At Home with Geneva Vanderzeil of A Pair & A Spare

Geneva Vanderzeil is a successful Australian blogger, designer, craft lover and businesswoman, having launched her website A Pair & A Spare in 2010 as a platform to share stylish DIYs and How-To tutorials. Since then, Geneva’s site has grown to span across Style, Interiors, Creativity and Travel and includes her most recent venture - #bestendhouse.
With her unique eye for style, we were so excited to be part of the home reveal - with our Hampton Sofa, Bronte Dining Table and Bench Seats and our now-sold-out Lotus Cane Lounge sitting front and centre in the living room and back deck. We sat down with Geneva to find out a little more about the reno and tips she recommends for those of you keen enough to try DIY.

Congratulations on #bestendhouse. It really does look so homely and inviting. What was the overall inspiration?
Ben and I really wanted a space that was functional and a joy to be in. Being an interior designer, Ben was great at showing me what elements were important.

The main goal for the architectural design was to keep as many of the original features of the home as possible - the original flooring, the iconic front veranda, the tongue and groove walls and the details above the doorways, whilst also extending and opening up the spaces and adding much needed light. In terms of decor, we wanted light and bright in which we could integrate colour, but we found ways to do this that weren't too overwhelming such as in cupboards, cabinets and doorways.

Another major goal was to integrate a range of DIY ideas and hacks, simple updates to off the rack items and vintage pieces that made the house feel high end and bespoke, without having to blow the budget. Being DIY obsessed, this was my favourite part! 

Why was the Hampton your sofa of choice? What do you love about it the most?
Our biggest inspiration when styling furniture in the space was to mix and match different eras and items to give the house a lived in and bespoke feel. We mixed rattan, mid century furniture and industrial pieces so that the house felt like us, and not like a showroom. This is something that Ben specialises in, both in this sort of residential design and all his commercial projects - mixing styles and decor so that a space feels comfortable, cosy and lived in. I love the Hampton Sofa because it has a subtle nod to mid century design with the tapered legs, but is also minimal enough to be integrated into pretty much any decor style - I chose to add lots of colourful cushions! It’s also really deep and comfortable, essential when you’re breastfeeding!

What about the Bronte Dining Table and Bench Seats? How did you know they were right for your space?
One thing I really wanted was a versatile outdoor space, which functioned as an extension of the kitchen dining area - in the Queensland climate you can spend so much of your time outside. The Bronte Dining set worked perfectly in this space to create an entertaining area that flowed perfectly from kitchen to dining to outdoors. And I love the minimalist lines of the table and bench seats.

What did you find the most difficult part of renovating?
The sheer amount of planning and admin that goes into the process! It pays to be organised, and I definitely learnt a lot about this through the process.

And the most enjoyable?
Seeing all the finished spaces! Obviously I adore the back deck, something the house lacked and we were able to add, and furnish in a way that suits our lifestyle. Another surprising space to me was the master bedroom! It's lovely. Ben created these gorgeous walk in wardrobes, a stunning bathroom that's flooded with light, as well as a great bedroom with a high shelf we filled with plants. But what I wasn't expecting was the ceiling height plant ledge down one side of the room, underneath the new long window. We filled it with amazing plants and it honestly makes me so happy!

What are the three most important lessons you learned while renovating?
I loved renovating and learnt so much through the process, particularly having someone like Ben involved who does this day in and day out.

1. Don’t change your mind… Once you’ve committed to a material or a design, try to avoid changing it mid way through the process, unless it’s absolutely not going to work, because this is when costs and timeframes blow out. It pays to spend a bit more time in the planning stage so you don’t find yourself needing to change things. There were times I wanted to change things, but Ben stopped me, which made sure our project was on time and on budget.

2. Also - don’t fall out with your renovation partner… it’s just not worth it! Everyone said to me that renovating would test our relationship, so to avoid that we tried to split up tasks based on what we were more skilled at - Ben focused on the layout, structural elements and orientation, while I worked on the more aesthetic elements like the materials and styling. This helped so much… not everything needs to be crowd sourced!

3. Don’t blow the budget… Unless you have bottomless pockets, it’s important to be realistic with what you can afford or want to spend. We focused on finding materials and DIY ideas that gave a bespoke and designer feel without being too costly - it’s amazing what a bit of creativity can do for your space!

Do you feel that you’ve finished? Is #bestendhouse complete?
For now, yes! But that doesn’t stop me having lots of ideas; perhaps we need to find another old house to work on? I'm sure we'll do this a few times in our lifetime, and we've had such a great experience that I think we wouldn't hesitate to do it again. I also think we'll be constantly tweaking this house as our needs change, Ben's already got some amazing ideas for updating the back of the house... That's the problem with being a designer; you've always got new ideas!
 

What advice would you have for fellow renovators?
Don’t sweat the small stuff… there are so many tiny details in a renovation, and if you turn each one into a huge process of back and forth and deliberation, it’ll drive you crazy, and draw out your renovation for years.  So try to get better at making decisions, and stick with them!