Renovation Experts Katrina and Jesse, from The Reno Life, reveal their Top Renovation Tips
I would like to introduce you to Katrina and Jesse. The two are the couple behind The Reno Life Tas and they classify themselves as Renovation Consultants, but just one look at their experience, you can take a short step and call them experts.
With 7 projects under their belt and a decade of building and renovating experience they have created a platform to share their DIY tips with a realistic budget and to show their followers how to renovate and how to do it themselves. Following all of that, they have now founded a business specialising in the planning of home, investment property and Airbnb renovations, by recreating floorplans that are practical, liveable and beautiful. and the best the thing is, they do it all without breaking the bank!
And, after chatting with Katrina over several weeks, I have come to realise what an incredible individual she is. Constantly supportive, encouraging, we celebrate each others wins, and she has a great sense of humour! I am so appreciative they have given their time to answer some burning questions to help the Sonei Home community.
So, if you are interested in the building and renovation industry, have thought about DIY-ing it, are in the middle of a project and need some inspiration or guidance, keep reading and take in all of the following goodness.
For those who haven’t read or heard about you...please tell my readers who you are and what drives you in life.
We are Jesse and Katrina; a Tassie born and bred husband and wife duo who renovate houses for a living and have recently begun renovation consultations.
Jesse is 32 and a carpenter by trade, Katrina is a 31yr old teacher and we’ve been married for 10 years this June. We have two beautiful boys, Rex and Zeke, who will be 4 and 2 middle of this year.
We struggled for 4 years to fall pregnant with Rex and it was this journey that made us realise we both wanted to be equally present during our kids’ young lives and have the freedom early in our work life while they’re home that often comes later in life.
We owner built after hours twice while we both worked full time and then tackled our first renovation when Rex was 6 months old. It was this live-in reno that made us fall in love with the process of taking something old and unworkable and transforming it be so much better than it once was. We knew from this first project that we’d found what we wanted to do and that’s how The Reno Life was born!
How would you describe your style? Not just in decor but design too!
Our style is predominantly Scandinavian with a touch of warm minimalism. You’ll find lots of white, black, greys and timber in our home and you definitely won’t find any bright colours!
However, one of the most fun things we find in our line of work is that we can experiment with different styles based off the type of project we are tackling. For eg. we recently did a renovation of a beautiful 1920s home and I definitely enjoyed playing off the art deco original style but still in a modern-minimalist way.
How do think yours and Jesse's skills complement each other.
Jesse is the do-er and I’m the thinker! Nothing is impossible for Jesse, he is such a hard worker and an excellent problem solver. The only time he’s ever said no to my ideas is based off budget! I’m the designer of our projects, and we both seem to be able to nut out any floor-plan issue with relative ease.
Most of our conversations in the reno zone begin with ‘I was thinking…’, ‘what if we…’ and Jesse makes it happen!
What do you look for in a renovation project? And what are your aims for each project?
The first thing we look for is potential to improve the value of the property. Usually this means the ability to add a bathroom as bringing your home from a 1 bathroom to 2 is an excellent way to add lots of value! The other important aspect is the location and potential for profit based off the area. Some suburbs it just isn’t worth investing in because the area isn’t one that attracts growth.
The aim for each project is to transform it into something beautiful, liveable and practical. Often just a few floorplan tweaks can completely change the feel and usability of a property!
What is/are your favourite parts of a renovation?
Our favourite part is actually the initial stages of planning the renovation. Pouring over the floorplan, thinking of all the possibilities, and getting excited for how much better we can make something that already exists! Followed closely for me by the design selections; the creative side of me just loves putting colour selections together in my mind and then seeing them come together on such a large scale.
You do ALL of your own renovations, what 3 things do you think are the most important to staying on budget without compromising your vision.
Budget is definitely something we have become pretty pro at because we have such a small margin to make what we do work that we’ve had to be careful. We’ve learnt that you can definitely achieve the look you are after on a much smaller budget without compromising on quality. Outside of doing the work yourself because we recognise that not everyone has a builder husband, here’s how we do that:
- Shop around! Especially with online shopping options these days, there is always someone doing the same thing for cheaper than the big stores.
- Scroll Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace often and set alerts for the specific things you are after. We have saved literally tens of thousands of dollars utilising the second-hand market place. Most of the time scoring brand new items that have just been surplus to someone’s needs or that they never ended up using.
- Plan your reno in advance! If you have a masterplan in advance for your renovation you can utilise sales as they arise and store products away until you need them. You also will find you save yourself heaps by not making rushed purchases because you need things immediately and so therefore pay premium for them.
What seems to be the most difficult thing you've encountered across all of your renovations?
To be honest I’m struggling to think of many difficulties! Living in renovations can obviously be tricky… messy, inconvenient, noisy! But we obviously don’t mind it too much or we wouldn’t keep doing it!
Actually the most difficult thing is probably reigning in my creativity for design due to budget reasons. Sometimes what I’d ideally love to do and what makes sense in the market or what we can afford are two different things. So we compromise and get the general look but it’s not always easy to give up on your ‘best case scenario’. We find a way to get pretty close though!
Tell me about your services...why did you create them, and who will benefit from them?
The renovation consultancy facet of our business was born out of the love for the initial planning side of a reno but also because we saw a gap in the market for an affordable, helpful advice option when it comes to planning your renovation.
Your average person may not have $15-20k to spend on an architect, who is often form over function anyway, and we knew that having a good master plan from the beginning saves you making expensive mistakes down the road.
We also save ourselves thousands in draftsman fees every renovation by presenting them with a to-scale floorplan that eliminates the back and forth, questions and edits that so often occur in this process So, we thought, why not offer this service to others so they can do the same?
Basically anyone who is wanting to improve the functionality, flow and liveability of their property would benefit from a master plan from us. Through the consultation process we will design your perfect solution that works as a masterplan for your renovation, whether it be in stages as you can afford it or all at once!
The best thing that I love about what you do, is you seem to be able to create immaculate designs and interiors without the price tag, a lot of the time, like using IKEA kitchens, how do you decide what to save on and what to splurge on but keeping quality and integrity in your work?
Thank you! There are definitely things you can’t ‘cut corners’ with like electrical work and asbestos removal. However, we do feel like you can get a ‘close version of’ to most other things!
Using IKEA kitchens has been a huge budget saver for us, and they use Blum brand mechanisms so the quality is actually fantastic for the price tag! We then install stone as the bench top and custom panelling on the island for eg to add to the custom look and feel. Stone benchtops are something we always 'splurge' on because they're something a buyer always notices and the quality is so much higher than laminate. While also being not as expensive as you'd think, especially if it's a smaller piece that you can get as an off cut (always worth checking out for laundries/pantries in particular).
When we first started out we bought things from ‘the usual’ places because we didn’t know any better. After a decade of being in this industry we definitely know the places to go and where to avoid. I’m constantly fielding DMs on our Instagram for advice and reckon if you have a specific product in mind I could find you a budget version!
For those who don't have a tradie or creative partner but still want to tackle some renos or even anyone who is staring down their first renovation, what should they do themselves, and what should they invest in and outsource?
Plumbing and electrical need to be outsourced by licensed trades, and we would also recommend outsourcing carpet-laying and plastering as the labour cost isn’t that high and they’re difficult to do without the specialised knowledge involved.
Some things you can definitely tackle yourself are the painting, tiling (if you’re careful and take your time!), demolition and click-together flooring. Obviously this all depends on how handy you are and what you are giving up to spend the time doing it yourself. Sometimes it may be worth outsourcing more because time is money!
What's the most difficult lesson you've learnt from renovating, whether it's practical, experience, mental or emotional...
I sort of touched on this before, that we don’t find renovating all that difficult, I guess because of our experience and the way we do compliment each other so well.
I suppose looking back on projects, especially our new builds, that wasn’t always the way though. I remember shedding many the tear over something like grout colour or window sizes because at the time it feels like the most important thing in the world.
It can be stressful and a lot of pressure if you let it, but we’ve learnt that everything is fixable and most importantly to trust our gut and your original plan. I second guess myself on decisions just like everyone else, but it always seems to come together well if I trust my initial decision and gut. Definitely don’t try and follow trends. You are renovating for you, no one else.
What are some mistakes first time renovators can make and how can they be avoided?
Not having a comprehensive plan. When renovations aren’t set out properly and people end up winging it, mistakes are always made. Layout mistakes, budget-blow outs, too many things happening at once…all the things that lead to a stressful renovation!
Blowing the budget is a big one and can be avoided by getting quotes prior to starting work, regularly checking in with your builder and other trades, and having realistic timelines.
And thirdly, use trades that come personally recommended to you if you can! This will help you avoid those horrible experiences of dodgy work and unreliable tradespeople that you hear so often about.
Where do you find inspiration from?
These days I find inspiration mainly on Pinterest and Instagram. Although quite often I imagine something in my mind then try and scroll for a visual to show Jesse. He’s a visual learner so I often need those pictures, if I can’t find something close enough to what I’m after I tend to get out the old pen and paper and draw it for him!
Why do you love Sonei Home, and what is/are your favourite products?
Jesse recently took the biggest Instagram hint and bought me the Mona Trio of Vases in black for my birthday which I absolutely adore! I now want them in latte and have put the new oatmeal linen throw on my wish list! But my favourite thing about Sonei Home is the people behind it. Lauren is the most beautiful soul and buying from small business is so important. I love knowing that it’s personally her that will pack your order with a huge smile on her face!
Is there anything else we haven't covered that you want people to know, about services, designing, planning etc?
Thank you so much for asking us to be a part of your fabulous blog, Lauren. It’s so important to often re-evaluate your reasons for doing things and we love helping others achieve their reno goals so always happy to field more questions!
Our renovation consultancy options can be found by visiting our Instagram or Facebook @the_reno_life_, or our website www.therenolifetas.com.au . And while we predominantly work in our home town of Launceston, Tasmania, we have just booked our first online-only consultation for a beautiful couple in Victoria. So do let us know if you’re outside of our area and think you could benefit from our services!