It was the moment Chelsea Dunley had always dreamed of – the House Rules crew turning up at her front door.
But the 29-year-old had always imagined she’d have her husband Wayde by her side to join in the excitement.
In a tear-jerking episode airing this week, Chelsea will have the house she shared with her late husband and baby daughter Koa made over by the final three teams.
Chelsea and Wayde had been shortlisted as contestants on the current season, before Wayde tragically lost his life in a rock-fishing accident in June last year.
‘We had just sent off our final audition tape the night before he died,’ Chelsea tells New Idea.
‘Wayde was so excited.’
The pair were childhood sweethearts, first meeting in kindergarten and getting together at the age of 13.
‘He was the other half of me,’ Chelsea says tearfully.
‘We shared the same sense of humour and sense of adventure.’
Chelsea and Wayde tied the knot on her family’s farm in 2012, under a peppercorn tree – a symbolic gesture to honour her mum, who had passed a few years earlier.
Rather than splashing out on a honeymoon, they saved every cent for their dream home where they could start a family.
And in 2015 they finally bought it – a two-bedroom, old mining cottage on the South Coast of NSW.
‘We had watched House Rules from season one and always talked about going on the show to fix up the house,’ Chelsea says.
As Wayde was a landscape gardener and Chelsea is a beautician with a knack for interior design, the pair would have been a force to be reckoned with on the renovation show.
When the pair had their beautiful little girl Koa, it only ramped up their motivation to renovate and make the home family friendly.
Their daughter was just seven months old when Chelsea received the news that Wayde had sustained fatal head injuries while out rock fishing with friends.
‘I got a bunch of messages from a friend who had seen on the news that a 28-year-old man in our area had been in a rock-fishing accident,’ Chelsea says. ‘Straight away I had that sinking feeling, and I knew it was Wayde.’
Chelsea reveals that losing her husband completely tore her world apart.
‘Not only was it hard enough losing my best friend, but I had to adjust to being a single mum of a young child.’
Thankfully, her friends, family and the local community rallied around her to help with the baby. Chelsea had planned to go to breakfast with her in-laws the morning that the House Rules crew arrived at her door.
‘They were running really late and I wondered what was going on,’ Chelsea says. ‘Turns out, they were in on it!’
Chelsea reveals that she burst into tears when her new and improved home was unveiled.
The promo teases that the rundown cottage has been transformed into a stylish, modern home.
‘I can’t imagine a more perfect home to raise Koa in,’ she says. ‘This experience has absolutely changed my life.’
Her only regret is that Wayde isn’t there to see his final wish come true.
‘Every time I turn a corner, I notice new little touches that Wayde wanted for our home,’ Chelsea says.
‘He would have absolutely loved it.’