39 – A Love Affair With Bali Gives Her Renos A Point Of Difference

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a point of difference

Bernadette is with Kathleen Friedrich and they are going to talk about her renovating, the life she’s created with that. Kathleen does very beautiful renovations and they have a point of difference that she’ll talk about today.

Listen to Episode 39: A Love Affair With Bali Gives Her Renos A Point Of Difference

Podcast: Download (Duration: 45:40 — 43.64MB)

Transcription

“I think it comes down to being savvy, financially stable and you can support yourself, and you’re willing to sacrifice. Believe in yourself, too.”​

Intro

Bernadette: Hello it’s Bernadette Janson, back with “She Renovates,” the podcast for women who want to create a life they love through renovating. I’m back today and once again, I have a special guest in Kathleen Friedrich. A little time ago, you would have heard Kathleen talking about her experience as a renovator on TV. Well, today, we’re just going to talk about her renovating, the life she’s created with that. As I’ve mentioned before, she does very beautiful renovations and they have a point of difference that I’m hoping she’ll talk about today. And so, welcome Kathleen!

Kathleen: Thank you, Bernadette. It’s always a pleasure to come and chat with you.

Bernadette: Thank you. So let’s start with where the story began in terms of your renovating and property journey. What was the beginning? 

Kathleen: I think the beginning started right when I was renovating little homes. I was always interested in buying properties along with having our family home and assisting people in renovating their houses, started with friends; and it’s just grown from there to the point where probably, a good 8 years ago now, we decided to quit both our full-time jobs and become full-time property flippers.

It’s just the best thing now that we’re back on it for both of us with our health and our lifestyle; and, it’s just gone better and better as time goes on. The property market has gone up and down as you know, but I’ve grown with what I’ve always wanted to do and I’m able to mix my love of traveling to Indonesia and specific areas within Bali and having a keen eye in knowing how I’d like to style our home. Having had a retail store as well in homewares and continually importing products from Bali, bringing them back, retailing and selling them, always putting a point of different homewares and products into our home, started with my sort of addiction to doors, front doors.

Bernadette: And you’ve had some beauties.

a point of difference
a point of difference

Kathleen: Yes. Definitely have. I’ve sort of, over the years, become engrossed in what you first see when you come up to a home or even if you’re sitting in the car at the front. Do I even want to go into that house? I’m a big believer in first impressions. Once you’ve got them inside that house, you’ve got to keep telling a story and you’ve got to sell to the emotion of that buyer.

Kathleen: Every single room in our home, I hope people gasp as they walk into that room. To do that, you have to have a point of difference because every home we used to go and have a look at did nothing for me and I wanted to renovate the house I was viewing at the time. We’ve been quite blessed, I suppose. We’ve made good friends in Indonesia and supported their families, and in turn, they make wonderful furniture for us. Beautiful lighting, and additional furniture pieces that we incorporate into the homes, and a lot of the time, we actually include that in the house as well.

Bernadette: In the sale of the house.

Kathleen: In the sale of the home. Yeah. I’d say – for a while there, we were selling every home that we renovated fully furnished.

Bernadette: Wow.

Kathleen: Even right down to accessories in a bathroom. This doesn’t happen as much anymore at the moment, but there are still a lot of pieces that we do. We do have a lot of key pieces, so, like I said, front doors, is my obsession.

Bernadette: When you’re planning out a reno, so you plan it assuming you’re going to have a trip to Bali to figure that out. 

Kathleen: Definitely. If the house was up for sale at the moment, we went out and have a look at it tomorrow, and it would take us under 10 minutes to know whether or not we would want to go ahead with that client, we would then plan what we wanted and what we needed. If we put a deposit down on the home, quite often, we will go over there and we would order our stuff; so by the time we’ve settled, it’s arrived.

a point of difference
a point of difference

Bernadette: How long does it take to get a container out? 

Kathleen: 6 weeks,  as long as you keep the right times, when they come. There are a few months of the year, generally towards Christmas when it is not a very good time. It sits at the loading dock  in Sydney and becomes costly.

Bernadette: So what parts of the renovation do you import? 

Kathleen: We would have custom-made front doors made for every single reno that we do.  We would bring back all feature lighting, whether it be wrought iron, beveled glass, hand-made cane lighting, pretty much all the main rooms in the house.

a point of difference

Kathleen: We would bring back featured tiles for the bathroom and ensuites – not all the tiles, the rest of them, we would source here, but just feature tiles that are very expensive back here.

We’ve got this thing at the moment, that may be hard to describe verbally, but we’ve got this thing at the moment called “teak slatting,” sort of pointing to something with Bernadette. So, teak slatting on the wall.

We’ve been going through these stages where we’re getting them, because Indonesia is teak orientated, so dress all round, we might get certain natives offer, knowing what we want to do with it. We’ve done that for this particular house we’re working on at the moment. And I will say that I think, currently, House Rules, did steal an idea that we were working on as well.

a point of difference

Kathleen: Things like that – so, key feature pieces, and we’ve brought back sandstone, marble from Bali as well, generally the lighting on your door and lots of furniture. We might see a room, this needs a dining room table. For example, a beautiful recycled teak 3-meter table bar with a glass top as well, we could purchase over there for about $500, ship it back here, and it would land at about $900.

Bernadette: Wow. 

Kathleen: And leave it there, so it is as a key piece underneath the lighting.

Bernadette: The magnificent light.

Kathleen: Our belief is that we buy without emotion, but we sell with all of our emotions, so, if I cannot sell to the buyer’s emotion, definitely I am not doing the right thing. I become obsessed about how it’s styled and how it looks, and it has to look perfect. And I don’t let anyone come. I used to let people come to all our renos as we were progressing.

Now, we have parties when we’ve purchased it, and we have parties when we’ve finished it. And it makes for a better “wow” factor. I think everyone has to have a point of difference. You have to have your own style, because, let’s face it – anyone can renovate a kitchen. We all know how to do that. We could go tomorrow and get all we needed and we can wack it in for that room. We can make any room, a kitchen, but we have to make it – that “wow” factor.

Kathleen: And, believe it or not, one of the cheapest amounts of kitchens that we did on a house in Sydney, we spent just $12K on the kitchen – all up – appliances, the whole kit, and kaboodle. It had an island bench of just under 3 meters long, very plain lemon based bench top but it was a simple and plain that it has 3 amazing wrought iron, beveled glass, all cut in directions that sent off this amazing light into the ceiling, that no one gave two hoots about the kitchen. I was sold on the lighting. And that was the feedback from the real estate agent. They were really careless about the kitchen. I was blown away by the lighting; and the lighting – each light was under $30.

And I’m a super savvy person when it comes to spending. My husband disagrees with that, but I’m super savvy when it comes to renovating purchases because just like those lights, you can make that “wow” factor. You don’t have to spend a fortune. Not everyone can go to Bali. I’ll give you that. Not everyone can import what they do, but that’s what’s saving me from going back and working for someone else.

Bernadette: You’re definitely living potentially renovator’s dream in terms of making it in your life. And, that’s the other thing, as women, it’s sort of an extension of the nesting instinct – you want to create this beautiful home, and so, to be able to do that as your job, is an incredible thing. 

Kathleen: And I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be able to do that. Many at times through that period, we’ve looked at each other and gone, “I think one of us is going to have to go back and get a job.” When it comes to that, we’ll  get more than what we thought we would on the property and we’ll think, “No, we’re okay,” and we held out. And I think we’re at a different time of our lives. Like I meet lots of couples and lots of women, and it’s funny how, as soon as someone asks you what you do for a living and you say, “I’m a full-time property flipper,” they literally drop whatever they’re doing….

Bernadette: Exactly. 

Kathleen: And they just want to cuddle you and not let you go because they want to pick your brain.

Bernadette: They want to live vicariously through you. 

Kathleen: Yeah. And they say, “Oh my gosh! You’re doing exactly what I want to do. Oh, I’m so jealous!” And I’m, “Really? What do you do for a living?” “Oh, no. I’m a Nurse. My husband is an ambulance driver.” This was a couple that stopped us in Bunnings about a week ago. “I remember you guys…ba-ba-ba-blah.” We did a couple of things for Bunnings a couple of months ago on stairs. We did a little talk there at Bunnings in our local area. Maybe that’s where they knew us from.

They had two children. They are 10 and 12 and they wanted to both quit their jobs and become property flippers.

And they asked me if I had any children and I think they expected me to say, “Oh, I’ve got a 5-year old and a 2-year old.” I said, “I have a daughter and she’s 25. We’ve done the stable parenting role. I was always there. Everything was done correctly. But she’s 25 and she’s left the nest. She’s moved on.”

I take my hat off to people that can do it, and rush out and do the school run and picked up a brick wall, or they’ve carted a staircase out. I don’t think you’re fully focused then. No. I think you’re thinking, “My gosh, you know – the kids, the dinner, the washing.” There’s too many things to distract you.It might sound strange, but we just get up, renovate, stay focused. And if we’re living at the moment, we’re simply living at the renovation we’re working on, because it’s taking us away from where we’re normally living. It’s not somewhere the average family will want to live – there is no kitchen there. There is no laundry there.

Bernadette: And I think you’ve really taken on a really hands-on role. I renovated when our kids were little. We had four. We didn’t have the sense to stop at one. That’s not true. I love every one of them. For me, I just found it’s a sanity thing. I did a lot of DIY those days but not like you do.

Kathleen: Yeah. I think we all did. Everyone just became a DIY renovator. Look at how many shows. They actually made us a renovating state, a renovating country. Ask anyone, “Oh! I did my kitchen! I did it myself.”  8 years ago, that just wasn’t the case.

Bernadette: There’s actually a sense of satisfaction out of doing it yourself. I don’t necessarily mean doing it yourself, but just by taking control of that.

Kathleen: I absolutely agree, Bernadette. And also too – if that is your goal, you source it,  property flipping is a big investment. It’s not like you can go and purchase something here and there. You’ve got to have the home or the property to be able to start. You know, most of the time, you’re probably going to be living in it at the same time. And now, you’re going to take a year to renovate it, pack the family up, move somewhere else, renovate, pack the family up.

That’s probably a doable thing if you get into that routine and you’re okay with it yourself. But, I’ve met so many people renovate their homes, not to sell, just to live in, and they’re almost divorcing each other; and they’re not doing the work because it’s totally disrupting their whole family life.I think you have to have a mindset – just one step at a time. I mean, try not to do everything all at once.

Bernadette: I definitely agree with that. And I think, also it’s a big thing when both of you are in it. The other one is at work and the other one is running the project, it’s a lot less pressure. 

Kathleen: And also, too, we, and I say “we,” because my husband and I really are hands-on. The only trade that we generally bring in are the plumber, and the sparky, and our beautiful tilist that I wouldn’t do without. You have to weigh out, “How much does it cost to do the tiling myself and how long does it take?” There’s no way in the world that I’ll ever have my husband tile ever again.

We found a bunch of guys that do our tiling and we’re so happy with them. He can be off doing other things that can be more productive.

Bernadette: Plus, tiling is such a back-breaking job. And so hard on your knees. 

Kathleen: Oh my gosh. It really really is. And also too, you have to have a professional have the job done.

Bernadette: Exactly.

Kathleen: This is not an arts and crafts exercise. This is a professional job that you need to make sure that you know what you’re doing. I’m married to a perfectionist and he is very frustrating because he doesn’t like to outsource anything. He can do better than anybody. He can, but it takes him longer. He has his skills and he stepped back a lot. If we’re going to gut a whole house, we bring in some demo guys to gut it all. We used to do it all. And they take it away and they don’t just fill up your thousand-dollar bin that you just pay per cubic meter and then leave.

a point of difference

Before

a point of difference

After

Kathleen: So many things that you have to take into consideration being a full-time property flipper. And I think  it comes down to being savvy, financially stable and you can support yourself, and you’re willing to sacrifice. Believe in yourself too. I think you really have to do that. You’ve got to believe in it, know that what you’re doing is going to turn out the right way.

Bernadette: That comes from practice. 

Kathleen: Absolutely.

Bernadette: I always say to our people when they’re talking about taking this step, you really need 3 things: You need money. You also need to build your muscle. Don’t be learning on your first job that matters. Get a few under your belt before you go out.

And the third thing is projects. You need to have a deal flow.  So, do you find your own projects, or do use a buyers agent? 

Kathleen: No. We find our own projects. We’re real estate agents ourselves, we have Corelogic so we have our own access to that. We scour the areas. We know what we’re looking for. Always find the property that’s been longer in the market longer than what they want it to be. We’re always looking for the worst house in the best street. We’ve got 3 areas that we don’t go near anymore. We don’t buy on the main road anymore. What we have done, we purchased one of the busiest roads in Sydney.

Bernadette: I remember that. 

Kathleen: Paine Hills Road, if you’re in Sydney. There are things that we want. We want to be able to find a home that we can value too without going to counsel or not making serious structural changes to the property. So, we can consider that 4-bedroom home can be turned into a 5-bedroom home. I juggle a few areas within the house and if we can add another bathroom, if it’s already got 2, doesn’t have a third, we might add a third. If we can do that, generally, we know that within the first ten minutes or so. We can bring the inside, outside, what that can do. We’ve gotten to the point now that we can enter and leave and know how much it’s probably going to cost us to do it.

Bernadette: Perfect.

Kathleen: Nobody can be fully sure. We did a property here in Sydney, called Carlingford and it was riddled with termites, non-active termites but they’ve already done all the damage they needed to do. It already had its inspections. We’ve done everything.

When we started to pull that house apart, we realised that this house should have fallen down, so that added another $35K on to something that you would not have known about. To do that, we have to sacrifice a few things to try and stay within budget.

Kathleen: We always know not to over capitalise, have faith in what you’re doing, know your area. We know our area really well. We know what people are looking for. Who doesn’t love to walk into a house that is a turn-key situation, that you can just move your family into? So, I mean, that’s pretty much what we do. It’s like walking into a home world.

Kathleen: I’m inspired by lots of people, lots of women, like the Three Birds Renovation. I love what they do. I love their taste. I love everything about them. They’re down-to-earth girls. They also influence us in so many ways. They’ve got a different strategic plan and someone else has got another plan.  So small steps and if were definitely winding the clock back and looking to where I am now, to where we were, I probably would have gone out further of Sydney and maybe purchased multiples and took my time a little bit more and focused not on something bigger.

Bernadette: Why is that? 

Kathleen: Just give us the opportunity to try a few things before we put it all into one design.

Bernadette: Okay. 

Kathleen: Well, we did this and this into some property, just to see how it’s going. And once they do, I did want to move further out but there wasn’t enough margin in the homes.

Bernadette: See, that’s the trouble. Once you get out to where the land is plentiful, it erodes the margin renovating, doesn’t it? 

Kathleen: It does. So, we stick with what we know. We generally try to achieve that quarter of a million, above and beyond profit. The property market definitely has taken a dive, but we’ve come up with so far.

So, small steps. Don’t over capitalise. Be creative. Just think of one thing you’re going to “wow” someone, whether it’s the front of the house, but it’s definitely before you get to the master bedroom; otherwise, they’re already on their way out.

Bernadette: They say that it takes someone looking at a home around about 3 minutes to subconsciously make the decision that it’s the home for them. 

Kathleen: Wow.

Bernadette: Yes, they do make that decision emotionally but they also back it up with logic so you can’t have beautiful straight appeal and crap the rest of the way. Put all your energy into that first 3 minutes to make sure that’s really on point. The rest of it, sort of, be consistent.

Kathleen: That’s so true. Like I was saying before, Bernadette, I believe that every time a potential buyer comes through our homes, I want to know that they are “wow-ed” by each room that they go into, not just one room saying, “Oh, that’s cute,” and then the rest of it is just plain. I’m always hoping that they turn the corner and go, “Oh!” and have a few little surprises. When it comes to the outdoors, whether it’s wintertime and that little fire seat.  All those little things help build that little indoor-outdoor area, we’ve got it down pat now. It’s almost like a bit of a cookie-cutter but everyone loves it. Really, it’s just an oversized window that turns into a servery. Not everyone can purchase homes I understand, maybe their in the market for townhouses or units. You could always make that yours and have your style about it.

a point of difference

Bernadette: And that’s the other thing. I noticed that the two beautiful people I work with, once they’ve got a few renos under their belt, they’ve got a plan that works, then it’s sort of rinse and repeat. 

Kathleen: Absolutely. Everyone is different. It’s a bit of a cookie-cutter but it’s different in each way. You know, you might pull back from something you did from five houses ago into another house but it takes longer for that to happen. And I’ve learned that as much as I love buying things and collecting things. I’ve learned that less is more and paint is your best friend.

Bernadette: Oh, isn’t it?

Kathleen: Absolutely. Paint is definitely your best friend. We did this talk on internal stairs at Bunnings last month they did a feature on internal stairs, with my husband and myself. Everyone just walks past stairs, but there’s so many things that you can do with them; and it all comes down to paint. That’s all it comes down to.

People think, “Oh, rip that balustrade down”. Once you painted it, it’s a completely different stairs again. What can you do underneath the stairs? Do you keep it open? Do you put a bench seat underneath that? Do you put cupboards on it? Leave what’s there and just paint it. You’d be surprised.

And lighting even if it’s just LED downlights. Lighting up a room makes a big difference to not having there at all. I feel blessed. I’ve said it before. It’s great to do what you love. I might sound like I am not being truthful. But I love getting out of bed in the morning and I go to bed every night and think about how it’s all going to plan out. And it’s not a stressful thinking in bed, it’s more like, “I cannot wait to start on that project!” Sure, it can be when you’re the laborer and it’s just pretty boring, monotonous, but once the plan starts to happen, I know we both really get great pleasure at it, seeing it come to life.

a point of difference

Bernadette: Incredibly satisfying. So, how many times do you go to Bali? 

Kathleen: We generally go there 3 times. So, this year, we spent forty days there. We’ve just come back.

Bernadette: And each time, you bring a container back with you? 

Kathleen: Yes. We’ve been back now for about four weeks and our container is on its way.

Bernadette: I thought we might change things up a bit now. So, we are lovers of Airbnb. I think that it’s the most amazing gravy train of property at the moment. And I know you are thinking about a venture in Bali. Let’s talk about that. 

Kathleen: Sure. I’m a virgin when it comes to Airbnb in Sydney or anything to do with Airbnb. I’ve stayed in a lot of Airbnb’s but I’ve never gone down that process of taking it on. All the time that we’ve been going down to Bali… My first trip to Bali was 1979, and I haven’t stopped going there ever since then. If anything I kick myself about going to Bali is I should have picked up the language. When I first went, I had completed 5 years of school in Indonesian and I could fluently speak the language. I haven’t used it enough, which is such a shame.

But, each time we go, we thought about purchasing a property in Indonesia, but they’re very different to us in Australia. They’ll never sell their land, so you can have a 99-year lease or a 50-year lease, or 10-year lease, but at the end of it, you hand it back or you can sell it in that time frame, but the land will always belong to the owner. So, we’ve been giving this lots of thought. In this recent trip that we’ve gone have a look at two properties over there in Bali; and, we’re pretty sure that what we’re going to do is lease them for 12 months. They’re pretty run down, and they’re about 15 minutes out of… if anyone’s been to Bali, Seminyak.

Bernadette: If anyone has been to Bali. They just rest. 

Kathleen: Seminyak is somewhere people eat at least once when you’re there.  So these are two run down villas. They both have pools in them. Their both 3-bedrooms. No one’s renting them at present and no one’s been renting them.

Bernadette: Why? 

Kathleen: The owner hasn’t found anyone that wants to rent it off him because of the state that they’re in – both the pools are empty. They’re just sitting there. And a friend, someone that we know of, knows what we’re looking for and said, “Hey, you’ve got to come and have a look at these properties.” I know they’re still be there when we go back on our next trip. We’re in communication.

What we’re going to do is rent both of them. The only thing about Bali is, you must pay for the rent upfront for the 12 months. For example, if it’s $20K for the year, then AUS$ 20K must be handed over and that’s it. They don’t care what you do to them. All they worry about is their land. So we figured that within a week, we could completely paint it, landscape it and completely remodel these properties and get them on to Airbnb; and they would pay for themselves without a doubt.

Bernadette: I might give you some tips on how to research that.

Kathleen: Thank you. I would really be grateful. Our general little database of what we’ve put in, our research shows that it would be highly profitable. That’s the other interesting thing. Everything over there is so affordable, even shipping it back here, sometimes you say to yourself, “Oh my gosh!” A container costs now (things just keep going up), just $6000 for a 20-foot container. So, you have to be pretty sure that you really want it, about what you’re doing and fill that container as much as what you can. But over there, when you’re walking down the street, you just want “That, that, that and can you deliver it and install it?” and it’s done.

Bernadette: $20K a year seems a lot for a Balinesian property. Would that be normally be rented to a local? 

Kathleen: Never. None of these properties that you stay in when you’re in Bali will belong to a local to live in, but the land belongs to the local. So he might own a game and have a strip of properties that have been there that are 15 years old each one and he has sold them to the French, or the Australian, or whoever, and they Airbnb them or stay in themselves.

Bernadette: In terms of the length of the lease, do you get the option for more years?

Kathleen: 5 years. But I’m a bit scared to go five.

Bernadette: But can you have the option like one by one by one? Because the risk is you do what you normally do and totally transform it, obviously, the rental aspect might be more valuable. How much honour is there in business in Bali? 

Kathleen: That’s very true. So, these are just things that we’ve inquired about and we have to look into that.

Bernadette: If you took it out for 5 years, would you have to pay 5 years upfront? 

Kathleen: Yes. That’s the big thing over there. It can go through your Solicitor and all that. We’ve got two friends that own two villas over there. One paid $500K for one, and the other paid nearly $600K Australian for a 15-year lease. And they Airbnb them out and they lock it out when they want to go there.

Bernadette: Is that what you would do? 

Kathleen: Yes. I will block it out. So, we quickly make our minds up about what we want to do. I think we can fully renovate these 3-bedroom villas in a week and it will cost us about $5K.

The ongoing issue over there when you talk about Airbnb, and you become the host and you have someone do the cleaning, etc… You must employ a family over there to care for the landscaping and the swimming pool, and the cleaning and the changing of the sheets, and security. You can’t do that yourself.

Bernadette: And how reliable would they be? Any chance of quality control? 

Kathleen: You have to be on to them. The friends of ours who do use them, are consistently having issues with them. Feedback from the people that are doing Airbnb and it’s hard when you’re not there and you’re in another country. If we went ahead, I would use the people that they are using because they have the relationship and generally, they just have a few properties here and there, and the majority of them is security.

Bernadette: People going in and stealing things? 

Kathleen: Yes. Javanese coming over getting in and stealing. That’s why most of the villas have a security guard. I feel quite confident that I’ll be happy and have spoken with my husband together, and this may sound flippant but I’d be happy to take that risk on that investment but just for the 12 months. That’s still x-amount of dollars. But I don’t think I can go for 5 years. That’s a quarter of a million dollars. I can probably go buy something 50 years for that further out. The further you go out, the better you’ve got a price.

We recently stayed at a place called Bingin, which is in Guga Watu which is out over the beautiful beaches there and a guy there has purchased a block of land. He had taken a 99-year lease on a block of land to build 3 villas on, and that land cost him AUS$ 60,000. And he’s built 3 villas on that which has to be built by the locals. The land has to be blessed. There’s lots of controversy around that.

The only thing that concerns me over there, is the price of energy. We think the price of gas has gone up but theirs is quite high. There’s a lot of different things that we thought, “Well, do we want to do this? Do we want to do two? Do we just want to do one? We tried that. I’d rather just go there and stay in a hotel.”If works for us, then great! If I can get my money back, that $20K in that year and feel confident that it was a learning curve, then maybe I might let that go.

Kathleen: So when I furnish it over there what do I do with my furniture when my 12 months is up? Do I take the furniture when those 12-months are up? They have no interest in keeping it, but then, I have to have somewhere to take it.

Australia has rules too. I can argue that it’s my furniture. It’s second-hand I want to bring home and it’s not new and I’m importing it. We can do that and it’s relatively cheap but we’ve got to be damn sure that we’re telling the truth; otherwise you’ll be hit up for there are so many loopholes.

But we feel so very, very comfortable there. It’s so like falling into your own suburb. Once we arrive there,  it’s just like we’ve just gone to Terrigal or something like that. So, it doesn’t concern me. It excites me. And we’ve made so many beautiful friends there. They’re so talented, the Balinese. They’re so placid. They’re so happy to help you.

We can talk about the bad things that happen to us when we’re in Bali but I just think in this world, we can all try and generally try and be happy with who we are and what we’re doing. I just try and enjoy that. I got a good relationship with my husband sometimes where we both work off each other quite well. He’s the type of person that I can say, “Oh wow, Chris! That’s a beautiful, beautiful bed frame.” “You want it? Do you really want it?”He’d make it.  He’ll just make it and it will be just like what I saw. He’s a very visual person as well, even more so than I. But he’s too technical, where I feel I’m a bit more normal.

a point of difference

Bernadette: So, you’ve given us some really great insight into your life and as a full-time renovator and your relationship with Bali in terms of bringing a special sort of element to your renovations. And I really want to thank you for coming. I’ve really enjoyed this conversation. 

Kathleen: Thank you, Bernadette. I love coming along. I love giving advice and listening and learning as well. There are so many women out there that have such great ideas but we can all learn from each other. Nobody knows everything.

Bernadette: Absolutely. I fully agree with that. From my point of view. I certainly want the women that listen to us to sort of take the inspiration from these conversations that we have with these amazing women and sort of maybe use that to build their own. 

Kathleen: Sure. And don’t be afraid to bounce off things to anyone, any idea, especially if it’s a good one.

The other day I was talking about door hinges with my husband. I want the door to open a certain way, and he was like, “You need the door hinge this way.” I said, “That doesn’t work for me because I don’t want to see the hinge. Aesthetically, I think that looks ugly but I want the door to open this way.” I had to sit down and draw it for him so he sort of understood what I’m saying. He taught me how to hang this door hinge in a way that it worked. I was prepared to walk away and go, “This is just not going to happen,” but he sort of said, “Well, have you thought about hanging it this way? If you hang the door that way, then you get the effect that you want.” “Well, great. I didn’t do that. Maybe we can do that for this other door as well?” “Sure, I can do that.”

Now, I’ve got this thing in my head now for every single door to hang that way that it does, but I would not have known it.  And he probably wouldn’t have thought to show me that if I didn’t see it somewhere else. So many great materials out there now, too.

Bernadette: I think the point there is, so I’ve got a team of 3 women doing their first joint venture in Edgecliff. I’ve got this gorgeous little apartment. I just really notice that… Do you know how tradesmen sometimes take the path of least resistance?

a point of difference

Kathleen: Absolutely.

Bernadette: And as a woman that doesn’t have a lot of experience with construction and renovating, you’re really putting yourself out there on your own pushing them to do something that was possible and it was possible. And we’ve really got to toughen up and just be a bit unreasonable and start pushing a bit like you, “I want it this way and you’ve got to figure out a way to do it.” 

Personally, in some ways, it sort of compromised the end result a bit because he didn’t take the parts close enough to the wall so that it ate too much, the top of the room up. You just got to really take that one up, don’t you? 

Kathleen: When I’m project managing someone else’s project well and I’m outsourcing pretty much everything, and just project managing it, that in itself, is a full-time role. I swear every time a trade I am using phone rings, they turn it upside down, and do not answer it for me because I ring them so many times. I’m like a bad ex-girlfriend. I just kept ringing and ringing, saying, “Are you sure you’re coming on Wednesday? Are you sure you’ll be there?” It’s hard enough to get them there and when they are there, they just do the mission on this standard of the job.

Bernadette: Get in and get out.

Kathleen: They just want their standard job, but I sort of say to them, “Look I want the washing machine taxed because they’re up high. I want them dropped down below. “Why?” “Because that’s the new design of the laundry and that’s how I want it to go, ok?” “Well, I’m not too sure until I take out the back of the wall.” That’s okay. I’ll take the back of the wall out for you. Just drop the tax down. And, I know. I can feel my ears are burning because as soon as I leave the room, they’re daggering me but it’s not a big ask. Everyone now wants their taxed from up-down. If they’re gutting the whole place anyway, they put their feet up, but they just want to do what they want to do.

So you probably have to be just a bit forceful and say, “Why can’t this be done?” Don’t let them push back because they already quoted on the job. Even now, we’re doing our own reno and I’ve got a pretty good relationship with the sparky and the plumber, even now they push me back and go to my husband to sort it out.

I think it’s a woman thing. We have to say, “Look, this is the plan and this is what I would like. I know it’s possible. You quoted on the job. Just do it.”

Also, I find, even with the tilers, if you want something tiled, whether it’s grout, for example. “Do you really want the grout that way?” Because the tiles are white, I want it a darker grey, not white. “Well, you didn’t ask.” Well, you didn’t listen. It’s written on the wall. So, you really, really have to be on top of all of them and be a really good project manager.

Be true to yourself and practice what you preach. I can sit here and say, “Do this and do that,” and “Oh, I didn’t think about that.” So, I try hard to be one step at a time. Don’t get overwhelmed by the whole project. It’s like when I assist people when I’m staging and styling, a lot of those people need to declutter before I can stage and style. I’m also an overpaid cleaner because I feel I can’t stage and style a dirty house.

There are so many things that we as women, trying to do the best that we can. Just do one step at a time. I spent hours and hours with a woman just before Christmas and she had a parking garage in her house and her children have all grown up and left; and each room, still had all of the children’s stuff in it. And she’s never been in there since they left. And it was impossible for her to put her house on the market because she could hardly get into each of the rooms. She hasn’t sold the house because it hasn’t gone to market yet. Because she’s still 6 months later, still decluttering.

Bernadette: It’s a big job, and particularly if your heart’s not in it. You just need to get in and get out.  

Kathleen: Yeah, she said, “I’ve been given your number, can you come and stage my house?” We can’t even get into your house. You really have to take one step at a time. And it all just comes together. But she has actually done all of those 5 bedrooms, and the house is now all cleared out but it does need a bit of painting, new carpet, bits, and pieces. It does take time and unless your home is already presentable to go to market, and most people live in their houses and we all collect clutter. I don’t care who you are. Even if you’re the minimalist woman of the year, we all collect clutter. We’ve got to declutter ourselves.

Bernadette: We’re going to call it a day, so thank you for an awesome recount of “A day in the life of Kathleen Friedrich, the Renovator”. And once again, if you’re interested in following Kathleen’s work, you can go over to Instagram at twisted_lime and check it out and say hello to her. Thank you for listening.

Kathleen: Thanks, guys. Thanks for having me, Bernadette.

Bernadette: And remember, if you would like to continue the conversation, come to “She Renovates,” the free Facebook group where we chat about all things renovating.

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