Posts tagged house before
{The reno files} A real-life renovation guide: Choosing a team, getting quotes and the trades you may need
reno 1.jpg

Like every other aspect of every other renovation, how you do this will be different to the next person. I can only let you know what I experienced. Choosing a builder/carpenter/certifier etc might be done at the start of your project before you even get ideas. It might not be done until you have approval for your plans or somewhere in-between. The trick with this is this: you can get a ballpark figure of what something might cost you when you're throwing ideas around. But until the plans are approved, the engineer's report is done and they specify what materials are required to build your place, no-one can you give you an accurate price guide. And even then, there are always (ALWAYS!) surprises, problems, muck-ups and/or changes which will affect your bottom line. I discovered this when I started shooting off my draft plans to some local builders whose work I admired. They couldn't really give me a quote until I had the engineer's report. But I couldn't get an engineer's report until I had council approval. And what if what I had approval for ended up being a lot more than we estimated? Because engineers throw in things like steel, bracing, expensive materials, extra footings and extra... stuff! And with that extra stuff comes extra labour to put all the extras in. And it all adds up. To a lot.

But that part of things aside, how do you find the right person? Well sometimes, it's the one person who actually turns up and gives you a quote. Not even kidding - builders are notorious for just not showing up. I had two not arrive, one gave me an estimate range where the difference was $100,000. Another just said he wouldn't do it until I had all the plans. I thought with such a big build, we should go with a proper top-notch builder and complete team. And they all let me down. So we looked into home building courses and what was required and went back to our carpenter who had done some other works at our house. He was qualified as a builder but didn't enjoy doing it - preferred to actually build than manage. He broke down the build and gave us quotes for each aspect of it as he expected it to be if he had free reign to build. We knew there would be extra things that might come with the engineer, but we at least had a guide as to what wouldn't change (brick footings/roof etc) and what would differ depending on materials we chose (decks, flooring etc). He made suggestions and listened to ours. He was happy for us to go owner/builder and for Steve to labour occasionally when he was able to. We decided to go that route and waited for our approval.

Just before council finally stamped our plans (the first time!), Steve decided he had had it with his stressful job and the travel it took to get there (2.5 hours a day). The money was great, but health and happiness is worth more to us so we worked out he'd be able to take some time to work out what he wanted to do and we could still afford to eat and start our build. We just wouldn't be able to do it all in one hit. He decided carpentry was something he wanted to try - he might as well give it a go while work was being done here anyway, right? We spoke to our carpenter about him labouring full time whenever work started and Darren was more than happy with it. He was excited about being able to teach him and suggested there might even come a time when he could join his team. It turned out his apprentice left soon after and Steve had a job. So while we waited for final approval, then for the engineer, then for the certifier to issue our certificate of construction (this all took months after council's second - and final - approval), Steve earned some money working and learning. By the time it was our turn to start work on our job, he'd had a few months under his belt and was confident on the tools. With his new tradie nickname (Steve-O. Of course!) we were ready to begin.

We have a few bonuses building our house this way: our builder acts as our project manager - he orders everything, organises other trades, liaises with the certifier and the engineer. We don't have to take on those trickier jobs. He also - so graciously - does this for no extra cost to his (special-for-us) hourly wage. Another bonus is he came with a ready-made team of other subcontractors so we don't have to go looking for the right electrician, plumber, Gyprocker, etc. And there are many: so far on this job we have used:

Termite and pest man


Concrete mixer

Sand delivery


Hire shop for concrete cutters, scaffold, giant ladders


Window maker


Crane driver



Fireplace installer

Super special electrician to upgrade mains

Still to come (er, most likely not their official titles): stair man, waterproofer, tiler, tv and sound guy, rain tank dude... They're the ones I know about!

We are also lucky our builder is close with the local hardware and so is able to occasionally negotiate better prices on some materials (also, set up a trade account so you get a tradie discount - every little bit counts!). All this to say, we know exactly what things cost because we get a copy of every receipt so there is no mark-ups on materials which I do know can happen.

In the interest of keeping it real, the downside of all this of course is that we often get bumped for another job - generosity of mates rates can stretch so far! So we've been delayed several times as other jobs have spilled overtime or delayed as well due to weather etc. It's not the best way to build, obviously, but we've happily taken this aspect of it on as we know those in-between times mean Steve is earning money too and it's actually nice to have a break from people in and out of your house every day, the constant cleaning, the noise and the fact I have control issues and don't want to go too far in case someone makes a decision on something without me! Ha!

Now I realise this isn't possible for everyone, so I've included some tips on finding a good team. We've only ever used two carpenters in our renovations of our homes - one did the last one; this team has done this house. Coincidentally, our current builder actually apprenticed at one stage for our first one! My point is: find a good one and you'll likely develop a pretty close relationship with them. They see you at your worst - first thing in the morning, when your house is a tip, when you're yelling at the kids to get ready for school (and when they backchat you and the fun and games that comes after that happens!). They become part of your life for a while and so you want to find someone you're comfortable with and who gets what you're trying to do and isn't just out to take your money. This has become somewhat of a showhouse for our builder - it's become his pride and joy too as it's a good example of his work to show other potential clients. You want someone who is passionate about what they do and who wants to be proud of the work they do for you so much so they might photograph it for their website or portfolio - or tell potential clients to swing by and check out the deck/extension/cladding job they did at this place... How to find that person? Yes, well... it's not easy! Maybe we completely fluked it? Maybe it's because we still live in that small-town-feel-kinda-place where people are just happy to get their weekly wage to pay their mortgages and drink beer? Whatever the reason, we got lucky twice. So maybe some of these will help you too.

Speak to your local hardware

Ask for recommendations for a good carpenter/builder - this is how we found ours. Not from Bunnings (Bunnings aren't known to be a trade hardware - they've dedicated themselves to the home DIYer as trades make up such a tiny percentage of their clientele), try the smaller ones or trade chains such as Home Hardware or Mitre 10. These guys know them well - they're in there most days ordering or picking up materials. They chat about the jobs they're working on and they use the hardware as a kind of network to find other subcontractors or labourers if they need an extra pair of hands. The hardware guys aren't stupid - they know the ones who know their stuff, who are down to earth and who are passionate about their work. And they happily pass their details on if you ask them. Same goes for a plumber or electrician - ask at the local plumbing stores (Eagles or Reece Trade) or lighting/electrical stores.

Do a door knock 

I'm not ashamed to say I've door knocked several people and asked them who built/renovated their house! Turns out one builder who did three homes I loved lived in my street (and gave us a quote but the timing was all wrong. And then he moved!), while another I also really liked was booked out for around two years! But isn't that the best kind of advertising for a builder? Having a highly visible portfolio? And I was able to get first hand info on how happy the client was too. If you love a home nearby, go and knock on the door and chat to the owner. They might not know - maybe they moved in and it was already perfect - but if nothing else, you get to meet someone with taste similar to your own (and maybe even get to have a little snoop inside too!) and will probably make their day with your compliment!



 I've heard about this for so long and written about it so often but never really knew how it works. Basically, a builder (or pretty much any other trade) pays a large fee each year to be listed. When someone is after a quote for, say, a deck, they will get three quotes. From your end, you get three quotes for the same job. From the other end, if a carpenter agrees to do the quote, they have to pay a fee to HiPages regardless of whether or not they get the job. This means you're only going to get people who are serious about working - because they have to outlay money no matter what. It kind of weeds out the muck-arounds! It also has a good directory on their site for tradies of all sorts in your area.

Ask for recommendations

Oldie but a goodie, of course. If you know someone is renovating, ask them all about who they used, if they were happy with their work and if they'd use them again.

Try out-of-towners

I told our builder I think he keeps getting Sydney calls for quotes because they're hoping if they bring in an outsider, they might get a cheaper quote. And honestly, I think I'm right. I'm adamant that our extension and renovation would be close to triple the amount if we lived in Sydney. Everything outside of the major cities is more affordable - including tradespeople.

Good signs...


 They actually show up to your house (seriously).

* They listen to what you want and make suggestions of their own that enhance your idea or offer an on-par alternative.

* They do some measuring on the spot when you're unsure if something will fit and will try their best to make your ideas and plans work.

* They seem genuinely happy to be there and passionate about what they do.

* They will rework their quotes or offer alternatives/options to help you keep costs down or meet a budget.

* They're happy for you to help in some way.

Bad signs...

* They are straight-up negative about what you want to do. "It won't work." "It won't fit". "It's a nightmare job". etc

* They push you towards an easier/more common option because it's less work for them.

* They seem a bit iffy about when they could fit you in - it could be legitimate, but it could also mean they don't want the job.^

Going the owner/builder route

This is what we ended up doing. I'm not going to go too much into it because we kind of cheated and even though we're responsible etc, our builder has taken over this role for us (yay!). But, I'll link you to a section from the

Real Living Renovations

magazine I wrote for more information. And just FYI, we did our White Card/Owner Builder Permit course via

Absolute Education

. It's really not difficult at all - the answers are all there, you just have to read it!

^ FYI: if a tradie doesn't really want the hassle of a job (it's really labour-intensive/filthy/fiddly and time-consuming/lots of roof work in the height of summer or a potential landmine of extra nightmares such as an old house that has lots of secrets inside its walls you won't know about until you start pulling them down), then they tend to increase their quote by a fair bit. This is a hint they don't want the work, but it also means that if you agree to it, they are compensated for the crappiness that will come with them accepting. And I've been on the other side of this - Steve comes home completely exhausted and filthy some days. He's been covered in old insulation, stuck in confined spaces or has been jackhammering concrete floors ALL DAY. Compare that to the joys of building a deck or pergola on a nice spring day! I don't know many people who'd choose the former over the latter!

Well, I hope that helps a little. It's hard finding someone good and it's even harder getting their timings to line up perfectly with yours. But you'll find them - I'm sure of it!

And for more of my Reno Files posts...

{The reno files} A real-life renovation guide: the design process

{The reno files} A real-life renovation guide: introduction

Our house plans: spending big to live small(ish)

A very exciting renovation update

A real, hopefully helpful and honest guide to renovating your bathroom

{The reno files} A real-life renovation guide: introduction

Two years in August, we contacted a local draftsman to talk about drawing up plans for our house extension. TWO YEARS AGO. Ever heard this old gem - that renovations always take twice as long and cost twice as much as you planned for? Yeah, so far, the first part is true. We're yet to find out about the other part because, well, we’re only a few weeks in and while the bills have been frequent and hefty, we really won’t know final costs for a while! We were originally told if all went smoothly we could have our plans drawn up, submitted and approved through council in a maximum of 12 weeks. Hahahahahahahaha. No. Not even close. It took us a year to do plans, soooo many months in council, stuff-ups and surprises and life stuff too. And so two years after showing our little sketches to the draftsman, here we are, seeing them come to life. It’s SO exciting - we might even be able to host Christmas here this year (I’ve had to swap with my sisters for the past three years!) But I shouldn’t get ahead of myself - read those first few sentences again!

I’m so tempted to throw in all the pics of the stages so far (although if you follow me on


I’ve been posting daily pics and images of what’s going on in InstaStories), but I really want to document this properly from start to finish - how we came up with the design, what we spent upfront before we even started building, the process of going through council and the build itself. And so, I’m going to have to get cracking on writing to catch up to where we’re at! Bare with me… So what ARE we doing? Well, we're extending out and up - creating a family room with laundry and workshop on the ground floor and an attic library and master bedroom in the high-pitched roof. You can read more our plans



When we bought this house we knew we were going to extend it - it was just a matter of how. If we had gone with the very first suggestion by a builder who lived a few doors down, it would have been a very different home to the one we're creating now! And it would have been very wrong for us. So there is a lot to the "live in a house for a while before you touch it" advice… 

Part way through our council-approval-stage delay,

Real Living magazine

asked me to write an entire magazine on renovating. I'd been planning to contact them about writing again - it'd been a while since I’d done any kind of work and I was feeling like the time was right. In the end, they got me first and I agreed, although about two weeks in I started to regret it as it was a HUGE job - and not exactly easing back into work, which I'd envisioned I'd be doing! But once I got past the "OMG where do I start?!" I started to enjoy it. I've always been annoyed by magazine articles on renovation or those bathroom and kitchen guides - I never feel as though they cover the right things. It's all so general or about aesthetics - or with huge budgets And don’t even get my started on renovation shows… I can’t watch them. And I LIVE for this stuff. I’ll only watch the UK version of Grand Designs - that’s it! Anyway, for the reno guide, I was pretty much given free reign to write about what I wanted to write about as long as it fitted within their general section guides. And so I did. I wrote 40,000 words on renovating - why you should, where to start, who to contact, what things might cost, how long things might take, things you should or shouldn't do, how to shop, how to deal with tradies, how to decorate, how to be environmentally savvy, all things about windows, doors, floors, paint, hardware, lights, all the rooms, outside/inside and behind the scenes. I tried to include meaty information like measurements for placement of bathroom and kitchen fittings, who to contact for what job (you don't always need a builder or architect), what you'll be out of pocket before you even lift a hammer, and even if going the home builder route is for you. Basically, it was a 101 in renovating. It was something I always wanted to write and something I always wanted to read.

Real Living Renovations

is out now in newsagents and I do hope it's helpful! 

And yet despite a whole magazine dedicated to it, I couldn’t cover everything - and I couldn’t get specific on something that is going to be entirely different one build to the next. And so, as a kind of extension (ha! see what I did there?) on that magazine, I thought I'd outline our own project here - what we've gone through, how long things took, what they cost, our problems and solutions, the good, the bad, the ugly! We are going the owner/builder route ourselves and one step further than that: Steve is literally building it! After being over his career for a while (politics/media!!!!! Not surprising!), he resigned late last year to start a whole new career: carpentery! We've often longed for a more relaxed, simple lifestyle - less stress, timeless skills, more time together... We came to that great understanding that earning a lot of money didn’t mean happiness, so we changed our stars. We spoke to the carpenter we planned to use for our build and he was so keen for Steve to work on our house - he was happy to show him the ropes and build up his skills with a view to being accredited down the track via prior learning. In the end, his apprentice left and he offered Steve some work before our place was ready to go, so Steve donned the tools earlier this year and has been his trusty sidekick ever since, starting from scratch in a new career. I'm so proud - and so excited he will have such a huge part in building our extension. 

Another thing we’ll be doing - and documenting - is paying for everything ourselves. It’s kind of bugged me for a long time now that somewhere along the line, blogs equal freebies - especially in the DIY/home arena. I often can’t look past the fact that someone got something for free and that’s why it is in their house. I can appreciate people earning money from their blog or turning it into their career and I really enjoy a lot of the blogs that do accept freebies - some of my faves manage to work it well. But that side of things is not for me. I’d love to some day, somehow, monetise my blog, but the current model with sponsorships/gifts/freebies etc isn’t for me anymore.

I stopped it all a while back

and while it’s tempting sometimes to say yes to things that are offered - especially if it really is something I’d probably buy - I don’t feel it’s a true reflection of what renovating/decorating/home-making is about. And I’m all for sharing the real side of things. So if it comes down to real budgets, real compromises are going to be made. And by real I don't mean hundreds of thousands of dollars and top-end everything. Ours is ballparked at $170k but that is for a huge extension, second storey, laundry, two decks and balcony. I know in parts of Sydney that money might buy you a couple of decks and a bathroom renovation. I also know in other parts of Australia it could buy you a beautiful house. I'm not saying it's a budget renovation, I'm just saying our money is going to have to work really hard to get what we want. We aren't taking out a loan or extending our mortgage, it's our hard-earned money going back into our home with hard physical work (well, Steve's hard physical work!!), careful choices and lots of compromises. And because of that - our home is not going to be Pinterest perfect. And it’s not going to be designery, too tricky or trendy. It’ll just be a home that reflects our wants and needs - and that is what everyone’s home should be: a reflection of the people who live there. Not those who live in photoshopped pages of magazines! Because no-one lives in those rooms as they're portrayed. I KNOW what goes on before a house makes it into a magazine - lots of props (I recall a house having its entire contents replaced for a photoshoot!) rearranging, seeking of good angles, professional photographers and stylists, editing, cropping, photoshopping… Don’t ever feel bad you don’t measure up. All that applies to Instagram images of people’s homes and lives too, by the way! Consider them inspiration and use them to inspire your own spin on it. It's taken me a while, but that's what I do now.

I figure by sharing our journey, you might pick up something (or pick up what NOT to do on some occasions! That’s good too!) to help you on your own renovation journey. If you have something you’re particularly keen on knowing about, please let me know. I’ll try to work it in somewhere! Next up: working out the design….

Belinda x


Speaking about renovations... For a guide to renovating your bathroom, head



 One day I'll get around to doing a kitchen one too. One day!

Our house plans: spending big to live small(ish)

Sounds so silly, doesn't it? Spending big to live small. That's my life at the moment - a bundle of contradictions! I feel so hypocritical talking about living more simply and with less stuff yet planning to spend a small fortune in order to extend our house! But to us it makes sense. We're realists. We know we can't do teeny tiny living - we plan to be here for a while and want our tweens and teenagers to have their own space. But we're not knocking our house down and building a McMansion and we're not adding on masses of extra rooms or installing luxury fittings or giving each child an ensuite or spaces that won't get used. We're working with the existing structure and attempting to make it look better, flow better and suit our family of six. It took us two years and many, many different versions, but we finally got a final plan together and submitted to council and I think we nailed it - for us. Want to take a peek?

Front and back in line-drawing form, above. The windows are still to be decided in terms of their exact looks (I'm thinking part of the centre upstairs windows will be louvres and the rest fixed. And probably not so many panels. The back is also going to be slightly different - the deck cover will just be pergola style, not a second roof or the hot west Summer sun will just cook us! My little illustration of the front and back of the house will be more like it (hopefully not as wonky in the structure's lines though!!) 

Ground floor, above: So everything right of the dotted red line is our existing house. See? It's tiny! Since moving in we renovated the bathroom and painted the bedrooms. Then after playing with several floor plans we decided to rejig what we had already and eventually extend onto the back of the house only. So we knocked out several walls to open the living room side of the house all the way up front to back. It's like living in a fishbowl at times, but it's made a huge difference to light and my sanity. I love being able to supervise the kids when they're playing outside from pretty much anywhere on that side of the house. The good thing about our plan is, we now don't need to make any drastic changes to the existing structure - no bedrooms need to be converted to staircases or anything like that. All we want to do is slightly extend the dining room area as it's so tiny - we're hoping council lets us continue the floor at this height for one more metre as well as the laundry and storeroom. We have to increase the floor height due to living in a flood zone (the downside to living so close to the water!) so past the dining room will be a couple of stairs up to the new floor height family room. The wall dividing the family room from the laundry and storeroom will have a long built-in low shelf along it with a fireplace. The ceiling in this family room will be raked so it will be a huge open room with lots of light. The stairs will feature a large linen cupboard built under the highest steps; the middle and lower stairs will have a bar built in underneath them. French doors will open outwards onto a covered deck and there will be plenty of windows to keep it light and airy. The windows on the north wall in the family room will be high ones purely for light. The laundry will have an L-shaped bench with another linen cupboard and extra pantry - our kitchen is not huge so it'll be the go-to place for extra everything as well as the recycle bin. We'll be installing Ikea kitchen cabinetry for this room again and I want to cram as much storage into it as is physically possible! Next to the laundry will be a built-in tool/garden/bike/scooter/fishing kit storage room. Steve wants it to be all old-school and a bit beat up like a Grandad's shed at the back of the yard kind of room. 

Top floor, above: Upstairs you'll come into a large open landing. The roof will literally slope down to the floor on either side of this landing area - the bigger side will be Steve's library looking out into the family room and the small side will maybe eventually be turned into a small study/bedroom for Annika. Above the laundry and store room will be a long narrow storage area built into the sloped roof - perfect for office paraphernalia if we ever start a business, which is a future goal. There will also be a laundry shute in there - yesssss. This excites more than it probably should. I mean, it's a laundry shute!?
Through the doors is our master bedroom suite. The ensuite will have a super-large shower - we'd like a walk-through one but I don't think the space is big enough. Bummer! Still, it will be nice to have a dedicated shower again! There will be no door to the ensuite - in fact, the walls on either side of the doorway will be low-height. Opposite the ensuite will be a wardrobe built into the eaves. The rest of that narrow storage area I'm thinking of using as my sewing/craft space. It should be just big enough to sit in comfortably. Our bed will sit alongside the knee wall under a roof window and there will be a small door or large window out onto a little balcony. Access to the other storage area will be from the small study/little bedroom area and I'm picturing it hidden in a cupboard and being a magical play space for the kids eventually. Both of these storage spaces at the front of the house will have large fixed windows in them and plenty of light, so I might as well make them useable!

So providing we get the all-ok from council (neighbours had until last Friday to object so we should  hear something from them very soon), this is what our house should hopefully end up looking like. It's not too big, it's not too small, it's just right for us. There isn't anything too tricky or unique in the design, but it's not your bog-standard home extension either, which we like. The entire look and feel of the house will just start off pretty clean and simple and we'll see where we go from there. I don't want clutter or all surfaces filled with things. We just want to surround ourselves with pieces we love, that are comfortable, made from natural materials and hopefully pleasing to the eye too! With a fair bit of breathing space in-between it all with white walls and natural-stained timber floors. I'm calling it cosy simplicity - can that be a thing? I think it could be...
A (very exciting) renovation update (with unexciting pictures)

Guess what I did this week? I had a builder come out to chat to me about extending our house! And a  draftsman to talk about plans! And I couldn't be happier about it! Being the crap home-reno blogger that I've been, I haven't exactly documented this house's transformation properly have I? But between not wanting to blog, a new baby and a few unfinished renovation projects, an exhaustive amount of posts on our indecisiveness would have hurt your head as much as the indecisiveness has hurt mine. So here's the thing. We bought this house for its location (and price, obviously. Got a great deal there!). Certainly not its good looks. Because they aren't good looks. They are hideous - notice I never posted an image of the exterior? That's because it looked like this (below). 

Well this is how it looked not long after we moved in. Now it looks... well not a whole lot different, but a little tiny bit better. I couldn't handle the maroon and blue colours so did a lightning fast paint job and painted the whole thing white (not even close to my finest work), spray painted the screen and gutter and house numbers black. We also took off the window cover over the bedroom and ripped down the carport. Now it looks like this:

It's your typical Australian fibro house, but with the worst roofline ever (in my opinion) and no personality whatsoever. But the location is perfect - we have water views, we have easy access to the water where we spend the summer and a good portion of the rest of the year fishing, swimming, kayaking, making sandcastles, chasing crabs and just hanging out making forts from nearby sticks. There is park nearby, a great bike track to zoom up and down on. School and shops are within walking distance. We have a great-sized yard. We have a large self-contained cabin which if we really wanted could become extra income. We have the ability to work some magic on a blank canvas of a house. To quote Dana from House*Tweaking (again), "this house is not our dream house, but the house in which to pursue our dreams". I really love that quote - it sums us up perfectly. What are our dreams? A lifestyle that incorporates all of the above. A family home with a decent sized yard my children can grow up in and have fun in. An environment that is slightly more relaxed and old-school than perhaps living in a city would be. A happy home that we can have totally paid off within a few years rather than a few decades. They are our dreams. And we're well on our way to seeing them come true.

Since first spotting this house for sale while we were still living in Sydney, Steve and I have drawn plan after plan after plan as to how we'd like the layout to be - with a second storey; with bedrooms out to the side over the driveway and a large family room at the back; connected to the cabin; a tunnel-like open-plan living space on one side and just bedrooms along the other side; with a new master suite and family room at the back or two bedrooms at the back and turning Zak's room into an ensuite for us. All the time, there were going to be plans to add a loft to our new roof (a new roof was always on the cards; I hate the style/pitch/colour/everything about the one we have). All seemed great at the time we drew them, but there was always something about them that didn't scream "this is the one!" Finally, we figured it out: one large family room at the back with a staircase leading to a loft with a library/retreat/office area looking down into the extension, then a door leading to our master bedroom/ensuite overlooking the water. We'd also like to have a small balcony off our bedroom to fill in the gap created by the jut-out of one side of the front (our current bedroom). Here is my incredibly professional sketch of how the house might look and our idea for the floorplan.

Of course, we need someone to officially tell us all of this is indeed possible without our house looking like it has a too-big hat on its head - and that it won't cost us any of our children or more than what we bought it for - but that's what we'll find out soon enough, I guess. 

It will also mean no more changes to the current layout - we don't have to turn a bedroom into an ensuite, knock out another wall to go sideways or cram stairs into the living room. We can simply add a large room to the back, reuse the glass doors we just put in at the back (we're going to separate them into two sets of French doors on the back wall with a fireplace in the middle) and change the house's front windows/door set up to something much nicer. The only thing I don't get with this layout is vaulted ceilings over the kitchen - so I might have to look at building something around the top of the pantry area to the ceiling so it doesnt look odd. But I haven't even tiled the splashback yet or painted the ceiling so we're clearly in no rush!

The old "live in a house for at least a year before you make major changes" has a lot of merit. If we had gone ahead with our extension plans this time last year, we'd have a whole different house. And I don't think it would have been right. This time? I think we've got it.

We're also going to inject some fun - a pool table, a bar under the stairs, a dart board, TV with the wii, kids space... It may not be picture perfect with all these things or even close to an interior designer's idea of style but we couldn't care less. WE are the ones who are living in this and we want it to be a fun family home. So super-style is taking a backseat. Not to say I'm not going to do my best to make it look nice, but four kids live here so it's not exactly going to be designer goods everywhere! Besides, the death of my grandmother and Steve's grandfather in the past two months has brought back floods of our own childhood memories and the things that stood out to us were all the family gatherings and fun we had in and around the homes we grew up in or spent a lot of time in. For Steve it was always sport of some kind, any kind; for me it was hanging around and playing pool in my grandparent's billiard room (they had a massive dedicated room off the main living room through glass bi-folds with built-in seating  around the table and french doors opening to the outside - very modern considering it was built by my grandad about 50 years ago), building forts in the backyard, playing in made-with-love cubbies, and making "beautiful" music on the many gigantic organs or pianos. Similar to the fun I try to create with my own kids. And I'm determined this house will be a FAMILY home. With a family room that is an actual family room and not a prissy perfect space that you're scared to sit in in case you move a cushion out of place (have you ever searched "family room" on Pinterest? So not family rooms).

The top image was a sketch Steve whipped up one evening a few months ago of how we envisioned the house to look. It's changed a bit now but you get the gist I'm sure. In other renovation news I have finished painting the bathroom! We only started renovating the bathroom in November last year, so you know, I'm super prompt with our finishing touches.....

I will attempt to document the process a little better than I have been previously for anyone else who knows nothing about extending but would like to! Have you extended before? Love to hear your experiences - I'm not expecting this to be easy. We know we are in a restrictive zone so there will be battles. I am optimistic it will all be worth it. Eventually!

a renovation update
Gee, surprise, surprise, I've been MIA yet again. But this time I have a good excuse. Our renovations have started! Quite major ones too, really. We've knocked down walls, jackhammered up concrete laundry floors, installed new French doors, planned, bought and half-installed a kitchen, finished a bathroom, sanded and whitewashed floors, painted bedrooms and generally made a complete mess of the place. Well, technically, "we" was limited to the last three things on the list. The rest was done by the professionals. But basically, we've been incredibly busy. Want to see what we're up to now? Check out the progress pics of the last two weeks below...

 This lovely wall was the one separating the living room (pictured) from the kitchen and dining. The weird white patch is my paint sample (Dulux Lexicon quarter strength) I've used throughout the house so far and will continue to do so. Two days before demolition day, we relaxed the "do not draw on walls" rule and let the kids go nuts. They had a ball! Was a little sad to see it sitting at the bottom of the skip bin!
 Day one: skip bin in the driveway (it is STILL THERE!!!!!!), this wall was first to be hit by the hammers. Due to electricity all dangly, the builders wrapped it up in plastic for the night so we didn't get the true effect of the missing wall just yet.

 The other side of the room - the fridge has been moved to the hallway (convenient!) and the glass door to the left of the fridge alcove takes you to the old laundry and a weird little thoroughfare room/closed in verandah we used as a playroom for approximately 2 weeks before it became a storage space for whatever room we were emptying to paint/sand floors in. Now it is all gone.

 Day two: The laundry was ripped out and the poor young apprentices spent a good portion of their day jackhammering the concrete. Not only was it needed to create these lines for the floor trusses, the whole slab was higher than the floor in the kitchen so to continue to floor all the way through (which we wanted to do - cost a bomb more, but so worth it). So it had to be attacked several times to get it to the right height. We left the house that day...

 Other side of the laundry - up until we renovated the bathroom, the bottom left used to be our toilet. SO glad that horrid thing is gone. The white concrete you can see in front of the grey is the floor of the tiny square we called the playroom. Really it was an enclosed verandah and thoroughfare to the backyard. It used to look like this (below) before I ripped up the lino and painted the floor in an attempt to make it half decent for the kids to play in. They didn't get long to do so though as we moved everything forward and it ended up being stacked with wardrobes, shelves and toys with no room to play as we worked on the bedrooms.

Day three: the builders patched the floor (and it was quite a bit of work! I'd never leave the floor like this, but I quite like the patchwork-style of it. As a bit of a novelty.
Right now it's all covered in plaster, but still looks cool. Each piece was individually cut by hand with a small saw, sometimes split in two and then removed. The new piece was cut to size and hammered in on such an angle they could slot it into the pieces beside it. It didn't look easy and took the best part of a whole day...
 We loved having that wall down. It was nice to sit at the table and see outside and watch the sailboats sail past. Note the fridge in the hallway and the bookshelf housing crockery from the pantry.

 The kitchen corner kitchen cabinet was chopped in half and turned into a small galley style. This same length will be half the new kitchen with a huge 3-metre island running parrallel to it in the centre of the room.
 Day four: Bye bye back wall. That light came streaming in once the old back wall was taken away. The ceiling in the playroom was lower than the rest of the house so was also ripped out. We decided to keep the window in the playroom for now - eventually it will replaced with a tall and narrow one, but I'm glad we didn't just seal it up for now. I love my light.

 We had a lovely orange tarp as our back wall for a couple of nights. First night was fine; second night was windy so it flapped all night which was loud and annoying!

 A pulled-back shot from the living room. We can see from front yard to back!

 I've lost count of what day this was... But the doors are in! We changed our minds at the last minute - we were going to go with sliding doors in the centre and fixed panes on either side. But then realised we loved French doors and so went back to our original plan - full light French doors in the centre and two full-light French doors fixed as windows on either side. Our builder built the giant frame and fitted everything in and then they somehow managed to install it into the almost-4-metre gap they created!

 Our kitchen purchase was so simple - I created the room at 1.30am using Ikea's kitchen planner, saved it to their system and went down to Sydney later that day at an actual normal hour hoping it didn't look as though a drunk person had created it. (For the record I wasn't drunk - I don't drink and am pregnant anyway. Just super-tired). I waltzed in, got someone straight away who opened up my plan, helped me make a few tiny additions and subtractions, printed out the list and sent me on my way to the checkout. Last time we bought an Ikea kitchen I paid for it, then had to wait 2 hours for my order to be "picked". Then I had to wheel 5 bloody trolleys laden with kitchen cabinets and fittings to the home delivery counter a few metres away and organised delivery a week later. This time, I paid for it and walked over to the home delivery counter with a massive smile on my face after being told the warehouse will pick it all and deliver it on Saturday - 4 days away. Perfect! And then the perfection ended - I knew it was too good to be true. I had my incredibly convenient (not) time slot of sometime between 8am and 6pm on Saturday. We hung around, went fishing, all the time waiting for the call an hour before they were to deliver it (as promised). I started to wonder if they didn't actually call me and just arrived and when noone was home, left again. At 5pm they called: "Oh I"m sorry, the delivery company stuffed up and it won't be delivered today." Grr. There went my plans to build the cabinets on Sunday... Monday it arrived at 6pm and was stacked in Layla and Immy's room which was empty until I had to empty the cupboards of the old kitchen so it could be ripped out! This is what it looks like now with a few more drawers to build....
 Our new bathroom! I haven't even showed it to you properly yet, have I? Well here is a sneak peek, complete with dirty shower screen. I haven't shown you yet because the finishing touch - painting - has been put on hold until the kids are all back in their proper rooms and the house is kind of back to normal again. Then I'll get onto finishing the bathroom... It's currently being used as our kitchen sink - and will be for another week still...

 Our island is in!!! For as long as I can remember, all I've wanted is a huge kitchen island the kids can eat, play, create, craft and do homework at. I made sure it happened in this house! And because I love the panelled wall in our bedroom, I decided to panel the back and sides of the island too. And by I, I mean our builders of course. They made it super neat and tidy and I can't wait to finish it all off with a coat or two of dark paint... The unattractive hole in the wall has since been patched, but the doors nailed to the opening will remain for another three weeks while my two windows are on order. They will sit on either side of the rangehood.

 A look from the back door to the front. The kitchen cabinets in the living room have since moved into place between the newly created wall for the fridge alcove and the older cut-back wall that was between the kitchen and playroom, below. All the other crap is still in place. Ugh.

I won't even show you what the state of the bedrooms are - put it this way, I packed suitcases  and stored our clothes in the cabin and we are living out of the washing basked in my bedroom for the moment. That washing basket, however, is overflowing and has spillled out all over the floor. Just for fun - and because I have nothing else to do - Immy likes to fling the contents of the basket all around the room. I love her for it...

And there you have it - a pictorial progress report! The plasterer is coming back to sand and make a gigantic mess in the morning (yay!), the electrician comes Thursday and then hopefully the stone benchtop is installed by Wednesday next week. Then it's just up to the plumber to hook everything up and the waiting game of the windows.... I can't wait to see it finished! I absolutely love how much this work has transformed our house. It looks and feels totally different. And I love it all. I'll be back later with a moodboard for the kitchen and another kitchen update.

Oh and HAPPY NEW YEAR! Hope 2014 is your best year yet!

{All images by Belinda Graham for The Happy Home}