A North Belfast woman who landed her dream role as an interior designer after renovating her home has shown the impressive transformation.
Sinead Garvey, 36, lives with her husband John Cullen and their two dogs, with the pair taking on their first project over ten years ago.
They bought a repossessed property and gave it a face lift to rent out back in 2011.
They have now completely transformed their own home – with Sinead now having her own customers and clients due to her eye for interior design.
Sinead told Be: “We bought the house back in 2017. It appeared for sale online, we were both living in London at the time but were making the move back home.
“I only saw a picture of the outside. John flew home to view the property and we decided to buy it without me seeing it in person, so it was a very nerve-wrecking time for John prior to me seeing it.
“It had three bedrooms, one bathroom and a very small kitchen.
“We’ve made it three bedrooms, three bathrooms, two reception rooms and extended the back of the property for a large open plan kitchen and new utility room.”
The 36-year-old interiors lover has told us all about the property transformation.
Why did you decide to renew?
We bought the house knowing it was in need of major refurbishment.
I had fallen in love with the original features of the home. It is Artdeco period and we knew we could restore it to its former glory.
The house had damp and wouldn’t really have been habitable to move into. We redone the electrics, plumbing, windows, doors, floors, garden, driveway… pretty much everything.
When did you start and finish the process?
We started back in 2017 with a planning application for our rear extension. John did the drawings and plans and took care of all that.
I don’t think we will ever really be finished. Right now we are painting the third room for the third time. We are changing it from a make up room to a home office, but I’ll tell you about that later.
What work did you do yourself and was it daunting?
We did everything we could ourselves with the exception of the plumbing and electrical work. We hadn’t really planned on doing as much ourselves, but we realized when getting quotes that we hadn’t the budget for it and that there are a lot of people out there overcharging as the construction industry is just so so busy.
It wasn’t really daunting initially. John’s degree is in construction, engineering and management and he started out as a site engineer which gave him sound knowledge of building technology. He then progressed into site management and recently project management. However, physically doing the work was a first for him but I trusted him fully.
I have learned so much in the process and really challenged myself in ways I didn’t know I could.
What are your favorite rooms?
Both of us agree the kitchen is our favorite room. We love the light and space it allows us and being able to bring the home right up to date with modern appliances allows us to cook and entertain with family and friends.
What have the hardest parts of renovating been?
The hardest part was the financial side of things. It’s very difficult to borrow money to renew. We had our own savings but that only allowed us to do so much at a time.
Another hard part is giving up so much spare time and every period of annual leave was taken up working at the house.
Doing a live-in renovation will also involve a lot of blood, sweat and some tears too when the tiredness takes over.
What are your tips for others thinking of doing a renovation?
Try and get the money in line beforehand. Definitely price around and be prepared to do whatever you can yourself.
There are also thousands of decisions to be made at every step of the way.
Design wise, I would always suggest staying true to the property’s history and celebrating it with restoring original features and adding modern moveable pieces that you can restyle over the years. Price around for all home items.
How would you describe the vibe of your home?
Our home is Artdeco with modern touches. It feels relaxing with mostly neutral tones on walls. Our vibe is welcoming with a touch of glamor in each room.
Do you have any money saving tips for those transforming a property?
Shop around and never ever only get one quote. Make sure everything is written down when you get a quote. The sad reality of the world is people will try and charge more than necessary.
John didn’t tell people who came to price work that he was a project manager in construction initially and some of the things that companies were trying to tell him needed done and the prices were just not true.
One example was a £900 quote for the roof of the small side extension. It needed fancy plywood, fancy felt etc and by the time John got off the phone with the roofer he was down to £300. John eventually roofed it himself… he reckoned £250 was plenty to get the job done.
Is it now your dream home?
We had never done anything as extensive as this was. When the 70-year-old wallpaper came off, we knew we had a big job ahead of us.
Our home has turned out better than we could ever have expected. We are very fortunate to have had the opportunity to do it, however John and I know this isn’t our forever home.
We would love to do a self-build next, ideally beside the sea but for now we love our home and its location.
Explain your love for interiors!
During the renovation I decided to set up an Instagram account (@lifeoverthehedge) for the build – to be able to chart our progress and to keep friends and family up to date and to help explain why I didn’t see them as often…
Through the Instagram account I’ve met so many great people.
I also met Outhaus NI, an interiors company from Portadown. I bought as much as I could from the two owners Neil and Thomas. They saw the house in a magazine and thought I had a good eye. Amazingly, they took a chance on me and offered me an interior design consultant role with their company.
Interior design is something I have always been passionate about, in fact it’s the only thing I’ve ever felt would be my dream job. However, I thought that door was closed for me. I was working as a regional manager for a large beauty company and thought that ship had sailed.
I just can’t believe that through a house renovation and a social media page, my dreams are coming true. I’ve recently reduced my hours to part time in order to pursue my passion.
I now have my own customers and clients, and remember I was telling you about the third room becoming an office? Yep that’s my new interior design office, pinch me.
Have a look at Sinead and John’s impressive renovation in our gallery below!