Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Why renovating is like childbirth

I'm new to this but I get the distinct impression that renovating is like childbirth. So far, my limited experience of the process is the design phase - we've bought the house, got the architects and for the last year we've been tied up with plans, surveys, drawings and sketch up. Incidentally, it has been looking at sketch up (the software that architects use to show clients a mock up vision of their design dream come true) that made me think of the nervous visits to the hospital for ultrasound scans of my children when they were in utero. A sneak peek into our future.

Yes, we're pregnant with the possibility of a new design for our house. Unlike the process of human procreation (at least for the time being), there has been a lot of picking and choosing - our home, once renovated, will be a genetically modified version of the building that luck and fortune threw our way.

It's the missing link about how we will go about transforming the pictures on the screen into our new home reality that reminds me most about the aura of mysticism that surrounded childbirth. It turns out that just like with the physical delivery of a child from the womb, the world is made up of two kinds of people, those who have been through it and those who haven't. Wise older women look upon young mothers-to-be with a scarcely disguised air of self-satisfied smugness - the knowing look that the entry to motherhood is a leveller. It brings us all to our knees.

And so, with renovation too. Ask anyone who has done it and the hint of a passing cloud of darkness passes over their face (don't blink, you'll miss it) and they are reminded again of how pleased they are to have arrived (alive, with relationships intact) on the other side - living in the space they have created. They radiate smiles (of relief?) and self-satisfaction at their achievement. We expectant renovators look on in wonder, seeing only joy and mistaking the smiles as a sign that it was a positive experience and one they would do again because they loved it, stayed within budget and everything went exactly as planned - maybe they even finished early....maybe... though they're being coy about it.

I'm doing what any self respecting renovator-to-be does - I'm finding solace in the world of interior design porn that is published with exactly my fears and dreams in mind. (Like the mother-to-be and the bride-to-be, the renovator-to-be is the perfect marketing target.) I could make some serious savings on construction costs if I recycled the piles of Grand Designs, Dwell, House & Home, Elle Decoration, Living Etc, Bo Bedre, Mad & Bolig (because the Scandinavians do it best), Toronto Designlines (because I need to know the local suppliers) etc etc But it doesn't stop there - I'm buying books on the subject, as if by osmosis I can absorb the style advice of the design gods and store up anti-dotes to the pitfalls. Its basically a drip feed equivalent to 'What to Expect When You're Expecting'. A holy grail towards design and building enlightenment.

But I'm wondering if, much like childbirth, every renovation experience is unique. There is only so much one can learn from other builds. Grand Designs is compulsive viewing not least because we see behind the scenes how personalities can work together (or not), how problems can be solved (or not) and how dreams can be realised, which they thankfully are for the most part. However, I suspect that just as 'One born every minute' can never convey the truth about labour pains, TV renovations are of limited assistance in reality. 

I guess our story will be just that. A story. One of many. A story that belongs to this house. It'll be our renovation tale from which we will edit out the time(s) when I am brought to my knees but we will hopefully end with a triumphant delivery of a re-modelled home and a sense of achievement (and relief) at having survived.

Please forgive, in advance, any smugness.


  1. As someone who is in exactly the same position as you at much the same time as you (thank goodness though that it's got nothing to do with childbirth!!), I think you've hit the nail precisely on the head (s'cuse the pun). Well done Katherine - I'll be following your blog!