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An 8 year renovation turns a dated house into a dream home

A dark and dreary home is polished until sparkling light and bright. Take a tour of this inspiring renovation below

When Brydhi Williamson first spotted this Alexandra home online, she was sure it was a diamond in the rough. Beneath the burgundy walls, crazy cottage wallpaper, dark wooden panelling and cluttered interior was her and husband James’ forever home.

James, however, needed a bit more convincing. Both 25 at the time, the hairdresser and then professional cyclist, had been slowly saving to purchase their first home together. But a forthcoming change to how much a home buyer needed as a deposit (an increase to 20 percent) in 2013 made them shift their house search up a gear.

“We started looking with urgency and came across this one. It looked terrible, but I could envisage us stripping it back to its beautiful bones,” says Brydhi. “James, who was in England at the time, could only see how ugly it was.” Convinced this house was full of potential, Brydhi told him, “Look, just give me all your money. We need to buy this house.”

They got the house for $246,000 and, since purchasing it in 2013, they’ve been slowly chipping away at transforming it into the dream house Brydhi envisioned from the first time she laid eyes on it.

Bit by bit

After spending all their savings on purchasing the house, Brydhi and James were unable to do much to it for a couple of years, bar putting a few coats of paint on the burgundy walls.

“I’m glad it turned out that way,” reflects Brydhi. “We got to know the house better by waiting. We were quite young at the time, my taste and style has definitely evolved and changed a lot since then.”

The 1930s house had already been subjected to a few “renovations” before Brydhi and James got their hands on it. Extensions had been haphazardly tapped on to the exterior, which meant parts of the old plastered exterior walls were now acting as interior walls in the main bedroom and living room.

The first major room Brydhi and James tackled was the kitchen in 2016. The six-week project saw their poky kitchen transformed into a light, bright and spacious room with help from Brydhi’s dad, who made their kitchen benchtops and did the joinery for them.

After that big renovation, what followed involved smaller projects such as wallpapering and painting the lounge, and plastering over the fireplace, which was resplendent in shiny red brick. The laundry and toilet were the next rooms to be renovated, followed by more painting, installing new carpets and drapes, and redoing the wardrobes. Then, finally, it was time for the “big extension”.

The big extension

“We’d had this big extension in the pipeline for years,” says Brydhi. “We’d been dreaming of it.”

This piece de resistance was the final act of their eight-year renovation. It involved ripping out the sunroom – which was too hot in summer and too cold in winter – and the dining room, and extending that part of the house 1.8metres toward the back fence line. This extra space became the new dining room and the main bedroom suite.

At the same time, Brydhi and James tackled another bathroom and continued with polishing the interiors.

Unexpected finds

It didn’t take long for the Williamsons to realise renovating older homes is always a bit more complicated than first thought. Not only do walls need to be straightened and re-jibbed, but sometimes – as they discovered – you’ll rip up the laundry floor to
find it’s being held up by an old real estate sign.

“Someone had put it down and tiled over the top of it,” explains Brydhi. “It was super dodgy, our builder couldn’t believe someone hadn’t fallen through. It was a reminder that you’re never quite sure of what you’ll find when renovating because you’re not starting from scratch like a new build. There are going to be some unknowns. We’ve just learnt to go with it and allow a bit more on budget and time.”

Interior style

Their eight-year reno allowed Brydhi the time to develop her interior style. From the beginning, she didn’t want to lose the character of the place, but to incorporate it into her clean, modern aesthetic.

Early renovation plans suggested knocking down walls in the living area to create a more open space, but Brydhi wasn’t having it. “I was really firm, I didn’t want to change the lounge at all – I loved the wood detailing and the character,” she says. Instead, she painted the walls white, to open up the space visually, but left the wooden details as they were.

“I’m quite a neutral person, I like spaces that are simple and uncluttered. There are quite a few different woods in the house, so I opted for white in all the rooms.”

Bathroom schemes

Brydhi’s penchant for natural materials and her go-to neutral colour scheme extends throughout the house – except for the bathrooms, where you’ll find a dash of colour.

“I didn’t want oak vanities, there’s already so much wood in the house, so I decided to go for coloured vanities. I’m not really a colourful person, but I thought it could be a fun way to play with colour in a small space,” she explains. Brydhi chose sage green for Remi’s bathroom and – much to the builder’s distaste – a soft peach for the ensuite. “The builder questioned my choices, but I love it – and it goes really well with the brass taps,” she laughs.

Future plans

Brydhi and James have slowly and thoughtfully transformed this once dark and dowdy house into their light and bright forever home. And while there are no more renovation plans for the interior, they’re not quite done with coaxing the best out of this property just yet. Next on the list of projects is the garage and the garden.

Text by: Bea Taylor. Photography by: Rachel Wybrow.

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