Thursday, September 29, 2011

the largest room in the house

We always loved the gracious Colonial style Queenslanders with their beautiful stairs and symmetry. If possible we wanted to hide our garage away and not have a car port that dominated the front of the house. We are lucky to have enough space on the block, and to have a floor plan that can accommodate this. Our plan was to hide the garage underneath the house, and to have it accessible from the driveway. So far so good.

Somehow though we have ended up with a garage that while it is undoubtedly concealed from the street and the front of the house, is the largest space in the house. It could hold 4 cars.... and we only have 2 small cars. Everyone who comes to look at the house - almost without fail - says "mmmm. The garage is pretty big isn't it". The man of the house has great plans for a wind trainer, and the boy of the house wants the space to scooter around in. I suppose I should be glad I don't have to mop the floor.

house viewed from the front garden this week - partially painted.
Front wall of the garage is the timber palings,
unpainted in this photo

closer look at the garage space

side entrance of the garage. This shows the
side of the house progressing nicely -
external cladding finished, windows in and
painting almost done.

the garage - the biggest room in the house...
The roller door will be installed next week so it looks
like it will also be the first space to be

she's taking shape

Our builders continue to set a cracking pace. Over the space of what felt like a few days the whole external frame went up. It started to become much easier to visualise the plans taking shape, and see how the layout and proportions would be. Some things were more spacious than we thought, other spaces have turned out to be much smaller and will be the subject of another post. Our builder has been fantastic and has worked through these issues with us, but there have been a few interesting moments...

rooms upstairs taking shape, this will be the kitchen
with one bedroom on the right and the future stairs in
the middle.

this space is for bi-fold doors opening out
onto the new part of the deck from what will
be the kitchen.

external frame with the 2 storeys looking
from the back of the garden just inside the
pool fence

scaffolding (= $$$)

Within a few days the roof was on, followed by
a week of mud and rain.

Monday, September 19, 2011


The first two weeks there seemed to be a huge amount of work going on. The house was gutted, the back pulled off in one afternoon, and then it was raised and restumped. The following week with clear blue skies, the new slab was laid with incredible precision and a team of about 20 men and 18 concrete trucks over the course of the day. Yes, we were very popular indeed with all our long suffering neighbours that day - not!

Once the slab was down and had dried out, the builders set to work putting up the external frame downstairs for the new garage and then the rumpus and office out the back.

The house looked much higher and longer than before which took a bit of getting used to. All our friends commented that it was rather big (subtext: what are you thinking - you are a family of three people....) and even my boss has nicknamed it the Taj Mahal. Thanks mate.

Once the walls are all up and it's full of our junk treasured items, it will look cosy and not quite so "big".

our front timber stairs taking shape

the back of the Taj

rumpus on left, office on right

The best laid plans

We started out the renovation process thinking hard about what we wanted to achieve.
A spare bedroom - yes. A second bathroom - yes. Room for kids to play - yes. Media room/butlers' pantry/outdoor kitchen - err, no thanks. When we saw the plans drawn up comparing the existing floor plan with the proposed floor plans, we realised why we had been feeling so cramped and constrained for all those years.

the existing floor plan with 2 bedrooms and one bathroom but
lots of verandah space and a "cosy" family home

first floor plan - with an extra bedroom - yay - at last my mum
will have somewhere to sleep other than the floor when
she visits

proposed ground floor plan with lots of storage space for
the inevitable junk that we all accumulate

The two things I am most excited about are the new kitchen, and then - somewhat ridiculously - the laundry chute from the bathroom upstairs to the laundry downstairs. Maybe I am just a desperate housewife at heart.....

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Our home away from home.

Once the scale of our renovation became clear, we realised that we would have to move out for 6 months. Having lived in the house for so long, this was fairly daunting - there was a lot of "stuff". It felt like every spare moment we had was spent packing, culling, driving to the dump, trying to rationalise it all. The staff at the local Vinnies would start to wince when I came in with yet another box of offerings.

We were incredibly lucky that through serendipity we have been able to house sit a Queenslander in our neighbouring suburb. Close enough to walk to school, still keep in touch with the renovation, and most importantly of all, have a home for our boisterous and exhausting delightful and beautifully trained dalmatian Ruby.

look at that face - what's not to love?

We have enjoyed creating a little home from home as I have always been a "nester".

gorgeous poppies from a dear friend

delicious wild raspberries growing in the garden

My most favourite thing of all is the ruby red KitchenAid mixer that Bronwyn left for us to use while she was away. I have lusted over these for years and could never quite justify getting one as I have a hand held mixer that does the job just as well ... or so I thought. I have been baking up a storm with this lovely machine though and think it will be difficult to go back to my old mixer.

I ♥ KitchenAid

Too many choices

One of the less pleasant aspects of the renovation was choosing all the "stuff" for the new kitchen and bathrooms. Somehow in the years leading up to this renovation, when I would daydream about it finally happening, I envisaged being organised, decisive and well informed - making all the "right" decisions in a calm and methodical way.

Nothing could have been further from the truth.

Our builder wanted us to make all these choices well before the renovation had even begun. It all started out so well..... but how quickly I became overwhelmed. Wall oven or freestanding oven? Induction or gas ? Mixer tap or not ? Traditional or modern ? Soft close toilet seat anyone ??? Mosaic tiles or glass splashback? It went on and on.

I became a slightly crazy woman who could talk at length about all of these options, desperately asking friends and colleagues for their opinion in the hope that they would help me make these decisions. People at work started to develop a tic as I approached them, stepping into empty offices and trying hard not to make eye contact so as to avoid the subject.

In the end something kind of snapped one weekend when I realised that there are more important things in this world - like being lucky enough to have a roof over your head - so I impulsively made some choices and have now forgotten what most of them were. We are almost at the stage now of all of that hardware going into the house, so fingers crossed I got at least some of them "right".

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Let the chaos begin

One sunny day in July this year it all started. The first few days our old house was basically gutted. It was hard to stay positive as wall after wall came down, and the back of the house was there one morning and then the next it had disappeared. It was as if a giant can opener had been used on the back of the house. The front stairs were demolished. I was a bit emotional at all this and I think the builder was worried he had a nutter on his hands....

ready to be raised and a shadow of her former self

We had debated endlessly whether or not to raise the house to build in underneath, or whether to just extend the house and leave it as it was. In the end practicality won the day and we decided to raise the house - but I still love the stately low set colonial Queenslanders.

up she goes

precarious balancing act

raised and restumped

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"The White House"

This is one of the few photos I have of the house after some of the original renovations after we opened up all the verandahs. I can't find any other photos of that time, but we put stairs on the front and painted the house white with white verandah balustrades and a dark green railing. We planted a mock orange hedge and a poinciana tree and a japanese maple in the front garden some time after this photo was taken. This photo would be from 1996 before the new roof. Where does the time go.....

Fast forward to 2011. The hedge had grown as had our beautiful Poinciana tree, giving us some privacy when we were on our verandah, as well as a profuse display of stunning red flowers in the summer months. We had become used to giving people directions to our house over the years as "it's the white house with the tin roof" which over the years became "it's the scruffy white house with the peeling paint".

This is one of the last photos I took the weekend we moved out of the house before the renovation began.

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 :)