reno: mazzy espiritu, thornleigh


Maz in her Hamptons style kitchen in the Sydney suburb of Thornleigh. Picture: Albert Santos
For Maz Espiritu the potential in the split-level 1950s cottage was obvious from the moment she stepped inside. However her husband Jeff required a little more convincing.

“It was hard for him to see the potential — he knew it needed a lot of work and money. But I knew from the moment I stepped inside that this was our new home,” says Maz. “The house had a lot of character and I figured we could really work with it to create a Hamptons-style look if we allocated the right amount of money and spent it wisely. The huge balcony that overlooks the masses of greenery out the back just won me over and the location is just fantastic.”

The couple bought the three-bedroom home in Thornleigh in Sydney’s northwest in 2013 for just over $700,000. Maz estimates they have spent about $80,000 so far remodelling the bathroom and kitchen and giving new life to the living areas.

As first-time renovators the whole process was daunting but the couple went into it knowing there would be parts of the renovation that tested their patience.

“We had hopes of completing the house in a year but it’s been almost two years and we’ve only just finished the top floor,” says Maz. “Jeff was certainly patient dealing with contractors — and with me — but the biggest things we have learned have definitely been doing all the handy work, tiling and plastering the walls ourselves.”

Dream kitchen

One of the main projects in the renovation was the complete re-imagining of the existing kitchen which Maz says was very dark and had asbestos in the walls.

Picture: Albert Santos
“We made the whole space feel bigger by removing the internal walls,” she says. “That enabled us to design an open plan kitchen and living area and rearrange the layout of the home to really allow a flow of air and light throughout the entire top floor.”

After selling the existing kitchen cabinetry on eBay to raise some extra funds, Maz and Jeff purchased a new benchtop and cabinetry which they had professionally installed.

 The Gyprock, tiling, installation of the rangehood and ducting and the painting however were all DIY jobs so that the couple could save money to spend on other parts of the renovation.

The kitchen renovation wasn’t without its challenges — after the removal of the walls, the floorboards didn’t line up. Removing them wasn’t an option as they were one feature the couple had elected to keep from the start.

“We wanted to keep the original wooden floors so we had them professionally sanded down and varnished in a dark colour.”

Picture: Albert Santos
It’s ended up as one of Maz’s favourite rooms in the house.

“It caters easily to entertaining people and truly makes cooking more enjoyable with plenty of room to move around,” she says.

Bathroom bliss

If the kitchen was hard work, Maz and Jeff’s renovation of the home’s main bathroom was on a whole other level.

“The house was old and we knew it needed some work,” says Maz.

“Most aspects were functional but the bathroom was old and we discovered during the course of our renovation that the plumbing was not to standard. The shower waste was just running to the ground outside so we had all that soapy gunk just sitting on the ground or running into the downstairs walls. It was disgusting to say the least.”

Picture: Albert Santos
Their problems didn’t end there. The bathroom had only one small waste hole and the wall beams were rotting and needed to be replaced.

To save the money that they would need to spend fixing the plumbing, the couple took on all the plasterboard work, waterproofing and tiling themselves also installing the shelving, towel rails, mirror and the curtain rail.

“We definitely underestimated the difficulty in tiling with 600x600mm porcelain tiles, especially when we discovered that the walls were uneven,” says Maz.

Nevertheless the job was finished and the end product shows no signs of the difficulties the couple faced.

Words of wisdom

Like many first-time renovators, Maz and Jeff found the process time consuming but ultimately rewarding. Their advice for would-be renovators?

“Research, research, research,” says Maz. “It will build your knowledge and help you make wise decisions before and throughout the renovation process. There’s a lot of thought and weighing up that you should do before going ahead — it’s not for everyone and definitely not for the faint-hearted.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice, be open minded and be realistic with time frames and budget. Don’t forget to set aside a budget for the unforeseen circumstances too.”

Picture: Albert Santos
First published in Home, The Daily Telegraph 11 September 2015

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