A BuildHer Collective Student Story… Alison Lewis

Meet Alison, another of our Masterclass Students. Alison is currently onto her second project and is owner building the process. A challenge for sure, but one she feels she can handle with the team from BuildHer by her side every step of the way. Here’s her story: 

“My name’s Alison and I’m an interior designer and stylist from Melbourne. I run my own business, Alison Lewis Interiors, and work part time for homewares brand Sage x Clare.

I’ve been married to my husband Dave for 8 years and we have a sassy 3 year old named Ava. We also have a Hungarian Viszla named Bullet, but she got retired to the beach with Dave’s parents when Ava came along after a few unfortunate biting incidents with tradies…#awks

Tell us about your project

We bought a 1930’s Californian Bungalow in Kew last October and finally started on our renovation  last month. The front of the house is typical in the sense that we have two beautifully ornate bedrooms and a wide double door entry that leads out to the back area. A very shoddily built lean to was the eyesore of the house and the rabbit hole rooms made it difficult to move around functionally and entertain.

We are doing the renovation in 3 phases as we’re living here at the same time. Phase 1 has just been completed (yippee!) and phase 2 will begin mid to late October, followed by phase 3 in the new year. This has worked for us financially as we’re funding the project from a mixture of savings, an overdraft and well, flying by the seat of our pants really (soz, that’s definitely not a textbook response!).

This old lean to has now been demolished
The rear which has been knocked down

Our overall budget is approximately $140k and this includes a new kitchen, bathroom, with the addition of an ensuite, storage, storage storage (like many old houses there isn’t a lick of storage apart from inside the roof!), wardrobes, fixing the roof, windows, eaves, downpipes (the list of defects goes on and on), window furnishings, flooring and last but not least, new lighting throughout.

Original front part of the house that is being kept – pic from @alisonlewisinteriors

What’s been the most challenging part so far?

Ha! Well we knew there would be challenges given the age of the house, there’s always something but we definitely opened a big can of worms when we first started ripping up the tiles at the back of the house to discover that the entire floor underneath had been eaten, and I mean the nasty suckers took us for all we’re worth, by termites. Not active thankfully, but our contingency was certainly put to good use for retrification works. It meant that we had to be smart about where our money went and unfortunately we had to delete the skylight and the bifold doors as a result to ensure we stayed within our budget.

I could have so easily said “yep, let’s do the skylight and the bifold’s too”, and the designer in me found it very difficult to give them up but that’s just another challenge right, truly staying within your budget even when it means sacrificing on things you “wanted” but don’t need to create the look and feel you’re after.

What are you most excited about with your project?

Oh so many things, I have 3.1m high floor to ceiling windows, I designed the kitchen myself and selected all the finishings so I’m equally excited and sh*ting my pants about that. I haven’t even started on the bathrooms yet!

I’m just really looking forward to living in a renovated house, our last renovation we did ourselves over 6 years and as we finished it, we literally listed it on the market for sale so it’s been nice to manage trades to get this done and we can enjoy it sooner rather than later. And then I can do it all again!

Another beautiful original part of the house that will be kept pic from @alisonlewisinteriors

How did you come across BuildHer and the course?

I first came across Bek after seeing their Cunningham St project in Northcote. I decided as soon as I saw the black windows, red brick, light oak kitchen and natural light that I wanted to buy the house. I then saw the price tag and fell off my chair!

So I did some more digging as to what this clever name was all about and subsequently learnt more about what Bek and Kribashini do to help women build. I knew straight away that I needed to be a part of it in some way. It ticked my love for renovating, my love for learning, my love for interiors and my love for helping others boxes so I was pretty much hooked.

What helped you make the decision to do the course?

The online course is great but for me as a designer and the fact that I also laboured on a residential building site for 6 months, I already knew a lot of the content so the natural next step for me was to find out what the Masterclass was all about.

I want to make renovating a job and I believe to make it a worthwhile venture, lucrative and enjoyable I need to have the right tools in place to do that, so the masterclass was the perfect fit for me. I had a chat with Bek, spoke to my husband and decided that now was the perfect time to do it as we were just about to embark on our second renovation and there was no way in hell I was living through another one for 6 years!

Demo fun… the lean to is gone!

How have BuildHer helped throughout the process?

Well Bek’s my mentor so we have monthly catchups, emails and discussions on where I’m at, what I need to do next and how to make the most from my budget. I know I have someone who I can bounce ideas off and talk through any issues I come across without sounding like I have no idea what I’m doing, which I don’t but there’s no judgement there and I’m learning as we go so it’s a pretty perfect scenario.

The quarterly masterclasses where we get to spend the day with Bek and Kribashini, as well as the other amazing women from the masterclass are fantastic. We just had one over the weekend and not only was it Buildher’s 1st birthday, we also got to watch one of our fellow classmates bid and win a house to flip at auction, o.m.g excitement! AND the class was held at another students newly renovated home so we also got a hands on lesson on the process while also seeing her vision come to life as we took a tour. We could see why the stairs were causing design challenges last time we caught up and the kitchen that we knew was not long from being finished in all its glory. It’s just such a great way to learn.

Looking so good

What’s the best part of being a BuildHer student?

There’s many things I love about being a BuildHer student; I love chatting with like-minded women who have a passion for renovating, I love the community feel and the genuine desire from Bek and Kribashini to guide and help me through the process. But I think the best part of it has to be the catering at the masterclasses. Serious, that shit is amazing and I could eat Michelle’s food all.day.long.”

We’ll keep you up to date on Alisons progress throughout her renovation, be sure to follow along on her journey.