Spare room my own personal hellhole

20:14, Aug 09 2014

Press journalist and first-home hunter Georgina Stylianou shares the highs and lows involved with getting a wobbly foot on the great property ladder.

The lounge was the first room we renovated. As such, it became lovingly known as The Sanity Room.

A place that felt clean and bright and smelled more like paint than the 60-odd years of tobacco that had been smoked in it.

It was the flagship of our renovation careers, if you like.

It has remained the most finished room in our house. There's mismatched rugs, nothing on the walls, an empty space where one might expect to find a coffee table, and an old built-in wardrobe, its plaster boasting a large number of cracks, housing our television. But compared to the rest of our house, it's award-winning. 


On the other side of the hallway, where the warmth from the heat pump struggles to reach, there's a room that must not be spoken of. 

The permanently closed door remains yellow, stained by nicotine, and the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end when I think about having to open it.

OK, it's not quite that bad but I still hate it.

The Insanity Room. Also known as the spare room where things go to die. 

Since we moved in five weeks ago, everything that doesn't yet have a home is chucked in The Insanity Room.

Tools, half-unpacked boxes, blankets, the vacuum cleaner, random pieces of furniture, rugs, curtain rails, liquid nails, paint brushes, empty paint cans and the clothes horse - they all reside in this hellish area.

It was originally meant to be our bedroom but renovating it would require demolishing a fireplace and replacing lath and plaster walls with gib, so we instead shifted into the smaller bedroom.

Our wallpaper-stripping-extraordinaire friend Nick spent hours tackling the stubborn walls in The Insanity Room, and even ripped into the stippled ceiling (that tested negative for asbestos, phew!) at our first working-bee weekend.

I went gung-ho on the fireplace with a sledgehammer but only managed to chip off a few pieces and create a lot of noise.

Since that weekend, the room hasn't been touched. Our poor cat was confined to it in his first week at the house and showed his resentment by peeing in all corners of the room. 

The bare, cracked walls and flaking ceiling remain. The odour of cat piss lingers. The Insanity Room makes my face contort into a childish grimace every time I have to go into it. It's cold and dusty and horrible and I forbid guests to see it.

But the truth is, when you're renovating, you need an Insanity Room.

You can close the door and not have to worry about where those random bits and bobs can be stored. For the most part, you can just pretend it's not there.

But one day, I'll have to muster up the energy to sort The Insanity Room out. Summer. It can wait until summer. 

Georgina Stylianou is a reporter at The Press. This is part of her weekly series about owning her first home. Comment below, email or tweet @gstylianoupress

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