While the apartment was a far cry from perfect — with its dim lighting, strange reclaimed boiler room with very low ceiling and a whole lot of mess, for Michael Casten, it was well worth the gamble.
Situated in the desirable Sydney location of Elizabeth Bay, Michael purchased it for $500,000 in July 2014. A year later he sold it for a figure in the high $600,000s, not a bad effort considering he spent just $40,000 on the reno. “I did most of the work myself to keep costs down,” explains Michael. “Though I did have a lot of help from one of my best mates who also happens to be my neighbour!”
Tackling one room at a time (Block style!), some were simple, like repainting the bedroom and retiling the kitchen and bathroom, whilst others, like the boiler room and stairs, were much more extensive. “My proudest accomplishment was building the stairs and bookcase which was a two month labour of love. As there’s a structural beam running the width of the living room, originally when you walked up the stairs you would need to duck underneath it! So I pushed the stairs back behind the beam to avoid this. I then installed two new walls in the old boiler room/dining room and the black bi-fold doors that can be used to close off the room should you want to house guests. The tiles were removed and replaced by polished concrete. I then ripped down the false ceiling to expose the concrete ceiling and ran copper pipes to the light fitting to maximise the head height.”
Once his least favourite space, the old boiler room come dining room now house two new rooms, one a walk in wardrobe/storage space and the other a dining room with bifold doors. “I love having a separate dining room. It’s certainly my favourite space as it’s such a luxury to have in inner city apartments.”
Mixing a lot of off the shelf Bunnings and Ikea hardware with statement pieces to try to keep costs down, such as the budget subway tiles mixed with Carrara marble benchtops, one place Michael did decide to spend big on was the lights. “Moving all the lighting from track lights on the wall to the ceiling totally removed the dim, depressing mood of the place. It’s made the biggest difference to the home.”
With the property marking Michael’s third reno — he splits his time between working as a medical advisor, running his side project A.M. Homewares and renovating — he wouldn’t hesitate to do it all over again! “The space you live in has such a big impact on your mood so if you don’t like something, change it. Just remember to keep track of the budget! I had an excel document permanently open on my laptop tracking every cent.”