Kristin and Jeff Bell live in their newly renovated house Hamilton South with their dog Molly. In the past year-and-a-half they’ve worked tirelessly to transform the space. Along with this, they keep very busy and work multiple jobs full time.
Kristin is from Black Hill and works at as a high school teacher and career adviser at Medowie Christian School. She also runs a local business called Indie Recruitment which assists people with their resumes.
Jeff is from Port Stephens and is the director of an accounting firm in town called Bell Corp. He’s also the director of a property management firm called Nest Realty Group.
“We probably bought this place in July of 2017. We bought a place around the corner before and we renovated and sold that, and then bought this,” Kristin says. “We also got married and had a honeymoon.”
Kristin recently did a bit of research on their home and learnt that the front part of the house was built in 1919. She and Jeff are the fourth owners, and they believe the back part was added in the ‘60s or ‘70s. A boiler maker was the original owner, and he owned it for 60 years.
Before they bought, Jeff was able to see the house while Kristin was working. She never got to see it before they moved in, but she put her faith in him. She told him, ‘if you like it, buy it!’
In six weeks they had to settle it and she still hadn’t seen it; Jeff had a very big vision and she trusted him.
Because they’ve worked on previous renovations, the pair had a bit of an idea as to what they were getting into. They knew they could do it and they liked working together.
They first got together in July of 2016, and within four months they decided to go all in and buy a house.
“We both find the transformation fun, taking something pretty dingy and doing something different with it,” Jeff says.
“When we purchased this was actually two flats.”
“We moved into the back flat and started renos there with tenants living in the other flat.”
“It was like a dungeon. There were double brick walls. It was cold and dark; it was horrible,” Kristin says.
“One of the first thing we did was identify which walls had to go and knocked them down. That opened the whole house up.”
When their tenants moved out, the Bells cut a big hole in the wall which would become a doorway.
They were living among the renovations. For four months they went without a kitchen.
“We survived on takeouts. We had an electric fryer pan and trestle table, so we made do, but never again,” Kristin says.
“It was winter. There were holes in the ceiling from where we demolished it; it was nice and cool.”
Despite the chaos, they had a very clear vision. Open living was crucial, as was a pool.
“We had the architect in first; she was really good,” Jeff says.
“She was able to put our ideas on paper and say what was possible and what wasn’t.”
They brought in engineers for structural integrity issues; Jeff has good friends in the industry.
“Having an accounting background means you know about three of everything in Newcastle,” he jokes.
“The renovations went close to a year-and-a-half. Knowing what we do now we could have done it in six months,” Kristin says.
Naturally they dealt with difficulties along the way, including the weather.
“You go to paint outside and it pours rain,” Kristin jokes.
She said the biggest challenge was always the flow-on effect: if one trade couldn’t make it then the rest of the trade was held up.
But now they are more than happy with their five bedroom, three bathroom home. Jeff’s favourite area at the moment is the alfresco area.
Kristin loves looking at the kitchen and thinking about how it’s been transformed.
“I love the backyard. It was an old 1975 carpark and grass, and seeing what it is now it makes me happy,” she says.
The two love the neighbourhood, but they might be up for another challenge in the future, depending on what happens.
“My mantra is never say never,” Kristin says.