Big things from a small renovation

Words: Kathryn Vukovljak
Photos: Silas Brown

Viv O’Connell and Shaun Humphreys... “We wanted to retain the character of the old house, and we weren’t keen on knocking it down – even though it was mouldy, smelly and pretty uninhabitable," says Shaun.

WITH a sunken lounge room, concrete kitchen bench top, a vast deck and a pop-out cooker, Shaun Humphreys and Viv O’Connell’s Lyneham home is light, fresh and fun, and feels spacious despite having a relatively small footprint.

Raked ceilings and an abundance of natural light make the home feel bigger than its 145 square metres, says Viv, and it was a conscious decision when renovating not to “live big”.

“We wanted to make the space work for us and to make the most of what’s here,” she says. “We only extended by 16 square metres.”

“It was a decision we made partly because of budget and partly because we just didn’t want to build a massive addition,” adds Shaun. “It helped us keep costs down, too.”

The finished home won the Australian Institute of Architects renovation award earlier this year for architect Andrew Verri and builder Tom Henderson, of Jigsaw Housing.

“It’s been a fantastic project in terms of bang for buck,” says Shaun. “We wanted to retain the character of the old house, which was built in 1952, and we weren’t keen on knocking it down – even though it was mouldy, smelly and pretty uninhabitable when we bought it!

“It’s a good house; it has a hardwood frame and double brick. It’s so resource-intensive to knock down and rebuild.”
The couple bought the house in August 2009, when luckily, says Viv, they both had bad colds and couldn’t smell anything.

“The owner had reptiles and apparently the smell was putting everyone else off!” she says.

“But we liked the high ceilings and were able to look past the free-range turtles that were wandering around in the shagpile carpet.”
Viv and Shaun enlarged their bedroom, redid the bathroom and laundry, added a timber deck and redesigned the main living areas –

“We pretty much moved every single wall there was to move in the living area,” says Viv.

The area now includes a sunken lounge room surrounded by clever “disappearing” sliding and bifold doors that can separate it for a cosier feel.

“The kids call it the mosh pit,” laughs Viv. “They’ve discovered Queen recently and they pull the doors shut and party down there while the grown-ups sit around the table.

“It’s a great entertaining house; we have people over for dinner all the time and it never feels crowded.”

The house was re-insulated and fitted with hydronic and underfloor heating. “We never really feel cold here and you don’t have to stand in front of a fire to get warm,” says Shaun.

“The house didn’t have the perfect aspect to start with, but Andrew and Tom helped us open it up to the north to catch the afternoon sun and to encourage natural ventilation.”

The kitchen features a large, polished, 800kg concrete bench top, hidden storage and a space-saving, pop-out stove-top, surrounded with windows on three sides.

“It’s essentially a box built on to the exterior,” says Viv. “Our neighbours say from the outside it looks like we’re in a cockpit at the controls when we’re cooking!”

Viv says that when they first moved in, 10 months ago, they were bowled over.

“We just sat here and thought, it’s a really nice house!

“To see our dream realised has been amazing. It’s nicer than we expected.”

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2 Responses to “Big things from a small renovation”

  1. June 27, 2012 at 4:27 pm #

    Such a beautiful home 🙂

  2. Philip Santiago
    May 15, 2014 at 6:42 pm #

    for me, It is actually a good thing that whenever you try to renovate an old house some part of the house would somehow remain as part of the preservation. You may need to renovate some part but not really the whole thing. a part which you really think needs to be stated that “you wanted to retain the character of the old house” which is actually nice.

    Nevertheless, this house looks like a new bought house in a real state.
    simple yet very organized.

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