Sunday, July 8, 2012

Been there done that- renovations

This blog was always intended to be about the renovation of our little blue house called Betsy. Along the way, it has become a creative outlet, a space to share a love of op shop finds and a pictorial memory of some of the best moments with my children. A bits and pieces, all over the shop kind of blog. As we are still a little way off starting Betsy's makeover renovation, I thought you might like to see what we got up to last time we did this renovating caper.

This renovation is pretty much spot on ten years old, and I still love our old house. We will be doing some things differently this time but the underlying threads are still the same. There will be white vj walls, there will be pine wood floors and there will be lots of colour. There will also be a view of trees from every window. In my mind, that's a perfect house.

Want to take a peek at a  queenslander renovation circa 2002? (I might add these photos are all from the real estate agent and my house was never actually this tidy or clutter free in real life). When we bought this workers cottage in 2000 she was shabby and had a red roof, cream walls and forest green trim. The front fence was falling down and the stairs came straight down from top to bottom and were very steep and dangerous.

She had three bedrooms, a small lounge/dining/kitchen area and a tacked on bathroom at the back. It was a long skinny block that sloped up towards the back of the house. We did not want to raise and excavate under the house so we simply added an extension onto the back. We used a draftsman and virtually all the design was our own.  It took 11 weeks and there were some medium sized dramas with the builder. We swore at the time we would NEVER renovate again. It then took us about another two years to finish painting the interior of the house ourselves. I swore I would NEVER gap fill or paint another VJ ceiling ever again.

We took a long time planning the kitchen, luckily we are both details people. I miss this kitchen. The island was Corian, the other bench stainless steel, the cupboards laminate . The red wall was simply painted in case we changed our minds, but we never did. It was a very functional kitchen and we will be taking all the best bits of this one for Betsy. It had symmetry, no overhead cupboards and a huge shallow pantry along one wall. My only regret was perhaps the stainless steel bench, it scratched easily, rusted slightly and it was a total pain to keep the splashback clean.

We chose to keep all the joinery in the original red cedar and this really suited the tropical vibe of this house. For Betsy we are doing all the doors and windows white. The living/dining/kitchen/deck was the bulk of the extension, see the pale yellow floors of new pine. These were quite white when installed but yellowed up over  a decade, still never as honey as the original floors but as the join was in the hallway, the transition was not obvious.

Before kids we would lie on this daybed all weekend reading books and gazing up into that mango tree. That tree clinched us buying the house. Snap when we bought Betsy, her huge poinciana was the clincher.

We intend to do a similar style of gabled deck roof for Betsy, however she will have a much wider span than this.

There is no money to give Betsy a new bathroom. I'll just fondly remember this one.

This shower did not need a door ( I hate cleaning glass) and that bath was the deepest and widest we could find (the kids miss that bath- it was practically a pool). We thought we were buying purple mosaics but they ended up looking more like a shimmering mermaids tail. Can I add that white tiled floors were an exceptionally bad idea with small children. We are still experiencing karmic payback for this exceptionally poor decision as Betsy also has white tiled bathroom floors.

The ensuite had a double shower and a vanity made from an old balinese cabinet.

Because the open plan living/kitchen/dining room was white, we painted all the bedrooms different colours ( I had to get my colour fix somewhere). The colour of our bedroom was very restful. That doona cover is the only one I liked for a decade, it finally retired last year and now that I have discovered vintage sheets I want to sew my own.

Looking back I see that perhaps I am to blame for miss Liongirl's pink obsession. Before kids this room was a dark dark navy and was an office. See the gorgeous honey coloured pine in this old part of the house? Roboboy's room was lilac and the spare room was a neutral kind of coffee colour.

The two front bedrooms faced north and had wonderful french doors that opened onto the front verandah. We would lie in bed with the doors flung open on the weekends the let the sun drench the room, while the kids zoomed their ride ons along the verandah. Both my children were born while living in this house and I have lots of wonderful memories. Luckily, she is just around the corner so I can check on her every day on the drive home. She was bought by an investor and the family renting her have been kind enough to say that they love our old house so much they are having trouble leaving her to buy their own house.

So, now that ten years have passed and the bad memories of renovating have faded, we are getting excited about doing it all again, with a lot more wisdom, experience and a new vision for a new girl called Betsy.


  1. Oh wow! I wish I could borrow you for ideas on our extension. You guys should sign up for the next Block series. I love the high ceilings and character. Such a beautiful house, you should be very proud.

  2. Mel I'm so glad you posted this. What an amazing job you did. It would have been so hard to leave your house after all that work and love had been put into it. I'm sure you'll do a wonderful job with Betsy. Fx

  3. It is amazing best re-do ever.....I could live happily ever after here!!!

  4. OH My! Based on the previous reno, I think you're going to do a killer job on Betsy. I hope you stay in her to enjoy it. It's good that you're been able to do it once before and learn what works and doesn't work ... I had no idea about stainless steel benches scratching easily and rusting?!

  5. Great job Mel! Your story resonates with me - I too swore I would NEVER do another reno. But after the dust settles and you actually get to enjoy the efforts of your labour, you realise that it was kind of fun. And you certainly do learn many lessons along the way too. I'm sure Betsy is glad that you stumbled upon her. Can't wait to see this project take off. xx

  6. Well done! We foolishly started our first reno as we had pour first two kiddos. Consequently we have NEVER finished one. RESPECT!

  7. Love all of it, especially the bathroom!! The mosaic tiles sound amazing and I so wish that I could see more of the vanity!!! If you have VJ ceilings in Betsy I would definitely consider investing in one of those paint sprayer things, you won't regret it! I am so looking forward to seeing what you do with Betsy now as well. x

  8. Never picked you for a modern girl Mel,love the pic of the front veranda with it's plum floors. Lucky these old houses extend well.I'm sure this renovation will go smoothly for you. Email me a postal address if you can.

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