After I put up the ugly before photos of our back renovation (which strangely sent my blog stats through the roof.... I had no idea readers were crying out to see them), and given that my highest viewed posts are the Before and After posts that I've posted on our current house renovations, I thought it might be of interest to show our first house in Melbourne.
|Just prior to moving in. Skips became a common feature in the street.|
We bought our first house, a dilapidated weatherboard cottage in Albert Park, Melbourne back in 2002. The house was described as a renovators delight, which was a slight understatement. Frankly it should have been condemned. Cosmetically it was quite hideously ugly, but additionally the floors had collapsed in places, it smelt of cat wee, mould and cigarettes, and was structurally unsound. We bought it for land cost only. The before photos I'm showing I have scanned as this was around 10 years ago, before digital cameras. The reasons why we bought the house were that we felt could capitalise on the value of the property using my design skills - it had such an altered layout that most people couldn't see what you could do with the house other than knocking it down. Additionally, weatherboards are the easiest house to alter and renovate, and also much cheaper to renovate than a brick house.
|looking in from the front door to the original living/ dining room jackhammering up the concrete floors. Through the hatch and doorway is the kitchen, the window on the right went to the "sunroom" as described by the agent. It had no floor.|
The house was circa 1890, and had originally been two single fronted cottages consisting of a very narrow hall, two rooms (one behind the other) and an open kitchen/ dining with a tacked on lean to for washing etc. Out the back was the loo onto the back laneway. In the early 1960's the two houses had been knocked into one in a fairly clumsy manner by a DIYer. It had a single, off centre front door that opened directly into an open plan living/ dining area. Off that to the left ran a very narrow hall to three bedrooms, some with questionable colour schemes (navy blue and purple being one). From the dining room you stepped down to the concrete floor of the kitchen (almost no cupboards and a stove that was declared dangerous by the gas inspector). Through that you went into the old leanto which was a laundry on one side and the bathroom on the other. Almost all walls had holes in them, the electrical wiring was dangerous, and any original Victorian features (skirtings/ fireplaces) were long gone. Our neighbour across the street could remember it being done, apparently the Policeman who did it spent a couple of years on it on weekends, then sold to the owner that we bought from (it was a deceased estate). The previous owner was clearly very poor, and alcoholic - my first job was putting out all the empty jack daniels bottles that were on the roof, stacked in corners of the garden and hidden in undergrowth out for recycling. This took three weeks of emptying and filling up the recycling bin. No upkeep or work had been done on the house since the 60's renovation.
|the view in the bedrooms, that was to become the second bedroom, although for the first 2 years was our Living room until we renovated the back of the house.|
|The built in unit in the second bedroom with collapsing plywood floors|
The first job was to repair the structure. Mr AV and I had very limited funds, so we had to do as much as we could ourselves, and we had to do it quickly as we couldn't afford the rent on our apartment plus the mortgage payments. So, we did demolition on weekends (with some lovely friends that helped out), jackhammering up concrete that had been poured into holes where the floorboards had rotted out, stripping out the old 1960's ceilings that were collapsing and getting things ready for the builders who had to do the more professional aspects. We had the house restumped (the bits that go into the ground and hold up a floor structure), and rebuilt the entire floor structure as we discovered when demolishing that basically it didn't have one. We then laid all the floor boards ourselves, had the house rewired and had new walls built to alter the layout to a more conventional hall with two rooms on either side (one side having narrower rooms as the door was still off centre - there was a structural brick wall down the centre of the house). The narrow rooms became a bathroom and a nursery later down the track.
|View into the back garden from the back of the house|
|In the back corner of the house looking back at the house|
Next, we moved in, without power for the first week. After the first 5 months, we built the new bathroom where the original open plan dining area of the house had been. I selected limestone tiles for the floors, and a white subway tile for the walls. The shower and bath were original Victorian fittings that came from renovation works at my Parent's house in Stirling (they brought them over on a trailer one weekend for us). The vanity was a sofa table from Freedom furniture that I found on sale, cut down to the correct height and painted white. The hand basins, taps and toilet were Caroma - I used to get a trade discount at the time, which is commonly given to Architects and Interior Designers. Above the handbasins the two mirrors conceal built in medicine cupboards from Stegbar, which I put frames around using bits of architrave. We had a heated towel rail (a nice luxury in freezing Melbourne) and not pictured were two velux skylights, one above each handbasin. We had the manual opening ones, which was fine as our ceiling height wasn't too extreme. The cupboard in the corner with the bifold doors housed the laundry - a stacked washer and dryer and a laundry trough with shelving above.
|Victorian bath, double vanity with medicine cupboards above|
|Ladder style towel rail, frameless glass shower and Victorian shower, bifold doors conceal the laundry|
After the bathroom was complete (it was done first as the old original one was truly, truly horrible - when you showered water would go through the wall into the next room... and that is just the start of the problems) we started work on the facade of the house after the council approvals came through.
The facade had no original features. We demolished everything, and put in new windows (salvaged Victorian sash windows that would have been the size of the original ones), a highlight window over the front door to bring light into the hallway, and re-weatherboarded the whole thing (this was all work done by a builder. We are not that clever). Mr AV and I then built the veranda, front deck and front fence and painted the whole thing inside and out. Outside, I put up a French enamel blue and white street number, two copper up/down lights for outside lighting and planted a Murraya hedge and white wisteria to go up the veranda posts. After the facade was finished we could finally put in insulation in the ceiling, and carpet in the other rooms along with a built in wardrobe in our bedroom and salvaged doors - the originals were long gone and had been replaced by plastic sliding concertina doors. Luxury at last! I was fortunate to get the carpet from a Commercial installer very cheaply - it was left over from the Westin Hotel construction project, and was a very good quality wool plush pile.
|That's happy me in steel capped boots with a shovel setting out the stumps for the deck|
The next stage was the back of the house. Initially I drew up plans that were approved by council for a knock down and proper larger extension. But we didn't feel comfortable with the amount that our mortgage would have ended up being, so we decided to instead work with the original footprint and open out the old kitchen/ bedroom 3/ bathroom and laundry and turn it into an open plan living/ kitchen/ dining room. We used french doors from Schott's in Melbourne across the entire back wall, and I put an oversized (for the size of the cottage) salvaged sash window in the seating area to flood the room with light natural light, as the back of the house faced South. We installed a Jetmaster gas log fire to heat the entire house, and the floors were floating floors with a jarrah veneer to match in with the boards we'd used in the hallway - the entire back of the house was on an existing concrete slab.
The kitchen posed a couple of problems. Appliances had been purchased from Miele with a hefty discount when we were planning the larger extension - I had chosen a wide oven and gas cooktop, and a built in coffee machine which I had felt would be a good selling feature in the future (and it was, the next owners wanted it specified in the contract that the coffee machine was part of the sale). Large appliances with a much smaller kitchen meant that the layout was a squeeze, but in the end I was very happy with the kitchen - it was extremely easy to work in, with everything in proximity to where it was needed. I used laminate for the cupboards (Laminex Parchment, which is my favourite white in the laminex range), and a composite stone benchtop (no specific branding, I got it from DeFazio tiles in Victoria Ave, Brunswick along with the bathroom tiles - they are fantastic and if you're in Melbourne I highly recommend them as they can get stuff in for you if they don't have it in their extensive range). The splashback was colourback starfire glass (starfire glass is colourless glass, ie it has no iron in it which makes any colour that is painted on the back a true colour, without a greenish tinge). The tap and sink were from Caroma again, and the brushed chrome D handles were from a supplier at my work at the time, who sold them to me at cost.
Later on we built in the bookcases on either side of the fireplace.
After we finished all house renovations, we decided to start a family. While I was pregnant, I designed the back courtyard which was still as originally pictured in the before shots, and had a few challenges. Firstly, we were overlooked (as is common in inner city Melbourne). Secondly the ground level was higher outside than inside, which had in the past meant that water would come into the house when it rained. We re-levelled the garden, painted the fences in a unifying colour (there were 5 different fence types in a very small area, so painting them one colour was a much cheaper solution to building new), and had large sandstone coloured concrete pavers put down on concrete pads. In between I planted mini mondo grass (trays and trays of it when I was 8.5 months pregnant. It took me two weeks to finish. Extreme nesting.) which was on a watering system. This was because I wanted a very small area to look lush and green all the time - entirely paving it would have looked quite harsh, and we couldn't lawn such a small area. The garden beds contained Bradford pears, an ornamental pear, which have a pretty autumn colour, and lovely blossom in spring. I clipped them and trained them over a few years to block out the view of the neighbours. In Summer it was a lovely green private space (these pictures were taken for the real estate listing in early Spring). I wanted a feature in the courtyard as a focal point and something that drew the eye from the front door down to the back to make an otherwise tiny plot seem more spacious. We bought the giant rusty urn on plinth at Going Going Green in Hawthorn and it did the trick nicely. I planted English box hedging, and roses underneath the trees and that was where the planting stopped - we had a Jack Russell so he needed somewhere to dig and play. We put in a sandpit later on for the children, which is the wooden lidded box you can see to the right in the second picture.
On a practical level, we had a clothes line put to the side of the house - I hate having washing on display from the open front door, which is something many houses in the area suffer from due to small plot sizes. On the other side of the back of the house Mr AV built a small shed to house our (now extensive) tools. We also put in evaporative air conditioning just before our oldest was born.
We started with a 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom house, and we ended up with the same, but the layout suited modern living much better. We also did not spend a lot of money on this house - we were always mindful that it would be a house we would sell, and we also did not want to increase our mortgage to a point where it was uncomfortable for us while we were living in it. And so we lived in the house for a total of 7 years - the first 2.5 was the period of renovations.
I tried to keep the house neutral and classic - as there were not any original features, I tried not to recreate them in too obvious a manner, so no iron lace on the veranda, ceiling cornices or roses. The house had such a lovely, warm feel to it, it was just too small for our needs, so with some sadness we put it on the market and moved on... but then that led to our current house and project. Hope you enjoyed the tour.
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- a Palladian Villa - Villa Capra revisited
- This week- dust and demolition, and looking locall...
- Before and After - Our first house
- This week - a mirror, a declutter and Urrbrae Hous...
- Renovation - The Before Shots
- Mill House in Dorset by John Stefanidis
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