Austerity House? Nope. I Say Fantastic-ey House

by Katy on December 30, 2011 · 21 comments

This morning a link on my Twitter feed caught my yet uncaffeinated eye. “This couple did a whole house remodel out of reclaimed goods, very cool!”

So yeah, I had to click over.

The article turned out to be from Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper, and profiled Kresse Wesling and James Henrit, a couple who bought a flat that was “little more than a shell,” and then proceeded to remodel and furnish it using supplies from Freecycle, the tip, (garbage/rubbish piles) and charity shops. They even came across their lovely kitchen sink while walking in the woods!

This home reminded me of  the Maine home of Michael Fleming and Jennifer Wurst’s, which was featured here a few months ago.

Although the article itself is short, short, short, it is chock-full of fantastic photos that illustrate how paying nothing for an item is not proportional to its’ value. (My favorite ah-hah project is the kitchen cupboards they created from “a modified dresser found at the dump.”)

But this couple’s obsession with turning trash into treasure did not end when their home project was finished, as they now run a business that sells upcycled goods, called Elvis and Kresse, which donates 50% of all profits to charity.

Click HERE to read the article and luxuriate in all the great photos!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.


{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Karen December 30, 2011 at 11:46 am

I LOVE the doors!


Becky December 30, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Beautiful and ingenious! They must have spent a fair amount of dough on tools and refinishing materials (paint, glue, nails, etc.). Somehow that never gets mentioned in articles like this, but it happens to me all the time; 25 cents for a characterful old chair; $10 and 5 hours spent on paint stripper, primer, paint, brushes, etc. It still costs much less than buying new though, of course, or what I would pay for pre-spruced up “antiques.” And they have a home with warmth and character, which is priceless.

My husband and I are in the process of building our own house, and we were surprised at how much we have spent on fasteners (nails, bolts, screws…). The little things add up!

Maybe this is sour grapes, because I have lots of salvaged building materials and other stuff mouldering away under tarps and in the house, that we haven’t been able to use yet!


Katy December 30, 2011 at 1:42 pm

The article does not say that they created their home for free. It says they they did it for 3000 pounds instead of 30,000 pounds.



ellie December 31, 2011 at 9:00 am

I would also add that that I think there are other considerations as well. Aside from all of the money they saved, they probably kept a lot of stuff out of landfills, and saved a lot of resources. Every dresser picked from a landfill is a tree that doesn’t need to be cut down, a salvaged rug means less cotton or wool needs to be grown…etc.


Becky December 31, 2011 at 9:10 am

True. I don’t really have a problem with this article. It’s awesome and inspiring, their flat is beautiful, and I hope many people follow their lead.

I do wonder though if the 3000 pounds includes the sewage they didn’t originally have. I love seeing people do things like this; but I encourage anyone who wants to, to start by talking to several people who’ve done it, and get your numbers vetted by someone experienced.

Magazine articles about amazingly frugal DIY construction often omit some costs, like site prep (driveways), demolition/disposal (you’re not supposed to have any of that, but zero waste is hard to do … speaking from experience here), tools, storage of items after collection and before installation, workshop space – the list goes on. Most of these are amenable to frugal hacks, but each frugal hack is another layer of know-how, creativity, and complexity. Forewarned is forearmed.


Dogs or Dollars December 30, 2011 at 12:54 pm

I love this!

But, yes there is a lot of unmentioned overhead in know how and equipment. Looks like they have quite the industrial sewing set-up. Much of that could be bartered or learned of course. It would just slow down your progress considerably, and add to the ‘cost’ of time spent.

Again, with the sour grapes. Sorry! The upshot is stories like this always get my creative juices flowing. Its good inspiration going into the new year. My poor Husband (who does have lots of know how) is doomed.


Katy December 30, 2011 at 1:41 pm

They have the industrial sewing machine because their business involved creating purses and belts from otherwise wasted supplies. Click on their business site, and you’ll see what I mean.



Laura's Last Ditch--Adventures in Thrift Land December 30, 2011 at 2:37 pm

That’s impressive! While I have an eye for thrift, and eye for interior design I sorely lack. While we decked our house close to free, it doesn’t look nearly this good (and we didn’t start with a shell).


Valerie Heck December 30, 2011 at 3:39 pm

I loved the article. I always feel so good when I get something for some much less at the restore or the goodwill. I’m hoping to build some outdoor chairs using this blog:
She creates great plans for building all kinds of furniture yourself. I thought you might like that Katy. I can’t afford really nice chairs but I am willing to work hard and try to build them! Happy New Year!


joanna | 365declutterchallenge December 30, 2011 at 5:21 pm

I’m starting to wonder about America’s obsession with remodeling. Even using reclaimed goods requires energy and money. How many homes get remodeled and really don’t ‘need’ it? How do we find the balance between the need for remodeling and the want (not to mention, also weighing the effects of remodeling on home resale value)?


ellie December 31, 2011 at 8:40 am

I imagine quite a lot of homes get remodeled that don’t need it.

But the article says they bought a “shell” – meaning there was nothing there really but the walls and floors, probably in poor condition. A house like that needs to be either remodeled – or really, just “modeled” at all – or it will probably have to get torn down if neglected long enough. In this case, it sounds to me like they bought an unlivable building, and turned it into a usable dwelling for very little money, relatively speaking. They also probably did their new neighbors a favor, since having an empty “shell” on the block can not just potentially lower everyone’s property values, but can actually be unsafe (people might be tempted to break in to a long-empty building, potential to attract crime, arson, etc.).

I understand what you mean about unnecessary renovations – if nothing else, I don’t know how many perfectly good kitchens have I seen replaced with stainless and granite just because its trendy! But I don’t think this particular example is an “unnecessary” renovation – in fact, to me it seems more like the extreme example of the kind of renovation that should definitely be done!


Dogs or Dollars December 31, 2011 at 9:26 am

Interesting question! Although, I think in this case, yes the place needed to be ‘modeled’ at all. In general though, if we were content or made due with the kitchens and bathrooms that we had, a lot less energy and resources would be expelled. Sometimes functionality is an issue, but often its probably just aesthetics.


Megyn @Minimalist Mommi December 31, 2011 at 12:49 pm

I agree to an extent. Our homes are often seen as an area of self-expression. As I don’t have a lot of “stuff”, one way I like to express myself is through the house itself. Some of our remodeling needed to be done (like a rusted out bath tub) and some was done partly for aesthetics (like our kitchen). I figure if we can get the aesthetics we prefer for the budget we have, why not? We recycle our old materials, give them away for free, or sell some (like our kitchen cabinets). It can be less trash if you find the appropriate place for materials. It’s also the only way we can have a house we like AND that we can afford…if we chose a house with the renovations we are doing, there would be no way we could have afforded the house right off the bat.


Rosa January 1, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Maybe it’s the circles we run in, but I’ve known very few people (all, coincidentally, in the real estate business one way or another…) who remodeled purely for aesthetics. People talk a lot about the aesthetic decision making, because it’s more fun and also more optional.

We’re mid-kitchen remodel, and I know we’ve talked a LOT more about the new ceiling tiles than about the red-tagged gas oven and nonfunctional plumbing that sparked the whole thing. Because the choice between “death-defying” and “functional” isn’t something we really contemplated much, we just did it. And the reason we’re getting new countertops (a “friend” cooked something high and burned all the way through what was left of the 1960s formica) is not a fun “what do you think of this color?” kind of conversation – I told it for the first time at a party over Christmas, because now after 4 years I’m not so angry and hurt by it.


Jo December 30, 2011 at 7:00 pm

I think the takeaway here is that if you have imagination and you’re willing to work hard, you can create something YOU love at a fraction of the price of new.

Personally, I love what this couple has done. I find it unique and attractive. They are resourceful and innovative and the end result looks beautiful to me. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but no other style is to everyone’s taste either.


Megyn @Minimalist Mommi December 30, 2011 at 9:24 pm

What a great idea! I’ve seen other houses built like this in the US. I love them in theory, but know they would rarely, if ever, fit my aesthetics. Having unmatched kitchen cabinets would constantly bug me lol! I guess I’m just not hip enough to be eclectic 😉


jana December 31, 2011 at 2:48 am

yeah to recyling or upcycling or whatever you call it!

one question that bugs me though: scaffolding and wooden crates are usually heavily chemically treated for lasting in outdoor conditions, against mould, bugs etc. … slept on a bed made of euro-pallets in my student days but am wondering now, if that’s the stuff I’d want in my bedroom/kitchen?

I wonder if there’s a (DIY, affordable) way to eliminate that or make sure it doesn’t come out?


Becky December 31, 2011 at 9:52 am

I have not looked into it in detail, but have been told that one can “encapsulate” the nasties by putting more paint/stain/polyurethane type stuff over it.

Though any pallets I’ve left outside for long do a pretty good job of decomposing.


Lynda December 31, 2011 at 2:48 am

It’s probable that they get the doors “dipped” to remove old paint: there are plenty of people over here in the UK that have large tanks of paint remover and can do the job in one go. You need to give it a while for the doors to dry but it’s a lot more effective than stripping paint by hand and doesn’t damage the grain. Also, it means that all that lead based paint that we were so fond of, is removed safely. (shudder!)


sandi December 31, 2011 at 8:08 am

Thanks for the inspiring post! I really enjoy your blog!


Van January 1, 2012 at 1:07 pm

They’re living my dream. I plan to find a cheap little pad and fix it up the same way, with found and free goodies. Their home is GORGEOUS.


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