Buying with her best friend was Makeda’s right move
Makeda and her best friend Steph weren’t spooked by the prospect of becoming first-time buyers, despite exchanging on Halloween. Buying their own two-bedroom flat together was a huge leap of faith into the world of home ownership and their subsequent renovation project was punctuated with life lessons that all property novices should take note of. This is Makeda’s story.
It all began in 2015, when the pair bought a 1920s tenement in Leyton for £195,000. Buying together meant they could pool their small salaries for a mortgage, but from the outset they knew they couldn’t be fussy about the location.
Makeda, who met Steph while working in fashion events, said: “We approached the search like a job hunt, looking at ten places in one month. I found this flat on Rightmove and thought it sounded too good to be true – just five minutes from our previous home in Clapton, when we thought we’d have to move much further out. When we arrived, we thought it would be a write-off, but when we walked in, we knew it was the one, even if it would need a lot of love to renovate it. The following Monday, we made an offer and it all started from there.
“From the beginning, we were on the same page about how we wanted it to be, tearing everything out in the first week and starting from scratch. This was possibly a little ambitious as it meant we couldn’t move in for almost three months; at one stage we didn’t have access to a toilet, so had to buy tea and cakes to use the one in the café downstairs!”
Makeda explained how their moving in date was repeatedly pushed back after they, perhaps naively, underestimated the nuances involved with finding the right workmen to do the various jobs.
One of the early, big decisions the two friends made was choosing to restore the floors. They sanded the original boards in bedrooms and living room, stripped almost 100 years of cement off the red terracotta tiles in the kitchen, and painted the concrete floor in the hallway a light shade of grey.
“We didn’t expect that finding the right people would be so difficult or that the wrong people would delay things quite as much as they did,” Makeda added.
“The renovation wasn’t easy. We were complete novices and encountered some horrors along the way – workmen ignoring us regularly, opting to take bigger jobs, and a terrible plumber who did such a bad job in our bathroom that we had to have the pipework completely redone – it turns out he’d used the completely wrong joints so none of the pipes were connected.”
The renovation began to cost more than they’d hoped for, so they started a spreadsheet to manage things (enlisting a second plumber and deciding to restore the floors were unexpected costs) as well as roping in family favours.
Makeda’s dad, a cabinet builder by trade, created the kitchen to their exact specifications largely using offcuts from his workshop in Huddersfield. Steph’s parents also tiled the bathroom, while Makeda’s mum handled the soft furnishings.
Makeda said: “It was a great reminder of how beneficial it is to ask friends and family for help when taking on a big project like this.” The pair were also frugal when it came to making the flat feel like home.
“eBay and vintage markets became our best friends. Among other things, we sourced brass art deco taps, a farmhouse sink, a sweet ‘cabinet of curiosity’ for the bathroom (filled with nonsense trinkets) and an old-school desk to sit our bathroom sink on,” she continued.
All the teak furniture is G Plan and ercol from eBay; the armchair in the living room was upholstered by my mum. We purchased the sofa in the depths of the renovation, on a cold Sunday in January when we’d popped into town for some much-needed motivation and inspiration.
“Way over budget, it wasn’t our most sensible decision, but it was just the upper we needed! It’s Italian velvet and was the Pantone colour of the year 2015, which we didn’t know when we bought it. Art leans against the walls in the hallway and living room – we meant to put it up but grew to like it on the floor, and I change it around every so often.”
Makeda says that, because of the size of the flat, she kept to a simple colour palette, pairing rooms. The bedrooms and the toilet are dark (Farrow & Ball Hague Blue and Studio Green) and the other rooms are light, with accent colours borrowed from the darker rooms – the cupboards in the kitchen are Studio Green, for example.
Amongst the chaos of it all, Makeda revealed that she has learnt valuable lessons that she may not have experienced had she not bought with someone else. She added: “Building a home is a journey – there’s always something to do, improve or fix.
Buying with anyone should not be taken lightly and even though we had lived together we still had our tricky moments along the way. But it has worked out really well, mostly because we have been honest with each other and entered into this union with our eyes wide open.
Steph now lives with her fiancée in Upton Park and a singer, Corinne, has moved into her room; when we decided to buy together we always said that it shouldn’t hold either of us in one place, and her moving on shows that we are still on the same page.
“What I love about this flat is that everything in it has a story. I think that’s the greatest pleasure I’ve found with owning – so much effort goes into making a house a home, and it feels like that’s in direct proportion to the satisfaction you reap from it.”
In partnership with Refinery29
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