Former architect Rufaro was familiar with buildings and construction but had never been on the tools until his wife Primrose gifted him a drill when they became homeowners.
“Learning so much about design made me curious to see if I could create these designs myself,” Rufaro says.
Known in the Bunnings Workshop community as @diy_hausdesigns, Rufaro describes himself as a “food loving, vegie growing, weekend D.I.Y.er.”
His job in building policy and regulation allows him to “give good design actual practicality on the ground.” On weekends, he gets to be the designer, sketching out his renovation plans and “tinkering around with anything that needs a healthy dose of creativity.”
Rufaro and Primrose moved into a property in Melbourne’s northern suburbs in the early months of 2020 and made the most of Melbourne’s lockdowns by completing projects around their home and outdoor areas.
A boardwalk Rufaro saw on holiday in Fiji sparked the idea of “creating a journey along the deck into our backyard”. He imagined a three-tier deck, with each level allowing people to experience something different and “feeling like a separate space”. He started sketching with “wild intentions” of building the deck as his first big project over a long weekend.
But he hit a few snags before impressing the Workshop community with the finished result.
“Incorrect screws were used and my spacing between the decking boards was off,” Rufaro says. “I re-did most of it a few weeks later and was thrilled with the result. After oiling it, you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.”
Rufaro’s grandfather was a builder, and stories of his projects were passed down through his father. “I am self-taught – a lot of trial and error, YouTube videos and extensive Googling. Maybe it was passed down through my genes.”
“I spent a lot of time with my dad in the garden and orchard in my younger years, planting seedlings and learning a fair bit about fruits and vegies. I remember growing and eating fresh carrots, peas and guava, and Mum making marmalade jam from fresh oranges.”
His passion for D.I.Y. is now infectious. “I love how you can imagine something and bring it to life,” says Rufaro. “The journey between the two teaches me so much about myself that the end product is often just the cherry on the cake.”
Rufaro is delighted to be now cooking in a space that feels bigger and brighter thanks to his cosmetic kitchen renovation. He spent his weekends painting the cabinets and tiles, adding more cabinetry, and replacing the benchtop and appliances over six months. When the last stroke of paint had dried, he realised “the cabinets seemed a bit flat”, so he added trim, repainted, and changed the handles from black to brushed gold.
“I genuinely enjoy cooking at home and navigating my way through a variety of cuisines most nights of the week.” A recipe is “merely a guide” when he’s in the kitchen – similar to his approach of “winging” D.I.Y. projects, even with a sketchbook in hand.
“Once I'm familiar with the flavours of a cuisine, I tend to 'respectfully' experiment, which has taught me how to maximise flavour and apply restraint.” If you’re dining in Rufaro’s home, you can expect “smoked beef short cut ribs with my famous shiitake mushroom dipping sauce” or “barramundi with Vietnamese-style grilled prawns”.
When he’s not in his kitchen or on the tools, Rufaro would “happily travel more than an hour to eat my favourite dumplings.” He can’t go past a hot serve of Xiao Long Bao from a little restaurant in Melbourne’s Chinatown. He first tried the dish years ago while travelling in Shanghai. “It has such humble ingredients, but the flavour is second to none.”
Rufaro was drawn to the Workshop community because of “the honesty and kindness of the members and staff. Everyone is so helpful and supportive no matter the project size. That's rare. There's a whole community waiting to support your projects.”
When browsing the aisles at his local Bunnings, Rufaro “splits time between the timber yard and where the screws are located. Can't ever have enough screws.” He would be lost without his spirit level. “Call it a basic tool but nothing ever looks quite right when it's not straight.”
Rufaro finds it hard to nominate his favourite project because he’s learnt so much from each build, but if he were to pick just one then “the laundry renovation has to take the cake. The design translated perfectly into the end product and completely changed the space,” he proudly says.
He is currently sketching out a pergola for the next backyard project. “The space is calling for it,” Rufaro reckons. He also has big plans for his bathroom.
“With the confidence I've gained on my D.I.Y. journey, I want to renovate our bathroom into something very special,” he says. But even with all the work he’s put into his gorgeous house, Rufaro is now looking ahead to the next one.
As he’s currently using his garage or backyard as his makeshift workshop for now, “a dedicated workshop will be a minimum requirement for our next property.”
Rufaro believes anything worth doing is worth doing yourself and encourages beginners to “do your research, plan it out and give it a go.”
He’s learning to be patient with his mistakes, and spending time getting to know his tools. “This saves time and reduces frustration in the long run. Slow and steady gets it done right.”
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