A renovation of a 1940s Melbourne home | Undercover Architect Member Review

Abbey, together with her husband, is doing a renovation of a 1940s Melbourne home.

Listen as Abbey shares more about her renovation journey, her initial fear of stuffing up their renovation that led her to Undercover Architect, and how she now feels she has more control over her renovation project.

My name is Abbey. I live in Melbourne, Victoria and we bought a house almost about five years ago. It’s a very old house, a 1940’s house. It needs a lot, a lot of work, hence, why I did the Undercover Architect course.

Definitely doing the course has helped accelerate the process and the things that I’ve learnt along the way, but to begin with, it needed a lot of work. We’ve changed a lot of things and we’re putting a lot of the original features back into the house. Because it was kind of in the 80s, 90s, someone stripped a lot of the original features out, and put pink walls in and concrete cladding on and various things that do not suit the year of the house at all.

What inspired you to take on this project?

Well, I fell in love with the house, as soon as I saw it. I think I saw the potential and I just completely fell in love with it. I was very naive going into it by buying this house that needed a lot of work and being someone that’s not in the industry. My husband, if he had his way, I think he would have torn the house down. But I’m a real, yeah, I just love keeping the character of old homes.

And when we bought the house I think when everyone saw it, they thought, “Oh my god, they’ve lost their minds!.” But slowly by slowly, you can see it, I feel like we’re reinvigorating the house, I guess. There’s been a lot of challenges along the way. And there’s still a lot of challenges along the way.

What concerns did you have before you started?

I think just the whole process and I had a big worry about stuffing it up and being someone that doesn’t work in the construction industry whatsoever, and also being a stereotype, but it’s very true being a woman as well, having tradesmen over for various things and just being spoken down to or my husband wasn’t around, they’d expect to speak to him and just various things.

And I would always be curious if I got a quote, given to me, because they think they can charge me whatever they can charge me.

So I think the real challenge is, just came from knowing, getting the process right, really, and knowing what to ask for and what is what’s reasonable to ask for, I guess, and demanding better and having the confidence to ask for it too. Not shying away and kind of apologising for asking questions.

Did you have any concerns about time or money?

Yeah definitely. I didn’t think it would take us five years. I thought within a year or two we would have started renovating.

I definitely didn’t think it would take five years but a term that Amelia uses called procrasti-planning. I think I’ve definitely done a lot of that. A lot of you know, Pinterest and a lot of like looking at all the interiors, I guess. And just all that fluffy stuff. Yeah, I definitely didn’t think it would take as long as it has.

But now, I finally feel like we’re actually moving in the right direction on the path to have this house renovated and finished.

How did you first discover Undercover Architect?

It was actually an ad that kept popping up on social media and I just kept, to be honest, kept ignoring and it just kept popping up. And then I don’t know what compelled me to, but I just finally clicked on it and, and then I came across her podcast, and the podcast has been absolutely invaluable. Absolutely invaluable.

I discovered the podcast and slowly, slowly I’ve been working through, I’ve gone through every season, episode by episode. I’ve gone back and listened to some of the episodes. And even things. like when I was painting our house, you know, listening to the episodes as I go, and I guess it gives me motivation.

At times, I’ve also felt very overwhelmed listening to some of the episodes, to realise just how much I didn’t know. But, yeah, all the information is really invaluable.

What have you learned from the Undercover Architect courses?

Well, I think because we were just going to builders to ask them what they thought it would cost to build, or you know, showing them plans or what, you know, of what we thought we wanted, or what it was.

It wasn’t until I came across this course, I realised that, just how much is actually involved in renovating a house and how, like, what the actual process is to it.

And things such as orientation. It never occurred to me that that’s such a big thing when you’re renovating your house. I just, I had looked at it as, I guess, it’s a bit of a tick box like this is the type of house that we want and this is how many rooms and … but I hadn’t actually given thought to the land and the location and and all those things and what every, every tradesperson and every expert that needs to be involved and what their roles were.

I think I was quite blind, in just going along with what either builders told me or what our building designer told me, and not actually really informing myself.

So now that I feel like I’m informed, I’ve really, I’ve taken much more control over the process and actually getting things done.

Did you consider joining any other course out there?

No, there weren’t any other courses.

And I think what was so unique about the Undercover Architect, I’ll go back to the podcast, was the fact that the information was just so readily available. I think I’d felt there was a bit of secrecy in the industry that they wouldn’t give you the information unless you signed on with them.

Whether it was like a bathroom company, or whoever it might be, everyone felt like everyone was just, you know, fair enough. They held the information quite close to their chest, unless you put money forward, which was the thing about not knowing, like if we put this money forward is it going to be money we’re just going to lose.

Whereas I felt like with a podcast that actually got me on the right track to thinking about the process and thinking about what I really want for a house.

What made you decide to join the Undercover Architect online courses?

I decided to do the paid courses after I listened to the podcast. With all the information on the podcasts, I had decided it was kind of like a no brainer, I guess, to then to do the course. And all the information that’s there for you.

And because like, you can go back in your own time or go over it again, or there’s checklists and various things, but it was after listening to the podcast, that I decided to sign up for the course.

Which courses did you decide to take and how did they benefit you?

Yes, I’ve done the How to Get It Right course (now HOME Method) and the Interior Design 101 course. Yeah, and then on top of that, I also opted to pay to have like a one on one consult with Amelia, which has been, yeah, incredible, which was incredible.

What are you doing differently because of this Undercover Architect course?

Everything. Everything! 

The way that I interact with my building designer and the questions that I ask him now, and I guess the standard that I hold him to and the builders that we interview. And when they explain things to me, I don’t just take their word for it.

I feel like I’ve now, I’m not pretending I’m an expert, or, you know, I’m not a builder, but I just feel like the collaboration there between the builders, or whoever the professionals might be, is much more prominent, because I feel informed. I don’t just feel like they’re, they’re kind of shuttling me through the process. I feel like I’ve got more control over our renovation and how it’s going to end up.

How have you benefited from doing Undercover Architect’s courses?

Confidence and it’s just so silly, but I think I’ve said it a few times, but it’s just really giving me the confidence and the knowledge.

And even talking to my husband the other day, about the next steps and, and he actually seemed quite impressed. He’s like, ‘oh, whoa’, just be able to articulate it to people now and to explain what I’ve learned has been really invaluable.

Did the Undercover Architect course save you drama + stress?

Yes, yes. It definitely has. It definitely has. Even with quoting I, yeah, learning that, you know, ideally, I’d like a fixed price contract. I’m not just kind of going blindly into being told that this is what this is going to cost, that’s what that’s probably going to cost and then having variations along the way.

Or not understanding the orientation of my house properly and then when it’s at the point of construction, walking around and realising “Oh god, this layout is actually not going to work.”

And also realising the key steps involved getting to construction, and if they’re done correctly, and they’re not rushed, then hopefully, that will be a whole lot less stressful process. And construction is such a small part of it, it’s all the pre planning, that’s the thing that I’ve definitely learned to be patient and not just rush to the construction side of things.

What would you say to others thinking of joining this Undercover Architect course?

I would say just do it. Just do it. We all procrastinate on things, I think for various reasons, and I did for a while and it kept popping up on my social media.

But it has been one of the best things I’ve done. It has, the course has paid for itself. The knowledge I have learnt has paid for itself. And Amelia is very kind and generous in the giving of her knowledge and on her website, there’s various blogs and things but I would say just to do it, it’s not something you’ll regret.

Just her kindness, as I said I did a one on one Zoom or Skype, I think it was an interview with her and yeah, I mean, I was overwhelmed at the end. But I think in a good way.

She’d given me so many things to think about, she’s pretty honest in her advice, but she was, also, you could tell she genuinely cares. It’s not just courses that she’s put online and that’s the end of it.

She genuinely, I got the impression, she genuinely wants people that have done her courses to succeed, and empower as many people as possible with the things with you know, the insider knowledge I guess from the industry.

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