Tribute to an Australian 1950’s Fibro

aerialLater this month (pending weather), we finally start the long planned renovations to our 1950’s fibro and timber cottage. Built in the post-war housing boom, the land was originally owned by the government and built for the Department of Housing. This house is pretty much all original, minus a wall that divides the kitchen from the dining and living that looks like it was knocked out around 2008 judging by old real estate photos. From what we can tell from a grainy 1955 aerial photo, there was also an outhouse that was knocked down sometime before 1965.

There isn’t much in terms of “features” in the current house. It is a 2 bedder and has a total size of about 70sqm. It’s typical of a 1950’s affordable housing build, consisting of fibro exterior (and some interior) walls, pine timber floors, timber double-hung sash windows, 3/4 height dado rails and nice 9ft (2.8m) high ceilings. The lighting has been updated to modern down-lights and the kitchen had an Ikea upgrade sometime this decade. There was once a fireplace however this was boarded up in the early 2000’s and is now home to a possum. Another possum also inhabits the roof space. Sometimes they fight in the middle of the night.

Insulation mustn’t have been a “thing” in the 50’s because this house has none of it. The house is freezing cold in the winter and stinking hot in the summer. It is almost impossible to control the temperature and if it wasn’t for the $400-a-quarter-to-run split system reverse cycle air conditioning we would have moved out a long time ago. Even still, in the middle of winter we wake up to dripping wet walls and and have to regularly scrub the mould off them. During summer it is usually warmer inside the house than outside and the air-con runs all night. As soon as we turn it off the cool air escapes from the non-insulated walls and quickly climbs to a balmy 35 degrees.

Despite its age, the house is pretty solid. We have had some high winds and heavy rain over the years and the ceiling has remained dry. The stormwater drains are all blocked up and during heavy downpours we have our own waterfall. We also could have got all of this fixed over the past 4 years, but we always planned to renovate. It has just taken us longer than we thought it would to get to this point.

The government sold the house around 2004 and we are the third owners since then. The previous owner also had big plans for this house however they had a child and it all understandable become a bit too hard so we purchased it in 2010 for around $550,000. Similar houses in the area are now selling for $750,000+.

While this neat and tidy house has served many families over the years, some who probably needed it more than others, it is nearly 65 years old. Although we love living with native Australian wildlife, it is time to give it a bit of a facelift and create some more space to hopefully one day be home to our family.

September 2013


Planning a renovation isn’t easy. You think you know what you want until you see it on a plan, then all of the sudden you have all these new, great ideas. It is very easy to get carried away with it all and you think if you add a bit here, take from there, make this room bigger, make the hall a little wider, that it won’t all impact the cost. It is easy to get ahead of yourself until you realise you have to pay for it all.

We started the design “process” in April 2013. We had some ideas so we went to the draftsman and he drew up a few plans for us. The first design we chose was this one below, and slowly it evolved over a 10 month process to what we have today. As it stands right now (January 2014) we are still yet to be certified so who knows if will will have to make more changes.


April 2013

From this plan we wanted a few changes so we ended up with the below in May 2013

May 2013
May 2013

We sat on this for a few weeks and then decided we didn’t like the front of the house. We also didn’t like the position of the kitchen. Ok, we didn’t like much about this anymore. At this point we didn’t know what we wanted. We decided to change a few things around and ended up with the below…

June 2013
June 2013

This is basically a entirely new design to what we had before. We liked this design much better so we went with it. The final version of the house is based on this, although we did make a few changes. After a few small tweaks we ended up with this in July…

July 2013
July 2013

Between July and August we made small changes to the above plans and ended up sending them to a builder to quote. Things were moving in the right direction!

Not for long. The builder said due to us extended to the left of the existing house, we would need to change the roof so much that it would probably be cheaper to just knock the house down and start again.

Back to square one. We had a design we linked, it just needed to be made a bit smaller. In September we had this….

September 2013
September 2013

A few more tweaks in October and November. Nothing changed too much and we went back to the builder to get some quotes. The builder came back with a few small changes, mainly around the roof line so we had to redesign it. During this time we also decided that we’d prefer the laundry in the garage as we preferred the rooms to be bigger.

Our latest, and final design is below. After what feels like forever we’ll go to the certifier in the next few weeks and see if we can get these approved so we can start building in March/April. Fingers crossed!


January 2014
January 2014

Apartment or House?

When we started our property search back in 2010 we thought we knew what we wanted. It was an apartment in Sydney’s Inner West. At the time we were looking for something close to the city, cafes, restaurants and a suburb that was trendy. Our search brought us to Summer Hill, Dulwich Hill, Marrickville, Earlwood and surrounding suburbs.

We thought we couldn’t go wrong and were prepared to spend over half a million dollars on an apartment that would have shared common areas with an unknown amount of people, as well as common walls, with people living above and below you. The only outdoor space we would have had would have been a small balcony or at best a courtyard.

In 2010 the Inner West property market was red hot. We were fighting with thousands of other young couples wanting to live in the trendiest part of Sydney. We went to a few auctions and lost out on countless amounts of our “dream home” for prices sometimes more than $120,000 over our budget.

After a while we were trying to figure out why we actually wanted to live in these small, over populated, old, damp and over priced units. We thought we wanted it, but after some reflection we realised it actually was something that we didn’t. We wanted our own piece of land, a backyard we could spent time in, something with potential and a house we could really make our own.

It seems the rest of Gen Y are only catching on to this dream now. It was reported this week that people our age who are looking to get their foot on the property ladder are finally realising what they want.

GENERATION Y’s love affair with inner city apartments could begin to sour in coming years as the lure of a house and a backyard proves too strong.

Three years on and we have definitely made the right choice. If we had bought a unit, we would be now looking to sell. We are about to renovate our house as it is a bit too small for our future dreams. At least we have that option as if we had a unit it would be time to sell and we’d most probably loose money.

Pinterest Ideas for House board


Pinterest Ideas for House board

The first thing we did when we decided it was time to renovate the house was turn to the Internet for some ideas. The Internet makes it easy to find out what’s “in”, with millions of pictures to go with it so you know exactly how it fits in with your design ideas.

Aside from Google Images and general Internet searches, we have relied heavily on Pinterest and Houzz for our inspiration. Most of you will know what Pinterest is, however Houzz is something we only came across in the last few weeks and it helped us visually the design we want.

Houzz is the leading online platform for home remodeling and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish – online or from a mobile device. From decorating a room to building a custom home, Houzz connects millions of homeowners, home design enthusiasts and home improvement professionals across the country and around the world. With the largest residential design database in the world and a vibrant community powered by social tools, Houzz is the easiest way for people to get the design inspiration, project advice, product information and professional reviews they need to help turn ideas into reality.


So here we are thinking that our design and ideas are unique and one of a kind – turns out we aren’t so creative after all.


The Stats

Rear of House from the Sales Brochure

Daniel and I purchased our first home together at the end of 2010. While it wasn’t exactly what we wanted, we saw the potential with the size of the  block of land and took the plunge to purchasing. The time has now come to turn this small house into our home.

There is no greater feeling of accomplishment then that of building something from scratch. By documenting this journey you too might be inspired to make your mark of the property market.

There are many people who would advise us to use a project home company, but project home companies are too generic and create too many limitations. We feel that to design your home with character and charm you need to do it yourself. We want each piece of our home to tell a story.

Our ‘dream home’ features restored recycled materials,  renewable energy sources, hand-made features made using old methods, leadlight glass works and the beauty that can only be found in something made the DIY way.

DIY inspiration for us has come from watching Kevin McCloud’s ‘The Shed’, if you have a love of true craftsman shift, I encourage you to watch it.

In this fast paced world we live in, home is sometimes the only escape we have. Our home needs to be a sanctuary of warmth, relaxation and old world charm. We are envisioning open plan alfresco living, a homely sitting room with a cosy fireplace, large bedrooms, and a gorgeous kitchen.

Here are some of the current stats of the existing house.

Suburb: Jannali, NSW

Built: 1950

Structure: Fibro, timber, cement roof

Bedrooms: 2

Bathrooms: 1

House size: 70sqm

Landsize: 610sqm

Renovations begin sometime this year!





Home & Soul

Knowing where to start is half the battle! You can find hundreds of blogs online describing the how/where/when of renovation, unfortunately for us Aussie renovators most of them are based on American guides and building methods.

Home and Soul will give you insights into building to New South Wales guidelines and Australian styles.

We will be documenting each part of our journey including:

  • plan ideas
  • fees associated with council approval
  • sourcing a builder
  • construction costs
  • sourcing building supplies
  • building progress
  • style ideas
  • the challenges we might face along the way

We hope that you can take this journey with us. If you are thinking about beginning your own renovation journey or if you are a seasoned renovator we would love to hear from you!