On my birthday in the past November 2019 my boyfriend and I bought our first apartment in Oslo. After working very hard for months we have finally finished the renovation we planned when we bought it!
As I explained in my previous post, when we were looking for apartments we wanted to find a place where we would do some renovation ourselves to make it more exciting and unique.
Where to start.
We knew we had to do some pretty dirty work in the apartment, so we fixed the dates so that we would get the keys of the apartment while we were still living in the previous apartment in Grünnerløkka. We only had two weeks to do the ugly work before we would have to move in, so we needed to work as hard as possible.
First, we evaluated the project we had in mind once we stepped into the apartment. That same night we got the keys we measured everything we had missed in the viewings and began demolishing the kitchen.
Secondly, we planned the tasks within the project and wrote them down in a list we would hang on the wall and cross out as we finish each task.
And so our lives turned into one of those renovation reality tv shows. We would go to our respective jobs and afterwork we would go to the apartment to work some more.
As you can imagine, we were excited about the new apartment and that gave us enough energy to get through this very crazy experiment.
All hands on deck!
Ever since the apartment was ours, we planned the project carefully before we would even get the keys. We wanted a new layout that would add a new kitchen and a bedroom, and had basically an idea on how we wanted it to look like. I took care of making the necessary plans (new walls, electricity, custom furniture) and designing the new kitchen and wardrobe.
The building is quite old and had some architecture features we wanted to maintain, such as the hardwood floors. These floors needed an update in colour though!
The project was very ambitious for the time we had, which meant we had to demolish walls, clean, sand and wax the floors before we would move in with all our stuff.
We began by dismantling the kitchen, which we gave away for free on Finn.no, the go-to website for buying/selling in Norway.
The kitchen was from early 2000’s, so we decided we would reuse some of the appliances, such as the oven and cooktop. Right after we were done with the kitchen we began demolishing the unwanted walls.
Simen seemed to enjoy using the crowbar! And I must say it was really fun to destroy… specially because after the walls came down we could finally get a better idea of the space and imagine our dream home.
The previous owner had built two walls in the middle of the apartment to create an alcove, where she used to sleep. An alcove is a sleeping area you can create by adding a bed into a space, but in order for the space to qualify as a bedroom the bed needs to be inside a room, which has to have two exit ways (window and door). By moving the kitchen into this area and creating a new bedroom the value of the apartment would increase, and we would get a smarter layout!
Tearing down walls and kitchen was really fun but then you always have to clean up after! We accumulated so much trash and dust, I think we spent most of these two first weeks cleaning up the whole apartment a million times.
In order to get rid of all the waste, we bought container bags from iSEKK, a company that would come afterwards to pick them up. This company collects containers from renovations and takes care of bringing the waste to the recycling station.
Good to know: you are not allowed to use coloured plastic trash bags, only transparent. Failing to do so will get you a fine. Also, if you pre-sort the trash, you avoid having to pay extra.
We did not throw all the wood from the walls, instead we recut and reused it for building the frames for the new walls!
And the building process begins…
We wanted to do as much as we possibly could ourselves, since I am an Interior Architect and Simen had already done some related work before. However, we had never taken on anything like this.
Simen’s dad came and so did some of our friends, who were a big help during the building process. Gjermund helped us transporting all the necessary equipment and materials into the apartment, as well as building the wall frames. Paulina and Fabio helped us in a lot of different tasks, and we are súper grateful!
Once the wall frames were up we could sand the floors. In order to do that we needed to rent the sanding machines from a hardware store (Maxbo). The goal was to do it in a very short time, since the rent of the machines was quite expensive, and we were getting close to the move-in date.
Sanding the floors was easier than we thought. It was pretty noisy, so we had a specific time-frame to fit into. We used a regular sanding machine and a corner one. This last one was pretty hard to control, it was like being on a rodeo bull!
After the sanding, we applied one coat of white wax (Osmo Snow Matt) all over the wood floors and had to wait 24h. The next day we added the transparent matt oil (Osmo Polyx-Oil Clear Matt) and let it dry overnight. The apartment instantly looked so much brighter after this!
When the floors were done we protected them with some thin cardboard to continue with the work and prepared to finally move in!
Moving into the building site.
Living in the apartment while renovating was a challenge.
Simen and his friend Turius took care of moving all our stuff. They rented a van and drove many times from Løkka to Torshov in one day. Afterwards, we prepared the living room to become our new home for the next weeks. We would sleep on the couch and have most of our stuff stacked in the storage rooms.
The next steps were clear: finishing the new walls and building the new kitchen so we could live a normal life again.
While the electrician prepared the new circuits we were busy getting all the wallpaper off the walls… Something we thought was going to be súper easy and ended up being one of the hardest tasks! Here’s why:
At the beginning we thought we only had to take off the wallpaper from the previous bedroom and one of the walls in the living room, but we didn’t know that the kitchen also had wallpaper. The problem was that those walls not only had one layer, but I think there was around 5 layers of wallpaper! It was a nightmare to get rid of this. What they say it’s true, unexpected work would come up in old buildings!
We tried with water and soap, with a spatula, a sanding machine and a paint scraper. In the end, many people helped in this process until we could finally even the walls enough to finish them. To even them up we used a medium wall putty and applied it with spatula.
Closing up the new walls.
With everything stripped down to the base, it was time to dress the walls. The plumber and electrician had already prepared everything for the next step to be completed.
We had ordered plaster plates from Byggmax and it cost us 1000kr just for the delivery, but we had assumed that choosing this over bringing them with a van would lessen the possibility of damaging the plates. In the end, we could have used that delivery fee on something else, because some plates got damaged anyways…
So we measured and cut the holes for the electric sockets and placed the plates on the walls. We left one side open to place the isolation then closed it up after the electrician had pulled the wires. We used Rockwool isolation plates, and it was fun and simple to place.
Dressing and finishing up.
After closing up the walls, we began the journey of learning how to tape walls. Mudwork or Madwork? I would say both!
This step ended up being a tough one! Not only because everyone we talked to seemed to have a horror story about themselves or a friend breaking down and calling an expert, but also because you have to be confident while working with mud.
We had been researching through different sources on YouTube and they all seemed to have a different technique they followed. When we applied the first coat on the joints, we had no idea what we were doing, so the end result was that the joint tape got air bubbles while drying and came loose. We had only done a test part on the wall, so we went and talked with someone who works with it, and got better equipment.
Simen ended up mastering the technique after feathering all the joints and corners. The walls were finally dressed and ready to be sanded. Sanding with the hand machine creates a lot of dust, so we had to seal the living room with some plastic and paper while doing this.
There was another areas in the apartment that needed some mudwork. For instance, the back side of the wood oven. The wall wasn’t even and someone had done a bad job covering some holes here, so we had to fix it! Process was applying mud, feathering and sanding. We are súper happy with the result!
Knowing how difficult and time consuming it was to do this process on the walls, we decided to hire a profesional to finish the ceilings. We posted the job in Mittanbud and someone contacted us right away! In just a couple of days our ceiling was looking brand new, and all the cracks were gone!
Final layer: Painting.
It was very exciting to see how everything was starting to look more finished. We ended up painting the whole apartment, and it was so refreshing to see the space with a new light, brighter than ever.
We decided to paint the entrance and kitchen in Classic White by Jotun Lady, a pretty white white (same colour as the ceiling), because this would be the darkest area of the house.
Our bedroom would have two walls in Organic Green by Jotun Lady, a colour that darkens up the space in the nights, and feels happy and warm during the day. It also shows our love for nature and fits perfectly with our furniture!
For the living room we chose to use a different kind of paint. I wanted the walls to bring an earthy texture to the space, so mineral based paint was ideal.
We applied one first coat of regular Smooth White and then another final coat of Lady Minerals Smooth White by Jotun Lady. This is one of my favourite colours from their collection. It feels calm and earthy, and it reminds of clay!
Mineral paint is thicker and requires the use of a brush to create the final texture.
I had to paint this room with a brush, creating a unique pattern. It felt quite crafty and it was really fun! My wrist wasn’t as happy after this though…
I wanted to bring some attention to the wood stove, so I painted part of the walls behind it in a different colour, using the same technique as the other walls. This time we used one first coat of Grey Harmony and a final coat of the same colour in Lady Minerals.
All the paint we used has a matt finish.
Have you noticed? We also painted the stove in black!
As soon as we saw the stove the first time we knew we would paint it in black. It looks much more modern and we love the contrast with the walls.
Furniture and finishes.
The apartment looked more than ready to start building up our new kitchen and arranging our furniture.
This came out as a very long post, so I will divide it in two!
Want to know the next steps after all this work? I will describe all about it in the next post Renovating our apartment in Oslo Part II, which I will probably post during summer.
In this post I am going to explain from the design and order of our new kitchen to us mounting it (of course, we wanted to try and do as much as possible ourselves), and the custom work I designed.
I will also share the final pictures of the apartment after this complete makeover!
I hope you enjoyed reading about our experience and please contact me if you are curious about any details. (:
Special thanks to:
Gjermund, Ellen, Paulina, Fabio, Vilde, Christofer, Victoria and Cecilia.