An old Melbourne semi gets a makeover – in two widely separated stages. And the second stage happened in super-quick time Read on to see how homeowners Katie and Mick did it, with amazing help from their builder, Matt
KATIE QUINN, from Ireland, met Aussie Mick Davies in Dublin. They married in Sydney and then moved to Melbourne to work. They rented; searched for a house to buy; and in December 2007, for $622,500, moved into their semi in St Kilda East. Built in 1910 in a “mishmash” Art Deco/Mission style, the house needed restumping – its support piers replaced. Apart from that there was nothing structurally wrong with it. So the couple simply made the kitchen useable, painted the walls, bought furniture, decorated, and lived in the house.
QUICK CHANGE But in mid-2009 the couple decided they would move back to Sydney to further their careers, and so – suddenly – it was time to renovate in order to rent the house out. With such a short timeframe, the aim was to do as much as possible without having to get council planning permission. The couple hired a mate of theirs, Matt Day, of Day To Day Carpentry, as their builder (“an absolute gem”); the rest of the tradies were sourced via the internet. Reliability-wise they turned out to be a mixed bunch. “Ironically, all of them, except for one, was called Matt,” Katie says.
ACTION STATIONS When the couple bought the house, they knew they couldn’t live with the existing kitchen, even for a few months. So they replaced the cupboards with a temporary budget kitchen from Ikea. A new Rinnai hot water system was also put in, along with the large freestanding fiveburner Westinghouse stove (see opposite). “Mick chose the stove; you don’t see this kind of modern cooker that often in Ireland, but once I started using it I fell in love,” Katie says. The stove would later be repositioned in the grand-final kitchen.
LIGHT & BRIGHT Two years on, they took out a non-supporting wall to open up the space, took out the ceiling and built a new one, replaced the floors and replumbed. The office/ second bedroom was turned into the kitchen; the kitchen became the dining area. The old kitchen windows were replaced with sliding modern ones from Canterbury Windows. You can also check Me space style.
Making It Home
HOT STUFF The electrician, with plenty of help from Matt the builder – brick houses can be a challenge, it turns out – needed to rewire parts of the house. Central heating was installed to winterproof the home, with ducts in almost every room. Both new bedrooms were carpeted in a good-quality cream woollen carpet (from Carpet Call) that should stand the test of time.
SENSITIVE MOVES It’s a mix of old and new that Katie loves. The couple kept all the original picture rails (see left) and only replastered those walls that needed it. “Where we took out old features we were careful to put in new ones to replace them,” Katie says. Special care, for instance, was taken to install door and cupboard handles true to the spirit of Art Deco, with many parts ordered online through US specialist supplier Rejuvenation (Rejuvenation.com). New era-appropriate doors were ordered from Armadale Doors.
WHITE ON The unused outside toilet was merged with the old bathroom to make a bit more room. “Still, it was very small space and I wanted to make it look as big as possible,” Katie says. The solution: install narrow oblong white wall tiles and a narrow floating sink instead of a vanity unit to increase the sense of space. “I also really wanted a New York subway look,” she says. The bathroom windows (see left) were replaced. “I did feel a bit funny about taking out the old ones but they would have cost a fortune to repair,” Katie says. She waterproofed the bathroom herself.
A PROBLEM There was a drama with the tiler. He wrote all over one section with indelible ink that proved impossible to remove. “We had to retile it. That’s why I ended up learning how to tile. I did the wall tiles in the kitchen myself.”
THE END Katie and Mick were happy with their reno. There were clashes with some of the Matts, but the work was finished before Christmas, which was the aim. And so, in the new year, they leased out their home, booked the removalists, moved to Sydney and their new jobs – and into a rental. And we can’t wait to see what they do with that.