Renovating my Apartment

I always knew I would renovate my Garden’s apartment one day. The apartment had a classic 80’s setup – separate kitchen, weird nooks and cupboards, a bathtub with retrofitted shower, three different types of tiles, parquet flooring and old steel frame windows.

Yet it was so great staying there and almost every Airbnb guest gave me a 5-star rating. The location is perfect for exploring and staying right next door to Checkers (“the fridge”) made life very convenient. Unique privacy and a dedicated parking spot in the heart of Gardens add to this winning formula. The package was so great I eventually stopped Airbnb and moved back in. There’s something about cycling to work in two minutes that just made me happier than staying in Sea Point.

However, when I came across an apartment transformation on the Cemcrete blog I was inspired. Alexandra Singer had transformed an apartment like mine into a “modern, but edgy and personal sanctuary within the city”. Given the similarities between my flat and this one, I knew this was going to be my benchmark and having never done anything like this before I decided to contact her. After inviting Alexandra over and chatting vision, I ended up hiring her as my architect and project manager and in May ’17 we got going with “phase 1” – sharing Pinterest boards and drawing up plans.

Looking back at my early email conversations with Ally I can’t help but laugh at our early rough timelines, which went something like this:

  • JUNE: Design
  • JULY: Finalize design + put out tenders
  • AUGUST: Construction + sourcing
  • SEPTEMBER: Furnish, finish, occupation

This is funny because in August I would hit my first ever construction roadblock. According to the Palmhof Body Corporate, I was not allowed to move my DB board and I would not get approval to start. I was asked to modify my plans and leave it where it was. Moving the DB board was necessary though, since how can a kitchen be open plan with a wall separating it from the dining room. After discussions with the chairperson of the body corporate I was over it all and for a brief, hopeless moment it seemed as if the renovation was off. We had been defeated by an unreasonable clause in a document.

A screenshot of an email exchange with the EX Palmhof BC chairperson

But there was some fight left in me and I was more committed than ever to succeed. First I got two electricians to expose the DB board and draw up reports showing that it was feasible to move it without causing an outage. Any skilled electrician with a metal detector could do it easily! I was going to raise this issue at our Body Corporate AGM and hopefully get permission to start. However, our BC had much bigger issues and no one was really interested in my puny request. So I volunteered to become a trustee with the hopes of lobbying for a change in rules. Since being a trustee is not glamorous at all (the opposite actually – it’s unpaid work) I was accepted and even went on to be named chairperson in our first trustee’s meeting.

Having now inherited the chairperson role I made use of one of the few perks of the job and signed off my own renovation application.  On a side note, I was not the only owner frustrated with the DB board rule but this is a story for another time. This roadblock put me back a few months and instead of starting the build in August it would only start at the end of October. Obviously, this would set the completion date dangerously close to builders holiday around 15 December, but I was willing to risk it in the hope of finishing at least 80% and making it habitable. The risk was actually low, seeing as I could easily stay with my dad for a few months. But first, Garden Route road trip!

I got back from the Garden Route to find most of my apartment almost completely gutted. The demolition went according to plan – walls, tiled floors and cupboards had been removed. During this process, I was extremely impressed by the cleanliness of the building site. It was possible for me to access the site by myself after work each day to track progress.

Next up was plastering the walls and redoing plumbing and electrics. The plumbing had to support moving the toilet and replacing a bathtub with overhead shower for a walk in open shower. New aluminium frame windows were installed to replace the old steel frame ones that didn’t even close properly (first were wrong :/). False ceilings were installed in the kitchen, hallway, bathroom and living room to make the flat look more modern and solve a whole bunch of lighting issues. The geyser was replaced with a newer and smaller one which would take up less space. Concurrently, Alexandra was helping me make decision with regards to the interior – together we chose the colours of cupboards and counter tops, inside and outside tiles and the colours of the walls.

Things started to happen really fast now:

  • The bathroom and outside areas were tiled before the first layer of cemcrete was applied to the walls and cretecoat to the floors.
  • The cupboard people started working on the carcases for kitchen, bedroom and lounge covers. Once these were in place, worktops and sanitary ware could be installed.
  • The glass shower screen was mounted to prevent any splashes from the walk-in shower onto the bathroom floor.
  • Handles were mounted on doors and light switches.
  • The parquet flooring was sanded down and sealed, repeatedly.
  • A special custom wallpaper was installed in the spare bedroom.
  • New appliances were installed and cupboard doors hung – this step was less successful with some complications relating to my new dishwasher and washing machine.
  • The cretecoat floor was sanded down and sealed once more.
  • Blinds and curtains were hung and pillows and rugs and plants dropped off.

I have since moved back to my apartment and am loving it. It’s not 100% done yet since the holiday period and body corporate rules prevented us from working. However, it’s really comfortable! Also, some furniture will only arrive by the end of January. By then I should have all the niggles and glitches ironed out and will be ready for a photo shoot. Stay tuned by subscribing below 🙂

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