In pics: Catherine Jenkins' renovation
In 1925, Mr and Mrs Jones moved into a handsome, newly-finished three-bedroomed, weatherboard home in Box Hill North, Melbourne. The proud couple lived in the family home for forty years, raising their four children until 1965, when the house was sold.
"Then, one Tuesday in 2005 I came home to a message on my machine from my mother saying the old house was up for auction the next Saturday," said Catherine Jenkins, whose mother was one of the four children reared there.
But times change and the once handsome home was in a shocking state of disrepair. Since its sale in 1965 the house had been rented out and was barely liveable said Jenkins. "The agent had been unable to tenant it because its condition was so poor. Anyone but me would have bulldozed it".
But Catherine Jenkins did not bulldoze it. She bought the decrepit abode after it passed in at auction and moved in whilst she renovated, a process that would take her the better part of three years.
Jenkins bought the home in 2005 for $431,500. Five years later, in 2010 following a $200,000 renovation she sold for $980,000.
Jenkins, a teacher at the time of purchase admits that renovating as a single woman was a tough job at the end of a working day. But it also provided her with a sense of therapy and escape. "There were some days when I couldn’t wait to get home and get into it. Steaming off the wallpaper was particularly therapeutic," she recalls.
Aside from simple alterations to previous homes such as flooring and kitchens, Jenkins had limited knowledge about renovating, but she says she knew what she wanted. As a child she had watched her parents renovate and extend their family home in Glen Iris.
"I wanted to modernise and improve the home but most of all I wanted to renovate to capture and preserve the true style of the era," she said.
The renovation process was slow but thorough. Jenkins did as much as she could herself to save on costs, even buying a kitchen on eBay that she dismantled, put in a truck and drove home to re-assemble. "I’m up for that kind of thing," she said.
But perhaps her best foraging prizes were the two small vintage windows used either side of the cooktop in the new kitchen which she found on a nature strip.
Despite her labour, such a large job did require a few carefully vetted specialists including open fireplace experts, bricklayers, stonemasons and plumbers.
"I've never had a lot of trouble with tradesmen," said Jenkins, "because I vet them well and tell them exactly want I want. We discuss the the critical path. You really have to be organised from the moment you engage them and the number one rule is don’t waste time. If they show they can’t deliver if they’re late at first meeting that's the way they’ll be throughout," she said.
That strategy worked most of time, "but there was a plumber who burnt down the kitchen. I’d have to say that was a low point," she adds. Fortunately it was the old kitchen, it was well insured and Jenkins was home at the time.
"The high point was having mum and her brother and sister come over – they all grew up there so you can imagine how that felt, to come home". The showing of the finished home was especially poignant since one of the other brothers had died. "It was nice to show them the floorboard, found under layers of lino and newspaper, in which he had carved his name," recalls Jenkins.
Given the family's history with the home and the time and effort Jenkins invested in the renovation, the question of whether to sell was a tough one. "In the end I decided to sell for practical reasons but I wanted more than anything for the home to go to people who would love it. Fortunately it did," said Jenkins.
Catherine Jenkins is currently working on a second renovation near Ballarat. "I might sell, and I might not. I said with the last one they’d have to take me out in a box but here I am. I'm up for it a second time so who knows about a third!" she said.