An extreme makeover turns a cramped and impractical country house into a spacious home for a family of six.
WORDS Joanna Mathers PHOTOGRAPHY Caroline Ducobu
When Hayley and Simon Nolan – along with their children Fletcher (8), twins Olivia and Teigan (7), and Brooke (5) – moved from the UK four years ago there was one item at the top of their wish list: land, lots of land!
Who can blame them; with four children aged eight and under space is more a necessity than a luxury. And while the property they settled on fit the bill when it came to land (11 acres of it to be precise) the 200 square metre house was somewhat less ideal. “It took some convincing to get me to live here,” laughs Hayley.
A mismatch of attempted refurbishments, the 1930s villa wasn’t a prospective homeowner’s dream; quite the opposite in fact. “Previous owners had a bit of a go at redecorating things,” shares Hayley. “I could tell it was going to be a lot of work.” There were almost as many wallpaper patterns as there were rooms, the exterior walls were rotten, the guttering broken.
While first (and subsequent) impressions weren’t favourable in the end budget dictated their final decision. “It came down to priorities,” says Hayley. “We couldn’t find a house and property that fitted all our requirements and was within our budget. This property had the land we were after and the house could be fixed.”
The first thing Hayley and Simon did upon moving into the house was to spruce up the interior walls with a lick of paint. “It made a huge difference,” says Hayley.
But while this made the interior more attractive the home’s layout wasn’t really suitable for a family of six. “The space wasn’t really being used well,” explains Hayley. There was only one bathroom, the lounge was huge, and the hallway was extremely wide. The bedrooms the twins used were attached, the second room only accessible by walking through the first. “They liked having their rooms joined, but I’m sure it would have been a different story once they were teenagers,” Hayley laughs.
The original plan was to add an extra bathroom and renovate the kitchen, but Hayley and Simon soon realised they would need a more extreme makeover if they were to get the house they wanted. What they needed was space, lots of space! So about a year ago they decided to approach architects for help developing ideas. “We started talking to some but none of them wanted to commit to giving advice unless we decided to commit to choosing them,” says Hayley.
Eventually Hayley found Refresh Renovations online and liked the sound of what they offered. “They project manage the renovation from start to finish,” she says. This took the stress out of having to organise different contractors for each component of the renovation and meant there would be just one point of call for any issues that might arise.
“When the architect [contracted by Refresh] came to visit we told him our budget. We didn’t expect that we’d get much for the money we had, but when the plans came back they were far beyond our expectations . . . we were thrilled,” Hayley shares.
These plans have seen the existing space transformed into a more family friendly configuration. The size of the lounge has been reduced, making room for an extra bedroom. The halls are narrower, giving extra space to the bedrooms. There are now five separate bedrooms, plus an entertainment/office area.
Carrying out the kitchen and bedroom renovations
The kitchen has been moved to the middle of the house, and an island bench has been added. The kitchen opens out onto the dining room, which looks out to the property’s main paddocks. The new design includes an expansive deck, which allows the family to enjoy the views over their property. The deck runs off from the dining and living areas, and is accessed via bifold doors. Picture windows frame vistas of the lush green pasture.
Hayley and Simon’s bedroom was also extended. This was achieved by moving an exterior wall out into space that housed a utility area. This extra space has allowed the creation of an en-suite off the master bedroom, plus an extra toilet accessed via the main hall.
Living at home during a renovation
One of the main challenges of the renovation was the necessity to live in the house while building work took place. “The kids were initially really excited about the prospect of camping out in the lounge, but now they keep asking when the renovations will be finished,” laughs Hayley.
The renovation took place over five months, and the builders needed to ensure that the family was safe throughout the build. “We had to ensure that the house was healthy and safe while we were working on it,” says the Refresh Renovations project manager. “This meant we had to cordon off parts of the house and create liveable spaces in areas that weren’t being worked on.”
He says that while the house was old, it was structurally sound. “It’s a very solid, well-built house,” he says. “There was a little bora and we did have to cut out and replace wood that had been affected, according to building compliance standards. We also had to replace some beams, but all in all it was a good job.”
Access to the underfloor areas was one of the small issues that did arise during the job. The flooring was so low to the ground that it was difficult for the tradespeople fit under it. “They had to use skinny tradespeople for the underfloor work,” Hayley laughs.
Enjoying a lifestyle property
Over the past three years Hayley and Simon have developed the property extensively, installing fencing and developing a garden. Their lifestyle block now plays host to a menagerie of animals: pigs, goats, chickens, cows and cats. “The animals are all pretty much free-range. I had a friend over one day and she called out ‘there’s a goat in the kitchen’,” Hayley says. The children adore the animals. “They make sure the chickens are put to bed every night,” she says.
With the renovations nearly over and the property now developed, Hayley, Simon and the children are set to enjoy all that their spacious, animal-filled home and property have to offer.
Rural life may sound idyllic, but it is hard work. Hayley says that developing the right structures in your property will make life easier, but putting these in place initially can be very time consuming. Here are three things to consider before making the move to the country.
- When looking for a lifestyle block it’s a good idea to choose one that already has fencing in place. “We had to put in all the fencing ourselves and it was very time consuming,” says Hayley. “I’d recommend that people buy a property where the fencing is already developed.”
- The weather is a huge consideration when you live in the country. “We only have one tank and we are praying for rain at the moment,” says Hayley. In dry summers you may need to get water brought in and in winter you may find your paddocks turn into a mushy bog. Be aware that the weather will play a far greater role in your life if you live rurally than if you live in the city.
- Be aware that there will always be work to do. “There’s always stuff happening; calves to feed, weeding to do, et cetera,” laughs Hayley. Having said that, prioritising what needs to be done is important. A lifestyle block will always be a work in progress.
Have a look at Refresh case study in Auckland Indoor-outdoor flow renovation
This article by Joanna Mathers featured in Issue 006 of Renovate Magazine. Renovate Magazine is an easy to use resource providing fresh inspiration and motivation at every turn of the page.
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