionate and mostly from America. So, *cue the mess and lots of huffing*, we bought a plain radiator cover and decided to paint it ourselves for a fraction of the price and we’re super chuffed with how it turned out.

We also did this in the living room: I couldn’t find gold frames in lockdown, so bought some cheap ones from The Range Link opens in a new window and spray painted them gold to match our interior for a fraction of the price. I’d definitely recommend the spray paint brand ‘PlastiKote’ – good quality and fantastic price. Just remember that depending on what you’re spray painting, you may need to do some serious sanding first (an electric sander will come in handy).

Get artsy to get the look for less, just like Arianna did with her DIY spray painted frames for the living room

4. Rome wasn’t built in a day

Okay, slight exaggeration, a two-bedroom end terraced house doesn’t have much in common with Rome, but you get the gist.

Renovating takes time, especially when it’s a full house. You’ll want things done yesterday, but that’s not how it works with renovating – patience really is a virtue. Expect to be living in dust, dirt, mess and having 180 different screws lying about throughout the house. Prepare to sleep on a mattress for 2 months in your spare room because you’re renovating the master bedroom. Assume you’ll be be making your dinner off a joiner’s bench because you’re renovating the kitchen. That is the renovation reality.

Things will get overwhelming at times but try and remain positive and remember that you will have your dream home at the end of it and it will all be worth it. One top tip to keep in mind: communication is key. We made a bit of a mistake when it came to ordering our bespoke back door, as the thickness of our flooring meant the door ended up being too low. We should have communicated a little better with the people who were fitting the door, but my super-star stepdad ended up sorting it for us (while probably hating me at the same time for it!).

From bland to ultimate bedroom chic, tackle your project room by room to avoid living in a full on mess

5. If you don’t ask, you don’t get

My partner is a painter and decorator by trade, my step dad is a carpenter and we have a number of friends with trades, which means we were very lucky to have work done within the house by people we know and trust and on mates’ rates. If you have a trade and have a friend with a trade, try and strike a deal between you so you’ll do work in their house and vice versa – everyone wins.

Also, don’t be scared to phone or message businesses for discount codes before you buy – especially when ordering a large quantity. Some companies will say no, others will happily give you one. Either way it’s always worth a try.

Saving up for home improvements? The Virgin Money mobile app has clever savings features that can help start you on your way.

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Arianna Muscella

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