INSTAGRAM has become the latest tool for thousands of home renovators — offering advice on everything from where to find good tradesmen to how to re-lay a wooden floor or tile a bathroom.
There are now around 3.7million Instagram #renovation users in this budding online community, providing a fascinating snapshot into who is renovating what.
Those who build a substantial following will also find big brands getting in touch with them, offering free or discounted products in exchange for their online reviews. Some have even made it their new business.
Most, however, just want to know how to avoid pitfalls and save money. We meet three people whose Instagram stories have inspired thousands.
The down-hearted designer
NADEGE and Joseph Allen were thrilled when they won the bidding on a four-bedroom Victorian house in south London in 2017.
But the couple, who both work in the clothing business, were quickly overwhelmed by the scale of the work that had to be done.
‘We were at the top of our budget, clueless about renovation and I was pregnant,’ Nadege says. ‘We were like those people you laugh at on Grand Designs, living in a caravan while they struggle with a renovation. We were those idiots.’
So, at the suggestion of her husband, and to lift her flagging spirits, Nadege put mood boards (collected from ten years of Livingetc magazine) on Instagram, where they went on to beg for help and advice.
‘An old lady had lived in the property and the central heating had been condemned,’ she says. ‘There was an outside loo, and the whole house had to be rewired and replumbed. We knocked down some interior walls and added Crittall-style French doors at the back. We took all the floors up and laid insulation and underfloor heating, before putting them back. We put new sash windows throughout.
‘We had hardly any money, but my brother is a carpenter, and thanks to Instagram we learned to do everything else ourselves, though we hired a plumber and an electrician.
‘I was getting quite depressed by it all. But this online community was fantastic. Not everyone can afford to update their websites, but tradesmen offer a lot of quick and practical advice online.
‘People tag links to practical things like the best radiators. It puts you in touch with thousands of people. I was also given online advice about best use of space, so I lost a bedroom and increased the size of our family bathroom.
‘I also learned about auctions, and followed it up by visiting them, where I’ve saved a lot of money on great interiors. The whole experience helped us save a fortune, and I think it also saved my mental health.’
■ Top tip: It’s easy to like a paint colour in a carefully stage-managed shot by a paint manufacturer, but for a truer-to-life example search the hashtag, eg #hagueblue, and it will bring up hundreds of spaces with all types of light, giving you a better idea of how the colour will really look.
■ Instagram: @Renovating_A_Nightmare
The accidental Instagram influencer
WHEN Lucy Kemp set up an Instagram account to document a challenging renovation of a Victorian house, it was intended as a simple ‘diary’ to update interested friends and family.
But a year later, the digital marketing manager from Birmingham has found herself with 15,800 followers and a potential new business.
Lucy and her husband Dan, who works for his family’s office redesign business, moved into their home in June this year, after a two-year wait to buy the property, and a ten-month long renovation — every bit of which was detailed on Lucy’s daily Instagram posts.
The property had been seriously neglected, so they replaced the roof, removed some beams in the roof space (cue structural steels), and took most of the house back to brick. All the internal walls had to be rebuilt.
Then, for good measure, they added a large extension to create a contemporary kitchen/diner.
‘It’s 90 per cent done now,’ says Lucy, who when you read this will likely have had her first baby.
‘We’re property and renovation mad and I wanted to document our progress for friends and family. But I hadn’t realised that there’s such an enormous renovation community on Instagram. Before I knew it, I’d fallen down a sort of Alice In Wonderland rabbit hole and was communicating with all sorts of people going through the same thing.
‘There is a diverse mix of renovation profiles, from first-time buyers doing everything on a budget to the big million pound properties. It’s quite an interesting snapshot of the property market and is certainly fuelling our national property porn obsession.
‘A lot of people have asked me for advice. I’ve been able to link people up with my electrician, plasterer and builder. And now I have brands contacting me.’
Lucy recently completed a project for the Homebuilding & Renovating Show, and now undertakes live Instagram interviews with key people in the building, renovating and interiors industries where viewers can ask questions.
‘You could easily build this into a business, though I’m quite happy with the job I’ve already got,’ she says.
‘People think of Instagram as just photos from life-style influencers like the Kardashians, but it’s so much more. It’s a very effective way to learn, and build contacts, knowledge and business.
‘The renovation of our house has been a massive journey. And the discovery and use of Instagram has been a revelation.’
■ Most surprising treat: Dowsing & Reynolds light switches, given to Lucy by another Instagram renovator, which saved her £100.
■ Instagram: @victoria_road_restoration
The shoestring renovator
MIDWIFE Jodie Mooney knows how to deliver a baby, but rebirthing a neglected Victorian house was rather more of a challenge.
Jodie and her partner Terry Mansworth, a chef, faced a massive renovation when they bought a 1902 three-bedroom Victorian house in south London last year. It hadn’t been touched since the 1960s, had no central heating, rotten windows and woodworm in all the joists. The electrics were hanging down, live, in some rooms. Then they found asbestos in one of the walls.
‘The house had beautiful bones, but it was a mess,’ says Jodie, whose mother Chrissie and father Rob, a painter and decorator, live next door. (Rob has been roped in to do much of the work and also features strongly on Instagram.) ‘But we only ended up having to pay for new central heating and rewiring.
‘I started posting on Instagram at the suggestion of one of my friends. I now have 14,200 followers. I told a story every day about what we were up to. I do a lot of instructional videos now — my dad answers a lot of the questions.
‘It’s all turned into a home improvement chat. But my followers are also helpful and amazing. I’ll say I’m struggling to find a particular tile and they’ll start posting things they’ve seen at different stores.
‘I think this online community replaces chatting down the pub, or talking over the fence. Everyone’s happy to join in and give advice. I learned how to do tiling and make wooden panelling to put up in our bedroom. The video clips are just 15 seconds, so they’re useful and get straight to the point.
‘I also like to take the mickey out of ads that show houses that look too perfect — ours is still largely rubble — so I bought a stool from Ikea, repurposed it and loaded it up with attractive apothecary bottles. I called it my W***yStool and my followers went mad. They’re all posting theirs now, which is huge fun.’
■ Most popular advice I’ve given: I like to put all my shampoos in apothecary bottles to make them look stylish. It was such a hit that Baldwins UK, which makes them, contacted me to say thanks, after they sold out. (They’re restocked now).
■ Instagram: @Shoestring_Renovation