I increased a property’s value by $78,000 with DIY renovations that cost under $2,000. See the before-and-after pictures, plus how I stayed on budget.
- Bethan Juliff began flipping furniture and toys as a pandemic hobby and posted photos on Instagram.
- A friend asked for Juliff’s help to refresh her London apartment on a tight budget of under $2,000.
- Here’s how she increased the home’s value by $78,000, as told to Salina Jivani.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Bethan Juliff, a knitwear designer who flips furniture on Instagram. Insider verified the home’s appraised value through documentation. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I’ve always loved fashion. I specialized in designing handmade knitwear full time. In 2020 I went to China looking for manufacturers to produce at scale.
Before I could launch my new brand, London went into lockdown.
As a hobby during the pandemic, I had started upgrading old or used items, like my daughter’s old dollhouses. I would post them on Instagram alongside photos of our own small home-improvement projects.
During this time, my husband and I decided to sell our apartment in London and purchase another
Our apartment sold in January 2021, but our purchase fell through. My husband, myself, and our 2-year-old had nowhere to live.
Upon hearing our dilemma, a close friend reached out to another person in her network who had an empty apartment in London. It had been on the market for a while and wasn’t selling.
This mutual friend had seen my Instagram and offered to let me and my family live rent-free in exchange for renovating her place.
She hoped a face-lift would at least help her rent the apartment on Airbnb if it wasn’t selling.
Initially, we agreed to a budget of around $1,200.
When we moved into her flat — which I dubbed the “project flat” — on January 15, 2021, we brought only a mattress and left the rest of the stuff in our old place for our buyers.
I scoured Gumtree, a free classifieds site, to get the basics
I used this site for the entire renovation.
Within three days I found a sofa for $170 and a bed for free. I also found a luxury Smeg fridge for the flat. Usually Smeg appliances retail for thousands, but I bought the refrigerator for $120.
When renovating on a budget, I’ll try to buy high-quality appliances secondhand. People don’t know any better, and quality products add value to a home.
With the essentials purchased, I started contemplating colors and themes. The challenge was finding high-quality products while staying within the budget.
First I wrote a list of what we needed to replace or add. Then I set up alerts for these items on Gumtree.
My approach was to pounce whenever I found a bargain
I checked Gumtree every day — often multiple times — for items on my list.
Surprisingly, I found approximately $1,000 worth of Farrow & Ball paint for free on Gumtree. The colors and the fact that the building is from the 1930s helped me identify my renovation theme as “retro.” I used the paint on everything: walls, furniture, and even mixed with grout.
I worked on the living room first. From Gumtree, I sourced a rattan table-and-chair set for $30 and painted sections of it black.
When you’re sourcing things secondhand, you can’t be picky. You can always paint items to suit your theme or refresh and resell them later.
For the floors, I uprooted the carpet and discovered beautiful parquet flooring. Thankfully it was in good condition and just needed cleaning.
When renovating, I would always keep my eyes peeled for curbside bargains. I passed a house being remodeled and discovered a Victorian-style fireplace they’d left on the street for the master bed.
For the kitchen, I purchased green tiles for $48 and got pink grout for free. My daughter and I had fun mixing it with eggshell paint and applying it.
A dishwasher was high on the priority list; it would be necessary for an Airbnb. The appliance took months to show up, but finally I found the one I was looking for: a slimline model for $90.
A heavy-duty sink became available for $60, a bed for the main room was free, three large vases for the bedroom were $18, and so on.
I was renovating on a budget, so I had to do all the labor myself
I installed the fireplace, sink, and dishwasher and refitted the new kitchen counters myself with the help of YouTube tutorials.
Each task took several hours. But if I had hired someone, I’m sure my costs would have at least doubled. I loved the challenge of doing up the place for as little money as possible and with quality products.
I worked on renovations full time. The project took me five months and tallied in at $1,684. The most expensive purchase was $195 for new budget laminate counters for the kitchen. The best bargain was the Farrow & Ball paints, which usually start at around $120 for a 5-liter tin.
Once the remodeling was over, my friend got the apartment appraised
The real-estate agency valued the home at $78,000 more than before.
We squealed and jumped in disbelief. It felt surreal.
The housing market influenced the numbers, but before the face-lift there was zero interest in the apartment — after, people started requesting viewings.
My family and I moved out of the project flat into our own place. But I learned many tricks from that project that I still use today.
The plan was to go into house flipping, but COVID-19 and lockdowns made us rethink our priorities
In the future, I want to help others learn that it’s possible to renovate under any budget. It comes down to imagination and thrift sites more than money in your pocket.
The main lesson for me was you can like the finer things in life and still achieve them on a tiny budget.
This story was originally published in July 2022.