It was love and first sight when Patrick and Ruby Shields inspected their Mount Evelyn home five years ago. The couple felt crowded in their current St Kilda rental, so the moment they saw the house’s secluded and tranquil treetop views, they knew it was ‘the one’.
‘Mind you, the rest of the house was in a disarray,’ Patrick says in the latest episode of TDF Talks. The house was a deceased estate and was already halfway through a renovation at the time. It featured ‘dingy hallway’, ‘a really terrible 2000s reno in the living area,’ while downstairs was ‘literally just building wrap and a frame’.
The initial plan was to flip the house and move on, but once they moved in, they realised it was going to be a much bigger project than they anticipated. Ruby and Pat were both working full-time, and renovating the house themselves on the weekends and evenings — sometimes on the tools until 1am.
It quickly became a shared passion project, and a space to test out Ruby’s dream designs and Patrick’s carpentry skills. They’ve been working on the property ever since, and have updated almost every surface of the home!
Hear the full story behind this five-year renovation in our podcast, and find some of the highlights below.
They saved money by reusing existing materials
Ruby and Pat made the most of the home’s existing materials. They kept some of the cabinetry carcasses in the kitchen, but put new drawer fronts on most of them, and used the corten steel they found in the shed to create new cladding. And every piece of stone and granite they’ve incorporated into the bathrooms and benchtops also came from a ‘stack’ they found in the shed!
Stick with your trades from the start
Most of the house has been build by Ruby and Pat alone, but along they way they’ve also found a few key tradespeople, including a ‘wonderful’ electrician and plumbers. ‘That is a really big tip, not to change electricians, especially if you’re doing it over such a long period of time,’ Ruby explains. It meant that even as their design and ideas evolved, they could count on their electrician to recall where he’d run the lines when they wanted to add a new wall light or pendant.
Look to the experts for some DIY advice
Today, Pat is a qualified carpenter and Ruby is a working interior designer, but the couple admit they were pretty naive when they started out. The couple did all the plastering, tiling, and painting themselves with almost no prior experience! They credit a lot of what they learnt to simply asking other tradespeople from Pat’s work for some tips and tricks — including simple recommendations like what glue to use.
How Ruby styled the home on a budget
One of the biggest challenges was turning the couple’s big ideas into reality, on a limited budget. ‘I go through all my design books, and I pick out the little features in them before working how how can I do that with my own things, and what I need to buy’ Ruby explains. She says a lot of the mid-century furniture pieces in their home have come from spending hours on Facebook Marketplace, and she also found their Italian travertine coffee table for free, in hard rubbish! This resourceful approach allowed her to splurge and purchase selected dream pieces brand-new (like the &Tradition Flowerpot Lamp), while their vintage Featherstone sofa was Gumtree score.
Beware the hardships of a live-in renovation
If you can avoid it, Pat suggests you don’t live in the home while you renovate. ‘It’ll make the project go so much quicker, and you can plan things out better and your stuff doesn’t get dusty. You’re not consistently moving stuff and setting aside time to do the build consistently — it is way more productive,’ Pat says.
The couple have become a bit ‘addicted’ to changing and re-designing their space, and agree it’s worthwhile making a strong plan and stricter budget. But ultimately Ruby’s advice is just to embrace the process, and ‘be bold’!