Thursday, July 21, 2011

our house

A few of you have asked me about the house that we call home. For some reason I've been putting off this post, but as my camera sadly broke yesterday (unfortunately I dropped it!) , I needed to pull a rabbit out of the hat, or in this case, some photos deep from the archives.

The story of our house starts with a one acre block that we almost stumbled upon on a weekend drive one day. A year previously we had sold our first home in Wollongong and moved to Canberra. At that point in time it was not in our heads to even think about moving to the country. But a few weeks later we began to talk about it. We felt a sense of limbo where we were. There was the unaffordability of where we lived and I was reluctant to return to the workforce, wanting to stay at home with the kids. So after much research (and an awful lot of petrol) we took the plunge and bought the block. Which, I might add, was dirt cheap.

2009 saw us move into a local rental property while we settled into the area, starting new schools and a new job for Daniel. It was a leap of faith so to speak, but for some reason I felt calmer and more in control of our lives than I had in years. Fortunately things seemed to be working out and six months later, at the end of Autumn, we became "owner builders" and began excavating the building site and driveways.

Of course, our "almost flat" block needed far more excavation than we thought it would. Fortunately Daniel did a lot of the work himself,  holding several machinery operator licenses. I hate to think what it would have cost us otherwise.

Our biggest (and necessary) issue was keeping to a strict budget. We pored over kit home brochures and even visited display villages.  In the end we went with a local shed company who supplied and erected our house to lock up stage.  It saved us quite a bit as the outer structure of corrugated zincalume and colourbond roof were less expensive and required far less labour to put up. The colours we chose were inspired by the old shearers sheds with their rusty rooves that dot the landscape in the country.

Daniel, also a concretor by trade, poured the slabs himself. Unfortunately it hailed that day, making it very difficult to later get the desired finish on the floors.

Having a shed was also a necessary building for us. Afterall what would a man be without his shed?  A place to store the ride-on mower, and whatever else it is they need. Oh, and the car.

We had a local architectural draftsman draw up our house plan, whom we later became good friends with (another tree-change family).  A basic three bedder, one bathroom, big kitchen, and pantry and laundry in one. Lot's of light and open planned.

All doors and widows were from Ebay or salvage yards, most quite old, as I wanted to add a little "aged" character to our brand new house. This also saved us quite a bit of money in the end. And added a little headache for our builders.

Testing out kitchen colours - I went with the middle one

Our gyprocker was an old family friend (who lived in the area) with incredible talent who had previously worked on heritage houses in Sydney. With the high ceilings there was a lot of square setting to do, which he did without fault.

 Just about ready to move in. It was now Spring. The solar panels for the hot water system are yet to be put in.
And then we moved in. Just in time for christmas.

Taken just after we moved in. The walls are very bare.

 Kitchen : We were incredibly lucky to have a family member who owns a joinery so our kitchen was quite a bit cheaper than it would have been otherwise. I did splash out on the Villeroy and Boch sink, but I have to say that it is rather difficult to clean and does scratch. It is beautiful though, and fits so much in it. I fear I overwork it a little, having no dishwasher. Our oven was an ebay buy, an old St George double door oven, and very reliable.

Laundry/pantry : We combined the laundry inside the pantry thus saving on space. I must admit it is so much easier to keep clean this way.

Excuse the strange angle

Bathroom : Our cast iron bath was from here and tapware from here. I was very, very nervous about the black, but so glad that I went with it.
The basin was an old cast iron model, a bright green, scratched ebay buy that I had re-finished.
The large tiles were a faux marble finish and fairly inexpensive. With stone coving tiles (which hide the waterproofing).

Floors : Daniel had to hire a special machine for the final polish. Then we stayed up all night painting a water-based satin-matte finish by hand.

Walls: Antique White USA in Haymes Paint. Colonial style skirting boards and architraves.
 Heating :  We opted for a Nectre which keeps us toasty warm. One more word of advice is insulate, insulate, insulate!
And then on to landscaping... a whole acre

Our septic-watered grass

In the end we had house which was built from an idea conceived in our heads. Six months of weekends and frequently weeknights were spent on the building site. A great deal of stress, sweat, tears, joy and excitement went into it's making. Daniel spent weeks on end doing as much of the work as he could himself. But a lot of the work we paid professionals to do.

We saved in some areas and splurged a little on quality fittings where we could afford it. Quality over quantity and supporting Australian made where possible. We managed to keep our mortgage well within our means and so to this day I have been able to stay home, now with one little extra addition.

Would I ever build again? Perhaps, but not very likely. It has a way of turning your life upside down. It is a huge learning curve. In the end, though,  it is a short amount of time in the scheme of things and is not without it's rewards.


  1. this was such an interesting post for me given that we are about to start our build. I just bought a st george on ebay really similar to yours (but not green) for 99cents! I'm glad you mentioned your issues with the kitchen sink because I was coveting a butlers sink. Now I think I'll stick to a commercial kitchen style stainless steel one instead. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Didn't it just turn out beautifully! I love the kitchen! Such a shame to hear that about the sink - I've been coveting it for ages! xx

  3. Your house is stunning! The kitchen is lovely and the natural light really comes through. x

  4. I love reading stories like this. I find them so inspiring and I love to marvel at the ways that people achieve things. I love your house. It's a wonderful combination of modern and vintage, design and comfort. Thanks for sharing. :)

  5. Thanks for sharing your story, It must be nice to build a house yourself, starting from scratch with your own uniqueness...You've done very well. Love your stove!
    I noticed your clothes line in a recent post and thought you must have lived on an old block, but no, you've just got style! I Love it, reminds me of my Nana's old line... :)

  6. wow i love your kitchen! very stylish :)

  7. Thanks for sharing your journey in building your modern vintage home. Love the kitchen, so bright and the pop of green from the stove is just lovely.

  8. Thanks for sharing your building story. I have been intrigued by the little glimpses that I've seen throughout your posts. I just new there was something quite special there and I was right. I have also built previously and know what you mean about the whole process and can't for the life of me ever building a house again, but we do plan to build an education centre in the future from mud brick and strawbale.Thanks again for that peek into your house.

  9. Well, it's just gorgeous in the end!

  10. From your blog photos, I never would have guessed that your home was new. It has such a lovely charm to it. You clearly have a very good eye for style. I do think you're nuts for not having a dishwasher though :) Especially with three kids!

  11. Thank you for this post Tania I enjoyed every word and photo. Just lovely...

  12. Loved the story behind your house - so interesting. You have all done such a great job...and it's so lovely to see pictures of happy kids playing outside. I bet they love where you live too. x

  13. It certainly is satisfying building your own house. We have built 2 now and although a lot of energy went into building our stone house I was ready to move onto the next project. You place always looks fabulous, thanks for sharing.

  14. You are so living my dream...would love a tree-change. Thanks for sharing your story Tania...I get so inspired by how others realise their dreams.
    You have a gorgeous home and a great eye for detail.


  15. what a lovely story, having put so much into your house, i doubt you'll ever want to leave x

  16. What a lovely insight into your marvellous home. I really admire you and your husband for following your dreams/instincts and making the move. I really love your oven and the other recycled/salvaged items you've used. Sorry your camera broke :(

  17. Tania you and your hubby have done a wonderful job together making you house such a lovely home. I love how everything works so well together and your choices of colour in the kitchen have a nice feel to them. My parents did a tree change more than 20 years ago and would never go back to the city again, you've made a great decision even though there were a few hiccups along the way it sounds like you're meant to be there. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I hope you are feeling better today. xx

  18. Thankyou so much for sharing your house and story! I showed my hubby as it is amost exactly what we had in mind for our next house - I love how you have executed it - a little bit modern, a little bit vintage and a whole lot of love :)
    ps. more tours please x

  19. Great story. Well done, you! It's beautiful.

    I'd love to build from scratch but living in Sydney that's highly unlikely. Make that completely unlikely - unless I win Lotto. Since I don't play Lotto, that's just as unlikely as building in Sydney.

  20. Thanks so much for sharing all those details about your house. Would never have guessed it started out as a shed.The recycled windows and polished concrete floors are fantastic and make the space. Most interesting of all, who knew that Volvo made excavators? Roboboy will be impressed. melx

  21. Thank you for sharing your story. It is great to read of others who have made a "tree change". We are hoping to do the same thing, we are just a little scared at the moment I guess you could say. Since we are a blended family we have to consider our ex partners and the kids so it makes our dreams of moving interstate a little difficult.
    Thank you for the inspiration!!

  22. Great post Tania! I loved reading about your home and how you pulled it all together - it looks gorgeous!

  23. Been meaning to comment for awhile on this, wow, your home is beautiful you must be so proud of it? Having just been through the building process but with a builder I greatly admire you both for doing this!!

  24. Wow, Tania! It is so lovely to find you. A good friend of mine was doing her regular blog hopping and sent me a link to your house - knowing that I would be so very excited as it is so similar to what I am about to build. We did the owner builder stint on our last house - my dream house, that we've just had to sell. This time around we are downsizing and simplifying life for the sake of a lower mortgage and less stress life. Like you i'm a stay at home mum (with an interior decorating business/writing on the side) and I home school so it's really important that i get to be with my son for much of time. This time around we are having to have a fixed builder's contract and, let me say, I'm having a lot of difficulty finding one who'll get back to me when he says he will! Oh the joy of building!
    Anyway, I've probably blabbed on long enough and taken up too much of your comment space. Just thought I'd say hi and let you know I love your blog. You have a kindred spirit here, that's for sure. I'll be back :)

  25. Have just found your blog and loving it and definitely loving your house. Look forward to having a good look around!


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