Hello Hydrangea House: Before and After
At the end of last year Joshua and I bought our first house! It came about a lot more quickly than we had been planning for, but when we came across it, we knew it was the one, and suddenly we were signing papers and getting stuck into renovations!
We've named it the 'Hydrangea House' as we signed the mortgage papers on our 4th wedding anniversary (true romance, amirite?) The traditional gift for a 4th wedding anniversary is flowers, and more specifically, the hydrangea! We gifted each other a couple of hydrangea plants which were promptly planted in the garden when we got the keys at settlement on Christmas Eve. We've since added a few more hydrangea plants to the garden, and hopefully by the time of our 5th wedding anniversary we'll have a big, blooming garden full of hydrangeas!
It's a sweet little 1960's house, probably a project home initially from what we've been able to research so far. There are a few other 'unusual' homes in the area, but ours is one of the only ones with an asymmetrical roof and floor to ceiling glass fronts. If any mid-century architecture enthusiasts are reading, we'd love your insights! We met the grandson of the previous home owner on the day we got the keys, and he told us that the front verandah and the sunroom in the rear had been additions in 1980 (or thereabouts) but everything else was original and untouched.
When we made the offer on the property (very quickly, at the first inspection!) we had hoped to keep a lot of the original features, but after a closer look through we found that a lot of things were rotten or completely impractical. The fibreboard through the kitchen was mouldy and expanded from moisture, and the (very cute, original 60's) boomerang laminate was completely stained beyond repair.
We watched our 'quick coat of paint' project grow into a full blown 'The Block' style renovation, and suddenly we were spending every weekend in sneakers and exercise clothes, and at Bunnings first thing every Sunday morning. We spent 3 months worth of weekends working away, giving the house a huge makeover - a job we were - and probably still are - completely unqualified for, but we've somehow managed to make it through and the house is still in good shape! We redid the flooring, painted the interior of the whole house, installed a brand new kitchen and laundry, and did a big makeover in the bathroom, where we were thankfully able to maintain the best bits of it's original self. Looking back on it now, I can't believe we pulled it off and are still happily married! My twin younger brothers helped out enormously, giving every weekend they were able to, to lend a hand with everything without complaint, and were happy enough to only be paid in takeaway lunches. Thank goodness for helpful family! We definitely could not have done it without them.
I was pretty committed to my before and after documentation, and I'm so glad I was because it was the only thing that kept me going towards the end! Here are some comparison snaps of some of the rooms through the house.
THE LOUNGE/DINING AREA
This room is straight off the entry way, and half of the room is all glass with the front windows. It's get's the most beautiful light, especially first thing in the morning. The very first thing we changed in the house was taking down heavy woollen curtains the covered the top strip of the windows, and it had such an immediate impact. I spent a lot of time high on a ladder working in this room, painting the cross beams white etc. The sunlight is so good, I had to wear sunglasses while working on the ladder! We've kept the vertical blinds, but changed the pendant lights all through the house to the lighter and more reflective pendants (I should probably disclose now, the house is 80% IKEA products!) to make the ceilings seem a little higher and take advantage of the beautiful light. We changed the flooring in the whole house to a lighter floorboard, as the original flooring was damaged beyond what we could realistically and affordably repair, and was also very dark.
Painting the front door pink was a no-brainer for me, but a controversial choice for the Bunnings employee who served me at the paint counter. ;)
The original kitchen was really impractical for today's living, both in size and functionality. Being a small house, it didn't make sense to have so much of the room (the flows off the lounge room area) cut into a kitchen nook. This was a complete gut (and a complete nightmare that required an emergency plumber) so we could re-insulate the walls, wire in new switches etc. We also found out during the kitchen installation that the house wasn't square... so some of our cabinetry is a little bit on the wonky side! The kitchen is Joshua's proudest achievement as he built and installed the whole thing with the help of my brothers.
Just off the kitchen is a little laundry nook, with a pocket door able to separate the two rooms. The original space had an old school 'hamper' fitted next to the sink, and while it was covered in the boomerang laminate I mentioned earlier, it was totally impractical, and with nowhere for a washing machine to go! We also knew that despite the pocket door being available to open and close, for the most part it would be open (to keep the flow of the house flowing along!) and the laundry area would be visible from the kitchen. We redesigned the space using the same cabinetry and fixtures as the kitchen, with a little bit of a cabinet hack to change one side of the laundry to a space large enough to fit a washing machine. Now a washing machine is nestled in there next to the sink, and no-one would be any the wiser! Probably the solution I'm most proud of in the process!
And finally, the bathroom! My favourite room in terms of transformation, and I’m probably more attached to it since it was the room I worked on the most. The bathroom is in the centre of the house, with a toilet on one side and a bedroom on the other. It’s a little asbestos sandwich, we didn't know about until after we’d already done some work - and found a big panel of asbestos behind the tiles. The budget didn’t allow for a major renovation of the bathroom, and in terms of the layout and amenities, it was totally fine. The asbestos isn’t ideal, but it’s also part and parcel with these sorts of mid-century homes, so kind of unavoidable. The walls are covered in a laminate tile - the same type of laminate you’d find on the floor. I don’t know who decided that a black texture was the way to go for the walls in the bathroom (maybe they were thinking it would hide dirt well?) but it made the room feel so small and dark. With budget being at a minimum, we used a laminate paint all through the bathroom to take the tile from black to a white gloss. Being so dark, it took several extreme coats to get the tiles right. I’m still not 100% happy with it overall, but compared to what it was, I’ll take it! The fumes from the paint were intense, I had to take breaks from painting every 10 minutes so I didn’t completely gas myself! A brand new vanity with a bamboo top to add some warmth to the room, and another DIY/creative solution for a hole in the wall of a waterproof board and a coated pegboard behind the mirror. We’ve both been obsessed with pegboard in the home since we did a couple of home tours in Palm Springs and saw the way it was cleverly used in kitchens and bathrooms, so we were quite pleased with how it all finished up!
So that’s our little house, all done and dusted... the interiors, anyway! I'm looking forward to enjoying some weekends in nice dresses instead of the t-shirt and tights I'd worn all summer while we were working! There's still a lot of work to be done in the gardens, but we'll tackle that at a slightly less intense pace. It's amazing to look back at photos from the first day and see the difference now, and has been quite a rewarding project. I think it will be a little while before we take on another project quite as large as this one was... but then again, who knows? It's got to be easier the next time around, right? ;)