Renovation ‘rookies’ transform haunted house into a getaway home

A couple from Sydney with limited renovation experience have transformed an old house built in 1983 into a stylish, modern home – without breaking their budget.

Caragh Welford, 32, and Jordan Herrick, 31, bought the two-storey house in July 2019 and dedicated every weekend to the project for five months. 

The pair purchased the house in Jervis Bay, on the NSW South Coast, as a long-term investment property with the aim to turn it into an AirBnB or to use it as a holiday home in the summer.

‘The house was definitely “dated” and in its original state; it’s as if we had bought it the same day it was built because it had the same wallpaper, wooden trimmings and original carpet,’ Caragh told FEMAIL.

Jordan is a plumber by trade while Caragh is a marketing consultant, so the couple said they were ‘rookies to renovation’ but knew a lot of hard work would be involved.

Caragh said they fell in love with the house’s high ceilings, exposed beams and sense of ‘charm’, which is difficult to find in modern homes. 

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Caragh Welford (right) and Jordan Herrick (left) bought the two-storey house in July 2019 and said they dedicated every weekend to the project for five months

BEFORE: the 1983 house (pictured) was dated, old and still had its original carpet, wall trimmings and wallpaper

BEFORE: the 1983 house (pictured) was dated, old and still had its original carpet, wall trimmings and wallpaper 

AFTER: the couple chose to keep the original floor plan and modernise the design to 'bring it into 2020' by adding light, removing the carpet, painting the walls white and updating the staircase (pictured)

AFTER: the couple chose to keep the original floor plan and modernise the design to ‘bring it into 2020’ by adding light, removing the carpet, painting the walls white and updating the staircase (pictured)

The pair started the renovation process by brainstorming ideas, gathering inspiration from Pinterest and considering if any walls or parts of the roof needed to be reconfigured. 

The 37-year-old property was originally dark with exposed wooden panels, carpet and timber flooring and invited little amount of light inside.

After sharing photos online many people commented saying the house looked ‘haunted’ or ‘like Beetlejuice’s house’, but Caragh said it had a ‘sense of character’.

Despite the old style, the couple chose to keep the original floor plan and modernise the design to ‘bring it into 2020’ by adding light, removing the carpet, painting the walls white and updating the staircase.

‘I think that’s why it’s such a transformation because we have been able to take all the darkness away, but keep the original structure and lighten it up,’ she said. 

The 37-year-old property was originally dark with exposed wooden panels, carpet and timber flooring and invited little amount of light inside (pictured)

The 37-year-old property was originally dark with exposed wooden panels, carpet and timber flooring and invited little amount of light inside (pictured)

The couple chose to keep the original floor plan and modernise the design to 'bring it into 2020' by adding light, removing the carpet, painting the walls white and updating the staircase

The couple chose to keep the original floor plan and modernise the design to ‘bring it into 2020’ by adding light, removing the carpet, painting the walls white and updating the staircase

During this initial planning and demolition stage, the couple also considered lighting and whether any windows needed to be removed or added.

‘The house had a Styrofoam roof rather than gyprock, so we had to pull it all down,’ Caragh said.

‘We pulled up all the carpet, removed the wallpaper and any other areas we thought had to go – which was the first phase of the process.’

They also opted to keep certain features, such as the front door, combustion heater and wooden timber floorboards.

The couple didn’t spend much more than their budget of $30,000 for the whole renovation.  

Throughout the process the pair had help from licensed professionals including builders, electricians and carpenters, as well as friends and family. 

The pair started the renovation process by brainstorming ideas, gathering inspiration from Pinterest and considering if any walls or parts of the roof needed to be reconfigured

'We pulled up all the carpet, removed the wallpaper and any other areas we thought had to go,' Caragh said

The pair started the renovation process by brainstorming ideas, gathering inspiration from Pinterest and considering if any walls or parts of the roof needed to be reconfigured

They also chose to keep certain features, such as the front door, combustion heater and wooden timber floorboards

Throughout the process the couple had help from licensed professionals

They also chose to keep certain features, such as the front door, combustion heater and wooden timber floorboards (pictured)

The second phase of the renovation involved rebuilding what had been removed using new materials from Bunnings Warehouse. 

They rebuilt the walls and roof, sanded back the wooden floors and created a ‘floating staircase’. 

Caragh said once the ‘perfect shell for each room’ was made, they moved on to electrical work and painting.

‘The ceilings alone have between six to eight coats of paint on them and all the exposed beams and original timber flooring was sanded,’ she said. 

The second phase involved rebuilding what had been removed with new gyprock and materials

Caragh said once the 'perfect shell for each room' was made, then they moved on to electrical work and painting

The second phase involved rebuilding what had been removed with new gyprock and materials, including the roof, staircase and any sections of the walls

The second phase of the renovation involved rebuilding what had been removed using new materials from Bunnings Warehouse

Jordan and Caragh rebuilt the walls, roof, sanded back the wooden floors and created a 'floating staircase' (pictured)

Jordan and Caragh rebuilt the walls, roof, sanded back the wooden floors and created a ‘floating staircase’ (pictured right)

HOW DID THE COUPLE TRANSFORM THE OLD HOUSE?

Caragh and Jordan started the transformation by brainstorming ideas and considering what can be kept and what needed to be redone 

During this initial stage the couple also considered lighting and whether any windows needed to be removed or added

They removed certain walls, ripped up the carpet, removed the old wallpaper and sanded back the timber floor  

The couple had assistance from licensed professionals including builders, electricians and carpenters, as well as friends and family

The second phase involved rebuilding what had been removed with new gyprock and materials – including the roof, staircase and any sections of the walls.

Caragh said once the ‘perfect shell for each room’ was made, they then moved on to electrical work and painting

The couple renovated the whole two-story house including the roof, floor and walls 

Throughout the renovation they had to sleep on the floor as the house didn’t have any furniture 

Soon after completing the renovation in December 2019 the house was used as an AirBnB and is a luxurious oasis home to escape to for a weekend 

Caragh said the ‘most challenging aspect’ of the renovation was updating the ceiling and sleeping on the floor every weekend as they had no furniture in the house.

‘When we first got the keys it was winter and the house had no insulation, so sleeping on the floor during that period was definitely hard because we were basically camping inside the house,’ she explained.

When working on the ceiling timber beams, Caragh said this was very challenging as they were working against gravity and the high beams were angled differently.

‘Each one was sanded back, primed then painted, which was really intricate work because a lot of the beams are close together,’ she said.

Despite the difficulty, the beams are now the ‘best feature of the house’.   

Caragh said the 'most challenging aspect' of the renovation was updating the ceiling and sleeping on the floor every weekend as they had no furniture in the house

Caragh said the ‘most challenging aspect’ of the renovation was updating the ceiling and sleeping on the floor every weekend as they had no furniture in the house

While the renovation took a lot of work to complete, the couple considered it to be a fun hobby or adventure rather than 'work'

While the renovation took a lot of work to complete, the couple considered it to be a fun hobby or adventure rather than ‘work’

While the renovation took a lot of work to complete, the couple considered it to be a fun hobby and adventure rather than ‘work’.  

Throughout the project Caragh shared images on Instagram and said she felt comforted knowing others were also undergoing similar renovations with limited knowledge or experience. 

Earlier this year she also posted videos demonstrating the amazing transformation to popular platform TikTok, and one video has exceeded 1.1 million views. 

Earlier this year she also posted videos demonstrating the amazing transformation to popular platform TikTok, and one video has exceeded one million views

Earlier this year she also posted videos demonstrating the amazing transformation to popular platform TikTok, and one video has exceeded one million views

Soon after completing the renovation in December 2019 the house was used as an AirBnB and is a luxurious oasis home to escape to for a weekend

Soon after completing the renovation in December 2019 the house was used as an AirBnB and is a luxurious oasis home to escape to for a weekend

When asked what advice she would give to others, Caragh said it’s important to have a ‘realistic approach’ to the plan as it will make the process a lot easier. 

She said to consider the aspects of the house you wish to keep and have a realistic ‘wish list’ of what you would like to incorporate. 

Soon after completing the renovation in December 2019 the house was used as an AirBnB and is a luxurious oasis home to escape to for a weekend.

TIPS WHEN RENOVATING A HOUSE  

Plan and brainstorm ideas by using Pinterest and Instagram  

Think about what can remain and what needs to be changed 

Avoid changing the plumbing if possible to save money 

Use light and bright colours, as dark colours have a tendency to stand out and make an area appear smaller   

Expect the original plan to change towards the end of the design process

Use large windows and doors glass doors to invite light in  

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