Photographing gorgeous homes up and down the east coast for his book Sandcastles, inspired interior stylist Tim Neve to renovate his own beachside getaway – and he managed to do it in just four weeks!
“At times it really was reno-by-YouTube,” said Tim who rolled up his sleeves and got to work transforming the two-bedroom red brick villa into a boutique holiday rental in the coastal town of Forster, NSW. “Overall, I would consider this a cosmetic renovation as I didn’t move any internal walls. However, I went gung-ho and ripped out the old kitchen within the first hour of keys being handed over on settlement day!”
The uninspiring green and white kitchen was brought back to life with a spectacular Carrara marble benchtop, pastel blue cabinetry in Laminex ‘Fresh Spring’ and his own mermania tiles. “The kitchen is so simple, fresh, modern and inviting,” said Tim of what’s now his favourite room in the villa. “The most cost-effective option turned out to be having the kitchen units custom made and constructed in my hometown of Newcastle, and then shipped up to their final destination. The hard work was done, so all I needed to do was position each unit, level the legs and attach the benchtops.”
Bare brick walls throughout the villa were painted in Dulux Timeless Grey, and feature walls in wood paneling and wallpaper from Tim’s Anchorage collection with Sparkk Studio added, to break up the block look. “I’m not usually a fan of feature walls but in this case, it meant one less bare brick wall to deal with!” joked Tim.
“Colour and paint are always my biggest styling weapons. The villa is positioned to get sunlight most times of the day, on both sides – so it always feels light-filled. As such, I took a risk on a deeper wall colour. White furniture pieces, and painting out the dark door frames and doors in gloss white, contrast amazingly with this hue too.
“I also got the sparkie to replace the traditional batten lights in the ceiling with down lights in each room – a slightly higher expense, but instantly it modernised the property – taking it into the new century.”
Existing floor-to-ceiling storage was also cleverly disguised using wallpaper and paint. “The living area doors are covered with a wallpaper that looks like rustic grey wood – it has now become a talking point instead. In the bedroom, I opted to paint out the cupboards in the same colour as the walls throughout the villa, so they disappear into the background instead. For both, a simple change of handles to large-scale brushed steel ones, made them look like a new creation.”
Plantation shutters in the lounge room were another big expense but according to Tim they look a “million bucks” and were essential to create the feeling of a beachside haven – a theme that also plays out in the bedrooms. “In both bedrooms, I wanted to create a relaxing oasis – one for adults, and more of a wonderland for children. I achieved this with layers of mismatched linen in tactile fabrics, and cool tones. In fact, the first thing I bought when I had found out I got the property wasn’t the practical renovation items – but all the bed linens! They kind of set the tone for the entire look.
“The main bedroom is massive, so I was actually buying additional furniture like an occasional chair, and additional storage to fill the space. The furniture throughout mixes budget buys (vintage pieces with Fantastic Furniture for example) but I like to think the overall effect is far from budget looking.”
In the bathroom, a few low cost upgrades like new tapware and tiling over the existing floor tiles, completely transformed the space. “Removing the old shower screen and replacing it with an off-the-shelf glass panel was another smart choice. For the shower walls, I used waterproof sheeting that comes in a gloss Carrara marble look – so easy to clean, and didn’t have to bother about cut tiles. All of these items for the shower were a couple of hundred dollars each,” said Tim.
The renovation added an estimated $100,000 to the value of the property and has dramatically increased the villa’s rental return, much to Tim’s delight. “As a run-down rental it was lucky to bring in $200 a week, but as renovated boutique holiday accommodation I can ask around $2,000 a week in the high season – that’s a ten-fold increase!”
A relief, considering the renovation – at times – proved incredibly challenging for Tim who set a strict four-week deadline, managed all the trades (many of whom fell ill during the build) and lived on site. “About two thirds of the way through the process, I had a meltdown. I had been working so hard, around the clock, for weeks – but the end just didn’t seem to be in sight. However, something happened after that day – I must have turned a corner emotionally and found new energy, because after that, everything seemed like fast-forward and suddenly all came together perfectly. So, hang in there!”
Needless to say, Tim has now well and truly caught the reno bug, and after successfully completing the overhaul has this advice: “Manage the settlement period wisely. I knew this wasn’t the six weeks to kick back and relax! Instead, I ordered and paid deposits for all my furniture, and started stocking up on the materials and tools I needed. I tried to get three quotes for my trades and custom-made items during this time, but I can tell you now – contact three and you’ll be lucky to get one formal response. I considered if they had done that, they deserved being considered for the job.”
He admits he was was scared about buying into a strata property. “I had so many changes I wanted to make that actually needed everyone’s approval, I went into the first meeting with pages of requests, thinking they would shoot them all down – things like changing the screen doors from the retro 70’s grid style, to a modern security grill. In the end, they not only approved everything I wanted to do, but under strata some things – like the doors – were paid for!
“Another note on strata I didn’t realise — they may have different hours when you are allowed to make construction noise – reduced compared to normal residential allowed hours, so I worked out I was missing out on at least three hours of productivity a day, compared to if I was renovating a normal home.”
‘Benalta’ Holiday Villa Forster by stylist Tim Neve is available as a holiday rental – for weekends away or full vacations. Click here to book through Stayz. If you have a styling enquiry, contact Tim here.