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Photographer: Michael Good
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When a large house was developed on the block next door, we were heartbroken. Our home had to change as we lost light, views and privacy. At first we put it on the market but the only buyers were those who would pull down the cottage and start again, so we thought, why don't we do that?

First we spoke to an architect who was very sympathetic and told us to stay positive and deal with the now. There were many solutions, however it was just a little beyond our budget of $300,000. He should have charged us for the counselling session however because we knew we were right to design our way out of the hole we'd been left in.

Our block of a mere 300 sq metres housed a charming two bedroom asbestos miners’ cottage on a slight angle close to the front boundary. The backyard rose steeply to about ten metres at its highest point though we were now staring through our neighbours house and back deck. Should we demolish and build further back taking up most of the 300 sq metre block? Alas, we didn't want to lose our rambling garden and considered the waste in demolishing a hardwood structure still deemed to be in good nick. Then we spoke to a local builder who specialised in additions. The first meeting found our builder Phillip to be full of enthusiasm for our ideas while adding better ones and being a carpenter by trade he was averse to undoing a good solid structure of hardwood. Furthermore, he was up on all the latest energy saving ideas. 

The brief was to wall us off completely on the eastern and western sides and open up the house to the north and the south, thus securing light, breezes, and privacy. But it wasn't just the garden I loved it was my laundry, much to the dismay of the builders who wanted to set the new addition onto the back of it. This was solved by leaving the laundry exit and creating a second garden area leading to a set of new stairs up into the main garden. A great spot for pots, sandy wetsuits, fishing tackle and muddy boots. 

The original house was asbestos so after the addition of an extra five metres to the back and a second storey the entire structure was covered in Colorbond and Hardies striata panels; the combination reducing the barn effect often seen in a two storey addition and at the same time contributing to a reduction in noise and increasing insulation. Further opportunities to save money existed in replacing the old windows at the front of the cottage in the same size in a cheery blue aluminium. Colorbond in "Dune' enhanced the modern beachy look.  

To recycle, we built around the old kitchen, even though it was ten years old. We couldn't justify throwing out Tasmanian hardwood. We did want extra cupboards and a breakfast making nook to keep people out of the main cooking area when snacking. We enjoy cooking and not having to stop what you are doing so someone can get a butter knife is every chef’s dream. Even though we used different materials in the new addition to the kitchen it faces the dining room so visually it fits. Glass splashbacks in 'dune' combine the new and old kitchen and the colour blue in the bench and above the stove. 

The original kitchen had a porter’s paint splashback in very serviceable duchess satin but with removable panels and seams the easiest way to clean it up was to place a new piece of plasterboard over it, we chose a giant piece of painted glass in Dulux "Shakespeare Blue" to delineate the kitchen space in an exciting way. Adding LED lighting to reflect the blue even when not using the kitchen, so it becomes a feature from the family room. The placing of a bridge from the second floor straight out to the garden above the new family room linked the garden and house together and creates a feature which allows separate comings and goings on the upper level whilst still remaining a part of the house. The use of front and back louvres for ventilation cut out the need for air conditioning or fans.  

The second storey encompassed three living spaces designed to be flexible. We use two as bedrooms and one as a sunroom. One room overlooks the deck and the other overlooks the bottom family room and the landscaped back garden through an internal bifold window. Originally designed to be an office that was still connected to the rest of the house while remaining private and quiet if need be through the use of an internal bifold. Arthur, my husband, is an artist and he took out the wall that divided the two downstairs bedrooms and that became his studio. But we left it with the two doorways so at any time we have the flexibility to return it to bedrooms. In this day and age we need our living spaces to be flexible to accommodate our changing needs over time, especially as we age.

We both work at home now with no arguments over who is disturbing whose work. Finding a crew of people that understand your needs, and will move heaven and earth to achieve them makes renovating rather like producing a successful play. All the characters contribute to the story being told.

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