Sunday 19 January 2014

A Cabin By The Sea...

... our version of Kevin McCloud's Man Made Home 'By the Sea'

Well goodbye 2013 and hello 2014 and all the exciting challenges that lie ahead. If we thought that last year was pretty eventful on the home and family front, then 2014 looks like it will be equally challenging and fun all at the same time! We haven't done much on the blog front so far this year though, as we have been trying to make the most of a few weeks off and keeping the girls entertained over the school holidays. Plus Kate is enjoying her last couple of weeks with Poppy before she starts school.
By far the most exciting challenge ahead for us this year will be the move from our current renovation project, to our 'Cabin by the Sea' - our next renovation project in what will be our forever home (well at least for the next decade while the girls go through school). Kate and I have always wanted to live closer to the ocean, and we knew this as soon as we arrived back in Townsville. While inner city suburb living afforded us a short ten minute drive to the ocean, we would much rather be a short 2 minute walk to this...
How gorgeous is that! We can't wait to live out there and at this stage it is our plan to be in the house by Easter. Unlike our current house which needed a lot of work done as soon as we moved in, we are going to try and resist the urge to go in with all guns blazing this time, and do what all the house renovation books say and live in the house for 12 months first. 
So armed with Kevin McCloud's Grand Design handbook, re-runs of Grand Designs on the ABC, and a healthy array of renovation blogs to read, we are going to try and last the 12 months while we:
a) finish this place and take it to market, and
b) plan how the new house needs to be adjusted to make it our home (and our cabin by the sea).
And it all starts with this rough sketch...
I was motivated this week by Caroline's post on West End Cottage titled 'How Much Room Do You Need?'. It's a fitting question when you look at the size of homes being built in Australia (getting bigger in size every year) on ever decreasing sized land plots. In addition to this theme that Caroline raises, and the book by Stuart Harrison titled 'Forty Six Square Metres of Land Doesn't Normally Become a House', there are two other good books I read in the USA which I would recommend. First is 'The Not So Big House' by Sarah Susanka, and the second is titled 'Staying Put - Remodel Your House to Get the Home You Want' by Duo Dickinson. Both books are full of great ideas for maximising the space in your home during the initial planning phase of a new build, or for planning a renovation, without resorting to the impersonality of building yet another McMansion. I have followed Caroline's renovation on her blog and have been impressed by not only the style and quality of the renovation, but also by the clever use of space that the architects and her have designed, while keeping the house on a relatively conservative footprint (in my humble opinion).
I'm also a big fan of Kevin McCloud and I plan on using both Grand Designs Handbooks to guide Kate and I as we venture on through this next 12 months of planning. Here are Kevin's Top 10 Tips which we will try to abide by during the initial planning and then subsequent renovation...
  1. Employ an architect - and a good one at that.
  2. Contain your budget and your ambition - and allow a 20% contingency fee.
  3. Spend more time planning up front to keep build time to a minimum.
  4. Don't risk it all for a dream you've never lived - incorporate as many elements in your design that you know make you happy.
  5. Employ as many professionals as you can afford - especially a good builder.
  6. Don't throw away all your old furniture and buy everything new - our possessions are our autobiographies.
  7. Don't expect the finished build to change who you are - it's more like the process of building will teach you more about yourself.
  8. Don't expect too much of your team - if you want the best quality expect to have to wait and to pay for it.
  9. Write everything down. Everything. And keep a build diary to record progress and bore your children and friends with.
  10. Remember that inside your home is private and personal, while outside is public property and part of other people's lives - give your architect, builder and landscaper room to manoeuvre here... "If you want to paint your front door, get your neighbour to choose the colour."
And so taking that into consideration, we are going to cheat immediately, as there is one or two projects that can't wait for artistic inspiration to strike. The Bathroom and Toilet are in dire need of repair (and updating), and as the house only has one bathroom and toilet (for now), we need to get this done before moving in as we don't have the luxury this time of using one bathroom while renovating the other. And so without further ado, here is the first two projects looming on our renovation list...
Ok, so that's the Real Estate Agent's photo.
In reality it's not as bright and clean and functioning as that...
Having said that because the following photos have been taken on different days in different light, the most accurate colour is probably this photo, i.e. white floors and a light grey tile.
This is the main reason we have to do the bathroom. The 'Roman Floor Tile' shower tray is old technology; i.e. a tin shower tray underneath tiles, that is now leaking and water is penetrating through the back wall into the laundry. It's a big job to fix, so it means we may as well crack on and do the bathroom now, before we move in.
That's the old tub, and the tile shelf at the rear is barely hanging on anymore. That will all come out and a new tub will go in there - Kate's already picked one with a head rest ;-)
Even though I'm colour blind, that vanity top hurts my eyes!
Time for the old heave-ho, we have a more beachy theme in mind.
Last but not least, the toilet needs replacing, the walls need to be de-tiled, and the water pipe needs to be put back into the wall. Whoever did that last time they did a repair may have saved themselves some money, but the visual after effect is crap...
So there you have it. We'll do the immediate must do jobs, then sit back, relax and plan like Kevin McCloud for our Cabin by the Sea's' next evolution. If we can do that, then we just might be able to meet Kevin's vision as stated here...
"If Grand Designs does anything for the 99% of its viewers, it shows them that homes can be genuinely life affirming, that houses too, can be architecture. And it shows them what's possible, not just at the top of the market... it raises the bar. We should not only build a house that is modern now, we should build one that will still be modern in 20 years."
I wonder how we will go, where will we have progressed to 12 months from now; maybe you'll have to keep an eye out for a blog post titled 'A Cabin By The Sea Revisited'...
Cue Grand Designs end of show theme music...
Cheers, Col



  1. Hi Guys - Happy New Year! What exciting times you have ahead of you. I hope your renovation journey is as enjoyable as mine has been. Yes, we've had our moments along the way, but all in all it's been a lot of fun. We are really looking forward to moving into our new home in a couple of weeks time. I would have to agree entirely with your Top 10 Tips - perfect. In regards to your bathroom - plan well, use the best waterproofing products on the market and find the best tradesman to do it as well as the tiling. If you're going to spend the money, do it right. Bathrooms and kitchens are the most expensive rooms to renovate. xx

    1. Thanks Caroline - I'm sure the journey overall will be enjoyable, less the obvious and predictable 'unforseen' issues that crop up. Bathroom will be more challenging this time as we'll be working with a masonry block home instead of a Queenslander.

      Cheers, Col

  2. A great post, Col. Those 10 tips are spot on! We cheated and did a minor renovation before we moved in to our house too but felt it was necessary with a newborn baby in the family. It certainly was beneficial living in our house while we planned our design for 3 years. It gave us a better understanding of the aspect and position plus how we wanted to use the space. It was a long 3 years though!!! I suppose it makes us appreciate our new home even more. All the best for your 12 months of planning and the bathroom renovation. Looking forward to seeing more plans and following along with the journey.

    1. Thanks for the feedback Mum E, I think 12 months will be as long as we can last though - but it will be fun researching and planning the next stage of the renovation. Hope you are settling in to your newly renovated home !!

      Cheers, Col

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    1. Looking forward to starting our next project Michelle, and the time to start is drawing close fast. Just had a look at your blog and you guys have done some amazing transformations with your place. Good luck with the final few stages!

      Cheers, Col

  4. Michelle of Jarrah Jungle... I'm so sorry, I just inadvertantly removed your comment, and it seems once done it's irretrievable! I was trying to click on your profile but my tablet must have thought I was reaching for the remove button.. Huge apologies! If anyone knows how to recover removed comments on blogger let me know. Ps love your blog and love that new side table from Freedom!
    Kate x

    1. Haha I have just seen this. Sheesh delete me why dont you! Not to worry I shall leave some more comment love for you :)