Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Beginning - a long time coming

Where to start. This has been a long journey for me. I have lived in this old Queenslander for 15 years. That seems incredible to me even as I type this. So many memories and life events. My twenties, thirties and now early forties. Relationships, postgraduate study, marriage, divorce, remarriage, career, becoming a mother. It's all happened here and this house with its old floorboards and VJ walls has been witness to both laughter and tears.

I have always been drawn to these beautiful old timber and tin houses, so full of character and history. I grew up in Europe and while I love my life here, I do find myself yearning for the history and culture that is just a way of life over there. I think this house is one way of creating a little bit of history for our own family here.

When I first bought this house with my first husband in the 1990's, it was a colonial Queenslander that had been converted into three flats. All the verandahs had been closed in, and there were three kitchens, three bathrooms and three bedrooms, all with their own stairs up to the house. The title deeds indicated the house had been built in 1905. Even though it needed a lot of work, we could see that the house had great potential.

I don't have many photos of this time (somehow inexplicably I seem to have lost most of them, and of course they were all pre-digital camera era) - but I have found a few that I have posted above.

We started out with lots of energy.... new roof, restumped, opened up the verandahs, knocked down walls and repainted. New kitchen and bathroom. Two bedrooms. It all happened over two or three years, and how I wish I had more photos from that time. Sadly our relationship did not survive, but I was lucky enough to be able to stay in the house as it felt like my anchor and my home during a very difficult time. I had no time, energy or money to spare for any more renovation at that time, and for quite a few years I was only able to do very small projects.
In the past few years I married again and we are now a family of three, bursting out of our tiny family home. We finally have felt ready to embark on this current and major renovation which will give us much more room to move, and yet because of my long history in this house it is bittersweet for me - the weekend that we moved out I had tears in my eyes and felt as if I was saying goodbye to an old friend. I hope that we can instill some liveability into our home while at the same time honouring the origins of this timber home.

I have decided to chronicle some of this here as I have greatly enjoyed reading about the experiences of others as they embark on large and small projects, and hope that in addition to providing a record for us it may be interesting for others.

I look forward to sharing our journey :)


  1. I'm so glad you've done this, Fiona, and I think you will be too when the project is complete. The only thing I've chronicled that comes close to this is my triathlon training; not quite the same.

    Having lived in our house for nearly 19 years, I totally understand your emotional attachment to the house after what it's witnessed. I hadn't realised it's early history; for some reason I thought it had been David's (? slight mental block) house before you got married but, clearly, I got that wrong. It was brave of you to take on the reconversion of the house from 3 flats in the first place.

    I'm sure you will make your new home a warm, personal and practical space when it's finished and in ways you can't possibly imagine until you start living in it again. Living in a mid terrace, we haven't been able to do anything like as much as you, but we have done a fair bit of extending and reallocation of rooms since you last visited, some 10 years ago, I suppose. You'd be amazed! And sometimes, it's not the new space that makes the difference, it's the new and better usage of the old space that is exciting because it was unanticipated. I love the fact that we've made our house 'live' with us as the family has grown, which makes it more than just solid bricks and mortar (or wood in your case!).

    Anyway, can't wait to read more. Isla x

  2. I had no idea that you had lived in the house so long or already seen it through the first wave of renovations. No wonder it is hard to leave for just six months.

    It is good of you to chronicle the reno and perhaps even the living in it after? I love that you haven't taken the knock it down option which would probably have been so much easier all those years ago. Instead you've cherished its ability to keep providing a home.

    The house is coming along beautifully and because you have waited so long it will be just as you want. Can't wait to see more.


  3. I discovered your blog this morning when I really should have been hanging out the washing and racing out the door to work.

    And now tonight, after the children are in bed, I've sat down and read through all your posts from beginning to end. A truely inspiring renovation.

    Sadly our own reno project in Annerley will not be on such a grand scale as yours. So I shall just continue to drool over yours!! looking forward to reading your future posts.

  4. Thank you Order in Suburbia for your kind comments. It really has been a labour of love and I have been quite emotional about it all - at the moment while I can see that it is taking shape and that it is lovely, it doesn't feel like my home - yet. Hopefully that won't take too long. Good luck with your own renovation - and for me the joy has been in the journey which has been a long one of many years, rather than the flurry of activity this year. F x

  5. Have just read all your posts from beginning to end. Well, not the end but where you are now. Looking forward to more.

    TDM xx