Archive for September, 2016

On the Reno: Part 4

September 25, 2016 - 9:50 pm 2 Comments

20000101_reno_0959Since I have hinted about the awfulness of the re-stumping process, I’ll show you a few pictures so that you can get an inkling of it. The one immediately below and the picture on the lower left of the page give you a glimpse of the tunnel which the re-stumpers filled in with rubble.
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The basin was left in my garden as was much of the timber  which the re-stumpers claimed they had cut up for my fire. However, I had decided that having a fireplace and burning wood was not an environmentally friendly option and too labour intensive for me, so I had arranged for a new gas heater to replace the one in the house. When the re-stumpers left my garden was littered with cigarette butts, paper and polystyrene food wrappings and even food scraps. They did remove some of the wood in the pile (which was as tall as the back part of my house) but much was left behind for me to remove. I appreciate that re-stumping a house is not a pleasant job and I suppose this is partly why it is such an expensive project for the renovator, but I couldn’t help feeling that neither the house nor myself were treated very respectfully. Anyway, the horror of it is being erased as the renovations proceed. The first picture at the top of this page shows the back of the house and the kitchen area. On the Reno Part 3 contains a picture of the kitchen that has emerged thus far. (Just scroll down a little). I think you’ll agree that things are definitely looking up.

 

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On the Reno: Part 3

September 18, 2016 - 10:17 pm 3 Comments

 

Here is another photograph from the Real Estate agent’s catalogue.  The actual size of the chimney is hard to ascertain from this picture, but it was huge, taking up about a third of the room, with very little clearance on the top of the gas oven under the flue. It was also a very dark space.

Because the chimney dominated the kitchen, I wondered whether removing it would damage the integrity of the building. I asked a couple of people who assured mew800-h534-2012498993_12_pi_160109_053229-1 that all would be well and asked a local man, Jason Williams, to do the job. What transpired from this was nothing less than a revelation. Very old bricks—perhaps aged more than 150 years old—which is the approximate age of the house. While the chimney was being dismantled, I asked the gentlemen doing all the hard yakka to stop. I think they initially thought I was a little mad, but they humoured me, thank goodness.  This is the result. Now I know I am getting ahead of myself, because the picture (bottom right) shows not just the wall of bricks, but more of the renovations. However this was one of the mysteries of the house that really excited me because it was something discovered and certainly not expected, so I guess I want to share it with you now.

And since I have started on this trajectory, I might as well show you what the kitchen looks like now. Not completely finished, but definitely getting there.

The photograph was taken late in the afternoon a few days ago  during heavy rain, so the interior light was turned on. However this is no  longer a necessity during the day, as it was before the renovations were started. It is a very light and airy room now, with cupboards and  a feature wall of very old bricks at one end and an eating 20160914_reno_0944area at the other.

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ON the RENO: Part 2

September 11, 2016 - 11:08 pm 6 Comments

So, when does a house you’ve moved into become your own? There is, for weeks, months, or even years the otherness of the occupation of the last owners or tenants. Maybe a sense of strangeness—even foreignness—because the house is daunting in the way  that it seems to have  been neglected. It could be that it appears an absolute slattern in its presentation. You cast your mind back to the last house you lived in and you think, that house was never like this. . . That house I slid into as cosily as if I were putting on a new skin. I snuggled into its nooks, glorying in its cooling places in the harsh, unremitting days of Summer when the sky was as hot as ashes making sweat run down my body as if I were standing in a cauldron of soup. But think again. Suddenly you recall that you made those cooler places by putting up blinds to block the light, shuttering western-facing windows that stared into blistering  Summer; you stripped off rococco wallpaper that made your interiors feel claustrophobic,  painting the space instead  white or  pastel coloured;  you added windows to confrontational walls that didn’t allow you to breathe easily until you did so; you put fans in ceilings after insulating them and  planted trees that offered more shade. And by draping enviro-cloth over the struts of a carport so tall it lowered the temperature of the house another 5-10 degrees, you achieved your goal. All this and more I did. But these are the sorts  of things you forget, because you tend to make  these innovations over time—especially when you’re working for a living and trying to bring up kids simultaneously—and you forget the little details that are making your life more comfortable. That is why it is a good idea to take photographs of your house at its most unattractive, so you’ll remember. Or, if you don’t really want to remember it at its worst, at least get hold of a picture or two from the real estate agent’s catalogue that beguiled you in the first place. Not because it was exactly what you wanted, perhaps, but because you saw some remarkable potential for putting your own imprimatur upon it. For making a stranger’s house your own. Here is such an example: This is a picture of my kitchen as it was. You cannot actually see the cooking apparatus because it is hidden by the big brown bench.w800-h534-2012498993_13_pi_160104_012221

The photo shows quite a large space split into two by that bench and a partition. The actual working space of the chief cook and bottle washer was very small, because, once again, the space was dominated on one side by the bench and on the other by an enormous chimney that took up about a third of the rest of the room. It was a concrete construction over 150+-year-old bricks which had, I guess in the psychedelic sixties, been wallpapered over by that interesting orange and green pattern (now somewhat faded) you can see to the far right of the photograph. This wallpaper made another bold statement in another room and was treated with the same respect.

You can see the floor of the kitchen tends to be somewhat aslant. That is not an illusion. It actually dipped with alarming alacrity towards the back of the house. It was this propensity plus the couple of accidents I had slipping on worn ceramic kitchen tiles and off a decontextualised stair, that caused me to consider re-stumping the house. Though that was a ghastly experience, what we found under the house added to its allure for me, making me respect it for its great age and even love it a little more. So I won’t become boring and repeat myself about the mystery that unfolded in the re-stumping, instead I’ll direct you to an earlier blog called “For My Brisbane Friends and Anyone Else Who May Be Interested” which explains it. Read it and weep.

 

ON THE RENO: Renovating & Restoring a House on the Goldfields

September 6, 2016 - 9:03 pm No Comments

This is a blog about renovating an old house. A very old house that was built on a goldfield. Not that I had a clue about what I was doing, at first, so I’ll call this section So Who’s a Silly Girl, Then?

Seriously, I did know that a right angle, or a corner, has 90 degrees and that a straight angle has twice that at 180. But practical knowledge about restoring an elegant old house? Not much, if any at all. Anyhow, I sold my house in Brisbane and suddenly found myself homeless, wanting to move closer to my family, that had migrated south. To this end, I had chosen an area to live in central Victoria.

On the several occasions I flew down to see what sort of real estate was available within my budget in the very pretty little town of my choice, there was nothing that really grabbed me. One house stood out, but it probably needed more work than all the others put together. Yet it was the one I kept going back to look at online.

Close friends (who are not so very close these days) and even family members cautioned me against buying this house, calling me at all hours of the day or night to warn me of the dangers to my pocket and peace of mind if I was stupid enough to purchase it.

Perhaps because I was something of a tomboy during my schooldays, and loved a bit of danger and risk-taking, I bought the house. Okay, you are saying, she is in her second childhood, now, going through all that kids’ stuff again. Well maybe, may be. The point is, I believe I made the right decision, even though I underestimated the cost of the renovations. You may have an entirely different opinion—which I would love to learn— but I ask you to hear me out first.

Anyway, while all the paperwork on the purchase was going through, I obtained permission to live in the house.

On my first perambulation through it as vendor, I noted the floors were uneven. There was a step down from the hall into the kitchen and a step up from the dining room to the sitting room and the bathroom floor seemed to be sloping off to somewhere else entirely. The creaking boards in the bedrooms were in no way muffled by the layers of ancient carpet and linoleum on top of them and one or two seemed to sink alarmingly under my weight. You may well ask why I hadn’t noticed this rather salient feature myself before purchasing the house. My only reply is that I was already succumbing to a bizarre condition that has afflicted the best and the worst of us, somewhat blinkered by something that has the ability to curse or to bless. Slowly and inexorably I was falling in love, and falling for something that probably couldn’t even return my affection. . .

On my second visit to the house, I conscientiously noted the step up from the kitchen into the hall, but somehow miscalculated in the gloom and slipped, viciously wrenching my ankle and banging my head on a built-in cupboard so hard I saw stars. I actually think I knocked myself out for a little while, because I was quite astounded to find myself in a prone position on the hallway floor with a cupboard door wedged against my shoulder and neck when I returned to consciousness. It occurred to me then that I needed to get the house re-stumped.

This caused a bigger headache than the fall. There was no re-stumper in the immediate area who could begin a new job in under five months. The costs ranged from quite expensive to astronomical! My daughter, however, solved the problem by discovering there were some re-stumpers at work three doors away from her flat in Melbourne. She asked them if they could work on our house and they said they could and would start in a matter of a few days.

For one who has never had a house re-stumped, nor even seen a house undergo this phenomenon, having it done to something you love is life-changing. Well it was for me, anyway. For starters, I had to go and find alternative accommodation . . .

Join me for the next thrilling installment of ON THE RENO (which has a working title of WTF!) and I’ll tell you what happened next.