Vision and patience make great kitchen

By Nelson Lebo

Last week I wrote about transforming a tired, old kitchen cabinet into a fresh, new kitchen cabinet.

The key elements were: 1) vision; 2) patience; 3) resourcefulness. In many ways, these are the same elements required when taking on a major home renovation.

If you've ever seen the British television programme Grand Designs you will know that those couples who lack a clear vision and/or are impatient usually exhibit the most stress. While this makes brilliant entertainment, it does not make for a good renovation process.

All renovations require vision and patience, but not all renovations require resourcefulness.

Under one scenario, you could hire an architect who helps you with the vision and a builder who asks you to be patient. The builder asks you to be patient because renovations almost invariably take longer and cost more than anticipated.

This approach to renovation does not necessarily require resourcefulness because most architects and builders will assume they are working with all new, off the shelf products, materials, and accessories.

In most cases, if you want to do something out of the ordinary, it will end up costing more in labour due to the extra time required. There is nothing wrong with this scenario, and it can result in beautiful, functional living spaces.

By contrast, an eco-thrifty renovation (ETR) involves vision and patience, but also requires resourcefulness. In many cases, the resourcefulness involved in ETR actually increases the level of vision and patience required. An example of this would be our $2500 kitchen that took more than a year and a half to complete. Aside from some structural elements required by the building code, nearly everything else is second-hand. Despite that (maybe because of it) we now have one of the cosiest, most comfortable kitchens I've ever been in.

Alongside the hanging cabinets I wrote about last week, other reused components include: the kitchen bench; the cabinet under the bench; the electric oven; butcher block; Welsh cupboard; Shacklock 501 and the bricks in the surround; light fixtures; pelmets; and, it may be argued, the Tasmanian oak floor. The floor, while not technically made from reused or second-hand (ie, previously used for another purpose) materials, is made from off-cuts and B-grade timber that I bought on Trade Me from a door manufacturer in Wanganui. The floor - which will be the topic of next week's column - is another great example of resourcefulness, vision, patience ... blood, sweat, and tears. So make sure to tune in next week.

Because we reused second-hand components in the kitchen, and I did most of the work myself, the bulk of the $2500 went to plumbers. Besides that, I hired one friend to do the gib-stopping and another to do the brick-laying.

Other expenses include the Shacklock 501 ($250 on Trade Me) and the refrigerator ($300), which we purchased new for two reasons: 1) we had recently been through a bad experience with a second-hand washer; and, 2) most second-hand refrigerators have low Energy Star ratings. After an electric hot water heater, a refrigerator is likely to be the largest energy user in the average home.

Part of our strategy for low power bills is to use an under-the-bench fridge with a high Energy Star rating. It uses about of the power of a standard full-size fridge. Plus, all of the squatting down to get a cold beer has given me buns-of-steel. Look for my workout video on YouTube!

Nelson Lebo is co-founder of the ECO School with his wife, Dani. - 022 635 0868 - 06 344 5013. They have extensively renovated an old villa at Castlecliff with green principles and sustainability in mind.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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