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Do you suffer from renophobia. SO many of us do...

In a world of renovators, home improvement reality shows and 252 wooden floorboard varieties, it’s not easy knowing that your ugly 80s kitchen is here to stay and the useless nook, currently filled with old tennis racquets and bar stools, will never be converted into an ensuite and walk-in-wardrobe.

I don’t mind a bit of “interiors porn”. I’ve had a subscription to a home magazine for years and love drooling over the flashy overhauls and clever interior design tricks. There’s something irresistible about the glossy pages filled with immaculately styled homes and aspirational mood boards.

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I’ve got piles of magazines with dog-eared pages marking clever bathroom renovations and kitchen makeover tips. And yet, I have no intention of renovating. Just as I buy foodie magazines and never manage to cook a single recipe, I’ll never produce a mosaic feature wall or walk-in pantry! If I can’t make the latest Donna Hay recipe because it requires three ingredients I’m unfamiliar with, then I know renovating is not for me.

If I can’t make the latest Donna Hay recipe because it requires three ingredients I’m unfamiliar with, then I know renovating is not for me. Image: @donnahaymag.

Our suburban house is screaming out for a renovation. I’d be happy to take an axe to my 80s timber kitchen, and my laundry cupboard, aka the “Euro laundry” is about as spacious as a tin of sardines. It’s definitely not suited to those with a demanding laundry schedule. The apricot tiles in our bathroom have no place in the 21st century and are only marginally nicer than the terracotta slate ones in the living areas.

“Your house would look great with polished concrete,” my reno friends say. “You should knock down the back of the house and rebuild. Just get some plans drawn up and you’d be amazed with what you can do.”

But here’s the thing. I am not a renovator. It’s simply not in my DNA. I am deficient in just about every area required to survive a renovation. Based on my observations, there are renovator key selection criteria you must address, and I fall spectacularly short in every area:

1. Ability to make decisions.

As a self-confessed over-thinker who suffers from chronic decision anxiety, making choices — with potentially expensive consequences — sends me into a cold sweat. I have enough trouble making a simple call on how to use the remaining asparagus in the crisper. How on earth would I cope making a decision about the correct height at which to hang the kitchen pendant light, assuming I could even decide on which pendant to choose? And what colour to paint the walls? There’s only about 100 choices. And that’s just in white.

2. Deep pockets.

Money. Renovating, by all accounts, is a huge financial commitment, even for small jobs. If you’re not skilled in any type of useful labour (and my husband and I are not) then just keep adding zeros to your budget. Materials cost a lot. Labour costs a lot. Architects and designers cost a lot. Unlike TV shows that follow miraculous makeovers coming in under budget, I’m told you need to add about 20% to quotes to get a realistic figure. Unexpected costs creep up, and very few renovations run on time or to budget. So not only do you need bucket loads of cash, you need bucket loads of patience, too.

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"Not only do you need bucket loads of cash, you need bucket loads of patience, too."

3. Fluency in renovation talk.

Reno-talk is a language I do not understand. I am surrounded by friends who are renovating. Talk at social functions is about architectural designs, rooflines, landscaping dilemmas, splashbacks, accent tiles, and flooring choices. As an observer it seems that you need to ‘belong’ to the renovators club to truly participate in these conversations. But try as I might to contribute to these enthusiastic discussions, I am out of my depth with reno shorthand and merely an impostor.

4. Architectural vision.

Almost everyone I know who has ever renovated proclaims they designed the house themselves. The architect, or draughtsperson, apparently had little to do with the design at all. As someone who has absolutely no spatial awareness whatsoever I couldn’t conceive of coming up with a clever use of space. But the real problem with my total lack of vision is simple: it means I need professional help and it’s going to cost me more.

"Almost everyone I know who has ever renovated proclaims they designed the house themselves."

5. Living with family or in-laws

A large proportion of friends who have undertaken major home renovations have moved in with their parents or in-laws to save money on rent. In the absence of dollars, or sense, this may seem like a logical solution, and from what I can see, most parents seem happy to temporarily house their children and grandchildren. But, even if I had the money, the vision, the ability to make decisions and was fluent in reno-speak, this could never work for me. Not even the shortest renovation in history could make this idea palatable.

From the safe distance of my tiny lounge room I can see that renovating poses many challenges. Patience can run thin, money can run scarce, and drama can run high. Why go there? The timber kitchen isn’t all that bad. It’s actually very solid, and I hear that apricot tiles are making a comeback…

You can find Michaela on her website, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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