More to come…

Our little housie is about to get a nice big new plan for an update, and hopefully the bank will give us lots of money to do it!

Since we bought our house in July 2020 (yes I know, in the middle of a pandemic, but no time like the present, hey!), Australian house prices have literally gone bonkers, and our house is now worth 20% more on the real estate market (possibly more because we live on a fantastic street) than a year ago. Not that we want to sell, OH NO.

So last post – was it three months ago? Feels like forever – I was talking about extending our bathroom and kitchen just a soupçon and squeezing in a bit more space for a better bathroom and maybe a better wardrobe. Truth be told, my fave builder of all time Rachael said adding only a few metres’ space was a big cost for minimal benefit. So I said “well let’s go big, then”. What we want to do is update our house with a new lockable garage, she-shed, brand new WIR and ensuite in the main bedroom, new family bathroom and new kitchen, new back deck and new lower deck. Go hard or go home, I say.

This house needs a lockable garage, particularly for when there are hailstone storms – more common than you think, here in SE Qld. Our rather exxie car needs to be protected from the weather; the possum poop; bird poop, and bat poop. I had a subsequent brilliant plan to build a new ensuite and WIR on top of the garage, thus protecting us from our neighbours’ noisy entertainment deck in the summer, and adding vital real estate to the main bedroom. My builder loved it, because she gets to build new and there are minimal changes inside the house that need addressing, new wet zones notwithstanding.

We can then incorporate the toilet into the renovated family bathroom, and crib more space for the kitchen, which will be fully gutted and replaced. YAS KWEEN. We will also tear off the old back deck and add a brand new deck that extends all the way to the end of the main bedroom. It won’t have an external set of stairs as there’s already stairs inside the house, which means it will be a tad more secure. The deck will be super simple, 5 metres by 9 metres with a gable pitched roof and lots of insulation so that we can enjoy it all year round and entertain out there. The main bedroom will have French doors onto the deck. My idea of heaven!

Downstairs the fun continues in a cunning way recommended by my landscape gardener. She suggested constructing a deck over all the higgledy-piggledy concrete (concrete that’s beautifully formed, though – it’s not old, just a series of odd design decisions). Magic. The deck will be about 5 metres deep and the width of the house, with a step-down each side to the new garage and the north-facing garden. In front of the deck there will be an under-deck garden of ferns and plants that need only filtered sunlight, which will also provide an extra layer of privacy for the downstairs area. This means that for minimal invasion into the main house, we get a lot more utility value out of the house and greater liveability overall, and we add square footage without going overboard with the bedroom numbers.

Things we probably CAN’T do right now: update the downstairs bathroom and laundry. That will be a job for another time, maybe in 5 years – they’ll do for now and there’s lots of storage in the ugly-but-serviceable laundry. There are a few other upgrades that may have to wait until the next round of funds (or big tax returns), which may or may not include ducted air upstairs, painting the exterior (we got quotes for this and wept), a built-in book case in my study and some other things. Other additions: lockable storage under the front of the house, which involves extending the batten design down to the ground and adding lockable gates at each end – a pretty simple job. Unfortunately chippies are in high demand and the cost of supplies is also high. The amazing builder who lives over the road could add the storage in a day (you should see how quickly he has constructed his garage!) but he’s way too busy for us as well. In the meantime, though, we ARE doing the back garden (won’t be impacted by the building works) and making the area more beautiful. The job starts hopefully this week. Given the rain and general crap weather though, they may start next week instead. Who knows?

Fingers crossed that by the time we approach our bank, cap in hand, we will be able to borrow lots more money to do the upgrades we need. There are lending caps, mostly to do with the value of the house and the borrowing ratio available to us, so it’s about getting maximum valuation for the home as it stands so that we don’t have to borrow more than 80% of the value of the house, thereby avoiding lender’s mortgage insurance (LMI). It’s NOT about our ability to repay, btw. That’s not an issue. Darn it.

Speedy Gonzales!

In academia everything seems to move super slowly. This becomes the normal. By contrast, the building works here seem to be going at a lightning rate. Yesterday the plumber was in roughing in all the pipes, and today the electricians are roughing in all the lines. Some things we’ve waited years to fix are being done today, including the light fitting in the dining room and replacing a switch that wouldn’t allow our kitchen light to be switched off. It’s only 9.00am. We’ve already been invoiced for a progress payment, but when I saw what has been done this week I’m not surprised!

It’s good to be on site here making sure dumb things don’t happen. Like where the outlets by the bed go. We’ve had the bed jammed into the corner to allow easier access for the guys to get their stuff through, so the electrician assumed that’s where we’d have the outlets. Der. No. Ask. Luckily I caught them in time to fix THAT potential problem, and the switches were moved over slightly. This sort of stuff is not terribly important because we won’t see the outlets anyway, but I don’t want to be fighting with the stuff under the bed to plug my phone in.

Another thing is people assume where lights go etc. For a short arsed person like me who wants lights on either side of the vanity mirror, the globes need to be basically in the middle of my head, not above. So I had to be quite strict on the placement – not ABOVE the mirror, BESIDE the mirror. Women know this. Men don’t. As I said, I don’t care about hubby: he doesn’t wear makeup. Besides, he’s not that tall that the lights are going to give him a sallow up-glow.

Also, because we can’t afford to put lights in the WIR sections (have a look at any decent renovation show and they are all lit from within, I kid you not, this is a thing), we’re having 3 LED down lights in the little room, to correspond to each section. This will ensure we can actually see everything. The guy seems to think this will make the room very bright. Says I, YES. Mostly they won’t be needed, but at night when we are changing to go out to yet another bloody function I need to be able to see my clothes. So I’d rather more than less lights please. Besides, I’m blind.

Nearly there with the drawings

The architect came round last week and our plans are nearly finalised. In fact, we’re pretty happy with the front of the house and only a little uncertain about the rear extension, which I discovered was smaller dimensions than I had anticipated.

The extra size I’ve asked the architect to do shouldn’t add too much to the total cost, given that most of it will be exterior deck.

In the meantime, though, we’ve come up with a great solution for the home studio. Here’s a photo of the plans:

Studio penultimate drawing


The internal width of the room is 3.6 metres (huzzah!) and the length will be about 6.2 metres, although this seems longer than I expected, but the architect’s drawings indicate a total of 7.7 metres external length including 1.2 metres for the bathroom, so I guess this must be about right. There are windows at the front and side. It will be light and airy all day.

This is a fantastic size for a home studio/office/guest room. As you can see here, there is a landing at the bottom left of the drawing. You take one step down from the main house onto the landing and the powder room (with shower) is right there. It’s private yet importantly still accessible from both the main house and the studio, as it will be the main bathroom for visitors and party guests.

I’ve asked the architect to hide the toilet cistern in the wall, as there will be enough room to do this, and we can probably do the same with the vanity taps too, and possibly even a mirror cabinet. The shower recess will definitely have one of those handy recesses to hold shampoo etc.

We’ve even started to think about wall bed units for the studio. The left hand side is free wall space. I’m currently intending our sofa bed sit along that wall, but I’m tempted, dangerously so, for a wall bed unit that puts the bed out of sight until guests stay over.

Some of the ones I just investigated online are only as narrow as 30-40cm thick, which is almost as narrow as regular bookcases. Most of them come with surrounding bookcases to make it look a bit more built in, and plenty of people put paintings on the cupboard door to hide it even more.

There’s enough room to do this, but we won’t be buying them any time soon – we’ve still got to pay down the last credit card and set of school fees! Ooh, but I’m tempted…


The architect is coming! The architect is coming!

This is it. Today is the day when I get to see all the plans finally laid out on paper. I’ll let you know how I get on.

When I spoke to my mum who’s a long-time renovator and savvy house planner we agreed the costs will be about 30% over what the bank has lent us to do minor renovations. To build the studio and renovate the front of the house, I think will cost about $120,000. She agrees. We were only extended about $80,000, which has to include architect’s fees. I can probably scrape together some more money but it’s fighting for supremacy with overseas travel plans, one remaining credit card bill (DH loves me but forgets that I have to pay the bill from his gifts to me) and the last remaining school fee mega hit (huzzah, and fees are halved after July).

So near and yet, so far. I guess the alternative would be to do the West Wing first, plus update the house front (giving us our 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms), then go to the bank and ask for more to complete the remainder.

This is probably the BEST and most cost-effective solution but it still doesn’t get us the extra studio space. Yet. However, when I did some sums on what we could feasibly borrow if our house was worth $900,000, we would have nearly enough for the whole remaining shebang. It depends, of course, on the builder’s costings. Our guy is not cheap, but he is thorough, and as far as I know provides an accurate cost appraisal. And if we don’t change too many things on the run our costs should remain consistent. Problem is, as soon as you add 10% overruns, 10% GST, architect and contractor’s fees, plus council fees, it cuts everything up. So the initial $80,000 becomes about $55,000. Not a lot of money left for building stuff.

But it MIGHT be enough to fix up the West Wing, do the electrics and plumbing, add 2 new bathrooms and renovate the facade, buy a new stove and fridge, plus change a wall in the main house and add built in bookcases. Ah, compromises. At least we still have walls and a mostly working roof.

(Small Edit: I’ve not put a careful figure on our renovations but I believe it’s in the vicinity of about $3000 per square metre. I think this is too much, and when I put $2000 per square metre against the renovations it all becomes much more reasonable, also given that our house is a simple wooden cottage it’s not too expensive to change it.)

renovation compromise


My studio room will look something like this…

home-office and bookcase

I found this picture of my (mythical) studio space. It’s not quite perfect, but it does give you an idea of what I’m hoping to achieve. My studio room will be 5.3m long by 3.5m wide. On the far end (pictured) you will find a bookcase with built in desk and maybe some built in filing cabinets too. It will look a lot like the picture except with those added extras. On the window side (pictured) there will be under-window bookcases, probably the cheap Ikea white Kallax ones, because we already have 3 of those, and they are perfect for holding magazine folders and coloured boxes. They look like this and go vertically or horizontally, and at 147 cm long, 77 cm high and only 39 cm deep are a bit of a space saver.


bookcases expedit

We may even put a long white laminate bench over the top of them to style that section, and perhaps another bank or two of drawers.

I will definitely have a Persian rug on the floor, but the size I want will be quite expensive (even at auction), so I’ll have to make do with a cheaper Indian one for a bit. The windows will be casement, not sash, in keeping with the rest of the house, but I quite like sash windows, so we’ll see about that – we may end up with double glazed white aluminium ones, which actually look fine.  The ceiling will look exactly as you see it. It will be a skillion ceiling, and I’ll have LED downlights, which will save on power. While I’d LOVE LOVE LOVE solid timber floors (none of that click-flooring nonsense), we probably can’t afford it, so I’ll have vinyl timber-look tiles instead – they look and feel better than expected and are a cheap alternative to my preferred choice, plus they help keep noise down.

vinyl flooring

We already have an attractive sofa-bed from Freedom in a neutral brown-grey:

Freedom Sofa-BedPumice-1

It will be easy to decorate this sofa as it looks great with most colours from beige, grey tones to warm reds, bright yellows, greens and blues. I’ll just need to decide how to decorate the room, given that I’m going with neutral bright white on the walls. It will sit on the wall opposite the windows (not shown) and be a good place for students to dump their stuff. I also already have some attractive lamps from Ikea, which are the cheap versions of the expensive designer brushed metal ones cashing in on the steam punk thang:

Floor lamp Ikea


As for cushions, well, I have them all. Lots and lots just waiting to be re-purposed to my new room, in all colours and designs from Marimekko to young-designer-market made. I also have lots of wall art needing new homes. Some of my wall art is quite dramatic and features Melbourne icons:



As you can see, lots of white, black and red, which, although perfect in a work office, might be a little dramatic and cold in a home office. Last year I decorated my DH’s work office in similar colours, with a deep grey feature wall and lovely soft lamps. We shopped at Dare Gallery (side table and dining chairs), Freedom (lamps and occasional chairs), Matt Blatt (table and coffee table), Far Pavilions (shelving unit) and The Desk Place (desk) for furniture items. The room looks amazing, and we bought quite beautiful Aboriginal art for that dark space, but this home office will be lighter, so I can’t really keep art on the wall where it might fade in the sunlight. There will be some natural wood features in an occasional chair and free-standing mirror, too. I do like my brown furniture even though it’s completely out of fashion.

The front of the room will have its own entryway with a “cricket bat” front door, with casement windows on each side of the door, looking out onto a small porch landing and the front yard. I have no pictures of this – it only works in my head. But I can dream!

Hating the waiting!

DH hates the way our house doesn’t work. He wants to come home and put his feet up and suck down a beer on the back deck, proudly surveying our patch of paradise and admiring our pretty little cottage, all decked out in a fresh coat of paint, and garnished with a pretty, easy-care garden.

We don’t have a back deck. But my architect who is coming over this afternoon has some ideas about that.

The long times between decisions feels like this process is taking forever. Not a bad plan when we don’t have enough funds for all the jobs we want to do round the house.

But we’re both quietly screaming with frustration. We’ve been here more than three years now, and neither of us are coping with the Hades summer conditions or the insects or the traffic noise. DH wants the house to look good on the outside while I want the inside to be more functional.

While we get a good amount of breeze through cross drafts we can’t really manage the heat or noise pollution. We have no sound privacy and noise comes up through the floor. Our West Wing is mostly unliveable. It needs gutting, rewiring, insulation and reorganising. DH and I have no ensuite or wardrobes and crap window furnishings in our bedroom. Our single family bathroom is unfit for use due to black mould. Our plumbing needs a complete refit due to leaking pipes and we need a new electrical board and new fittings.

Our daughter’s room is too small in the long term and our kitchen is tragic. Pretty but tragic.

We can’t do anything about the garden until the building plans are finalised. So every few weeks DH gets out there with whipper snippers and the lawn mower and attempts to beat the weeds into submission, while the diggingest dog puts ankle-breaking holes in strategic spots.

Our entryway is too small, the back stairs are on their last legs and there is no ceiling insulation in the verandahs.


But as I explained to DH, my income has been bound by PhD studies, with little chance to improve my position until it was finished. Now that it is done, we have a much better chance of improving the house because the dissertation is out of the way. I can work more hours. Also, it’s the last year of 2 lots of school fees. Phew!

But the waiting….. Ugh.

We’re renovating!!!

My designer reported last week that a “pool” house at the bottom of the garden was not possible given the stupid amounts of fees that would be required to relax easement coverage. While we were all disappointed, she visited today and came up with something even better: we’re going under!!

Our house sits on a sloping block and the bottom section of the house (the garage) is legal height. The builder has a brother who owns an earth moving business – it seems we will be able to excavate under the house another three metres or so and put in a double garage, bedroom, bathroom and laundry, linked by a staircase in the little anteroom off the kitchen. The earth moving won’t have to go in more than 3m x 10m by about .6 metres deep, so it’s totally doable, once we replace the posts with a steel H beam. Huzzah!!!!! This is what I had ALWAYS wanted to do, but I thought it would cost more than the figures being bandied about at present. This is due to the great floods of water running through the house, which will require rather a lot of hard landscaping work. I think we will end up with a cost of about $120,000 for all the plans we have but we can cover that with all sorts of spare credit cards if need be. Our bills aren’t going up and DH’s income is set to rise in the next 12 months or so. With any luck so will mine! We won’t be able to build all the lovely jubbly cabinetry I want for a little while, I imagine. But once we’ve got the changes to the house done and informed the bank of the upgrades, we should get some more money to finish the remainder, as presumably the house will go up in value.

Not only that, the designer recommended we build a studio with a skillion roof off the eastern side at the front of the block, where the current skillion entryway is now. If we offset it and don’t go to the boundary – in other words following all regulations – we can fit a 3.5 metre x 6m addition alongside the current house – perfect for the studio and away from the main house, with an entryway at the front. We place lovely new (but old style) stairs to the front of the house, thus giving us a proper four bedroom house with a front verandah, separate studio entry and double garage. I cannot tell you how excited we are. Very excited. OMGOMGOMG. AAARRRRGGGHH!!!!

And now I want to draw it.



Darn the bank – I want my renovation!!

I’m planning a return to the stage with a friend who’s writing a seminar on happiness, which amongst other things suggests that happiness is not something that can be attained through the pursuit of it, and that having stuff won’t make us happy. This is so true, however, I’m pretty sure that I’ll be a lot more cheerful when the bank gives us money to do much needed renovations to the house!

At present we’re aching for lots of things, such as wardrobes. Or a quiet teaching space. Or a parental retreat. Or painting the exterior, getting a new fridge and oven (aka kitchen); or even getting more storage and an upstairs laundry. These things, I’m pretty sure, won’t make me happy, but I’ll no doubt feel I can entertain again once I can cook on a better stove.

So, a few weeks ago we went to the bank to enquire about extending our mortgage, given that interest rates have dropped and we won’t be over extending ourselves. Computer said, well, ok, just not very much. Not enough to do the “you-beaut” extension, just a little teensy-weensy pretend renovation. We’re going to have to do this $20,000 at a time, clearly. I wanted $120,000 but they said, no, you can only have $80,000. Thanks. Thanks so much. What can you do with $80,000 when we clearly need a new teaching room (multi-purpose room), bathrooms and a parental retreat with storage?

Well. No new bathrooms this year, and certainly no new storage yet. But perhaps we can repair and paint the exterior, replace the old rattly louvres at the front of the house with new double-glazed casement windows, rejig some of the interior doors into our bedroom, and build a new teaching room down the bottom of the garden (also known as the pool room/teenage retreat) that will house all the books, my studio equipment, and the sofa bed for guests. Once most of the bookcases are out of the way, then we can plan proper storage for the remaining things. Like the pantry. Or some wardrobes for me and the DH.

Here are some images of back-yard rooms that I rather covet. The one below is too small for my needs but I like the colours and the cute verandah:teen-retreat1

This one below has a nice set of doors but I hate the natural wood look. Who am I, a lumberjack? I do love natural wood but not all over the house, thanks.


The following is just plain cute with a hideaway look:

Back yard studio

In the end, though, I covet and clearly need a room that is large enough to teach in but small enough not to overwhelm the back garden. I had drawn up some plans which are super simple but my mum reminded me that I would need to think about where to place the sofa bed if I covered the entire length of the back wall in bookcases. In other words, which wall would need to be free for this sort of stuff? (Personally, could not care less about housing people – I just want all the books in one place!). So the plans below are still in concept phase 1. I’m still waiting to hear from my designer and the bank. Once these two missing pieces of the puzzle are in place then it’s all systems go!

House Plans P30

I have some room design preferences in addition to a simple kitchenette and teensy bathroom. The first is cathedral ceilings with white-painted beams and timber tongue-and-groove-style ceiling cladding. I’ve always loved this look but it needs to be carefully done so it doesn’t end up looking cheap. The second is painted wooden cladding on the exterior – I’ve been told that treated pine planks are fit for purpose and not too expensive. The third is a clerestory window in the gable of the roof. Not sure on cost for that. Then add a covered verandah and an extended deck surround for entertaining. Then paint the interior white, with LED down-lights and VJ walls (not a fan of plaster any more, having lived in houses with VJ walls for 8 years). Then decorate in an industrial-country style. I found a good quality vinyl flooring that looks like timber but is soft underfoot and doesn’t have that hollow clicking sound when you walk on it. Not as gorgeous as true timber flooring but a lot better than click-timber floors. Which I hate. I also hate tiles in living areas, so none of that either. Which leaves me with either carpet (no – not in this climate, also it’s too deadening re sound) or vinyl. I also love polished concrete, but computer says don’t be silly. Multifold doors for outdoor-indoor living, and Bob’s-your-uncle. Add some very basic landscaping (trees and lawn, path and lighting) and we’re done all bar the furnishings.

Should we stay or should we go?

Oh my. A big decision indeed. DH and I are trying to decide whether to stay put at Chez Harry’s and fully renovate the old dear or whether to pull up stumps and move back a couple of streets to a quieter locale with a fully renovated house for a couple of $$ more. That would a couple of hundred THOUSAND more.

You see, it’s like this. We now have my adult daughter (formerly a he) living with us as she goes through her transition. She is unlikely to leave for a couple of years given her mental health issues and various needs. Cool. We also have 2 younger children who need their own spaces during the times they stay with us – they might also want to live with us in future while they are studying.  Also cool. Then, there might be grandchildren. And happy families visiting. I think we’ve got about 15 years where we will need to have a larger house for extended family, maybe longer.

The other thing is, our income has grown rather nicely in this time. So much so that we could actually afford to move back a few streets. We could also renovate. Given what we’ve seen around, the chance of doing either is pretty high. Unfortunately, we are on a busy street and the cost to renovate our home may not match the eventual value. Something about borrowing and liability and potential recouping of value etc etc. At one point I spoke to the bank and while they were happy to lend money for some small projects they weren’t quite as happy to extend a decent renovation budget to do all the things needed to bring the house up to date.

I’ve provided a pretty picture of our house plans for your edification with the West Wing showing sunroom, robe (Hah!) and bathroom and the front of the house showing the office and master bedroom. East Wing currently has a porch on it and the back of the house has the current toilet, bed 1, kitchen and dining rooms.

House plans 2014

Here’s the list, in no special order, of what we’d like to fix/add/update, in sections.

1. FRONT of house, and whole exterior

  • Add porch and stairs to front of house for central entry, shaped with original 20s features
  • Add open carport and electric garage door for under the house
  • Concrete the carport and entryways, create side path on low side
  • Replace louvre windows with laminated hopscotch windows, repair all wooden windows
  • Paint and fix exterior walls and replace window shades with new
  • Landscape garden to include hedge and new trees
  • Exterior lights on porch and round the side – timer activated

2. Office and misc rooms

  • Shell interior office and insulate all interior walls and ceilings; replaster and paint
  • New front door and entryway
  • Replace lights and powerpoints
  • Window shutter treatment

3. West Wing Sunroom

  • Shell and insulate all interior walls and ceilings; replaster and paint and insulate interior walls
  • Replace lights and powerpoints
  • Add permanent wall to create extra bedroom (or future study/ parental retreat/ walk-in-robe)
  • Replace aluminium windows with new wooden laminated windows
  • Exterior and interior window treatments – retractable awnings and interior shutters
  • Repaint
  • Carpet for sound insulation

4. West Wing Robe and Bathroom area

  • Repurpose the robe area to be a general utility area possibly with upstairs laundry OR open study zone
  • Replaster and insulate the room
  • Replace lights and powerpoints
  • Add built in desk area and bookcases
  • Repaint
  • Renovate the bathroom

5. Pantry

  • Built in storage including utility area
  • Add lights
  • Repaint
  • Add door
  • OR! Turn it into a stairwell…

6. Lounge

  • Built in bookcases, lights, repaint

7. Master bedroom

  • Shutter treatment for all windows and french doors
  • Repaint
  • Rewire powerpoints

8. REAR of house: all

  • Extend whole back of house by 4 metres. Reshape rooms and reorient living/kitchen areas to Western view.
  • New kitchen with butler’s pantry
  • Add new bathroom
  • Add powder room
  • Extend bedroom with ensuite and WIR (creating new master bedroom at rear of house)
  • Add 4m DECK!

9. Garden

  • Hard landscaping for water runoff
  • Remove old tree stumps
  • Re-lawn
  • Landscape in easy-care tropical style
  • Pool???
  • Poolhouse???


  • Add rooms including rumpus, office, extra bedroom, laundry, bathroom

You see? There’s a LOT to consider. If we don’t go downstairs or add a poolroom we could probably do most of this, but even with the simplest jobs we need to replace all the electrics and pipes, as they are all on the fritz.

So, I guesstimate the front sections additions, relining, painting and West Wing revamp to cost about $70000 (that’s $1500 per square metre) which could easily be accommodated by the bank. It’s the back section that becomes interesting. And expensive. But now’s the time to think about it, because our plumbing is failing, our kitchen appliances are all dying simultaneously, and we have nowhere nice to sit of an evening (ie family room/back deck). And our garden is a den of weeds.


Do we stay or do we go? I love Harry’s place. But it’s groaning and sighing and telling us it needs some TLC and a pot of money thrown at it.