“The new living spaces encapsulate the concept of modern living
where internal areas transition seamlessly into the great Australian outdoor.”
The most significant benefit in a home renovation must necessarily involve the transformation of a lowest value use space to become the highest value use.
The concept of floor space maximization can be very different when comparing a multi-million dollar palatial mansion with the average suburban home. For the former, real estate value might be achieved by allocating large open spaces for no good reason other than to give a sense of vastness and abundance. For example, the size of an entrance foyer of high-end properties might need to be as large as a master bedroom of the average suburban home in order to capitalize its real estate value. Luxury use of space for these properties are just as important, if not more so than its functionality.
On the other hand, suburban homes are usually limited by space constraints and the home renovator needs to be clever in striking a balance between luxury and functional use of space.
Transformation – Removing alcove and laundry to create new dining and living space
When I first inspected this house in mid 2015, the space which sparked my imagination was a small covered alcove of 5.2 sq metres with square porcelain tiles leading into a laundry room. A brick wall separated this alcove from a U-shaped kitchen and a flight of stairs lead to the backyard below.
Existing floor plan
The alcove was merely a passage way into the laundry as it was too small to be of any significant use. Perhaps the previous owner used it as a sun room with a view of the backyard or a space for extra storage. I foresaw the greatest potential for adding value was to square up two corners of the house.
The extra space created was by no means large – approximately 7sqm for the alcove and laundry extension and converting another 7sqm of an existing garden bed corner into usable internal space. However, in combination with removal of internal walls which separated the kitchen from the alcove and a redundant study, the proposed new living spaces became significantly larger.
Proposed new floor plan with outdoor entertaining deck
Short hyphenated blue lines: Existing floor plan
Red lines: Proposed new extension and floor plan
Long hyphenated blue lines: Roof line
The proposed new floor plan is significant in terms of transforming “dead corners” of the house into higher value use – the old alcove and laundry will be transformed into a 10 – 12 seat dining area next to a new open concept kitchen. This new space also extends into a large elevated outdoor entertaining deck of approximately 60 sqm. The corner with an existing garden bed will be transformed into a new bedroom with an ensuite / powder room.
It was truly a breath of fresh air when the walls separating the kitchen from the alcove and laundry were removed. Being rectangular in shape, the new spaces are also relatively easier to work with and less costly to create.
The new dining and living spaces have become the heart of the house where we spend most of our time.
Transformation – U-shaped closed kitchen to create new open kitchen with 3 metre island benchtop
During the open house inspection, I overheard some viewers being impressed by the kitchen, raving about the 900mm cooktop / oven, stainless steel splashback and canopy-style exhaust fan.
Being avid home cooks, Mysaucepan and I disliked the functionality and layout of this kitchen. At best, this kitchen was ill-designed and at worst, highly dysfunctional. It had limited counter-top space with two right corners, one of which had drawers at right angles which meant they cannot be opened at the same time. The tall cupboards were hand-painted to match the ghastly gunmetal gray colour of the cheap plastic laminated drawers. These kitchen cupboards were essentially like wardrobes because intervals between the shelves are large enough for luggage and suitcases.
The kitchen sink is top-mounted which caused food particles collect all around the lip. The window in front of the kitchen sink is rather meaningless as looks out to the small alcove and the hand-painted words alluding refined French cuisine were rather tacky and in poor taste.
During the renovation, I managed to sell off the cooktop, oven, rangehood and splashback for $500 to a good samaritan who bought the items for a church shelter group.
Needless to say, I budgeted for a total demolition of this kitchen to be replaced with a new, contemporary style kitchen in my renovation costs.
As we lived in this house throughout the renovation process, the old kitchen was one of the last vestiges of this house to be demolished. I recall Mysaucepan and I were rather excited when the wall in front of the kitchen sink was finally demolished.
At this point, we could visualize the eventual space of the new kitchen and how it integrates with the new dining space created from where the old alcove and laundry used to be.
The new sliding doors meet at a right angle “floating corner” (without a load-bearing pillar) and they open out onto a new elevated entertaining deck.
We are absolutely delighted with the look and functionality of our new kitchen. The 3 metre x 1.4 metre caesarstone benchtop is really the focal point of our home where friends and family mingle.
There is ample benchtop space for food prep and display of everday kitchen appliances and utensils. I paid due attention to the functionality of the new kitchen, ensuring sufficient storage space for large pots and cooking appliances. The location and interaction between key utilities were crucial – ie the location of the cooktop, kitchen sink, dishwasher, refrigerator, microwave oven, wet rubbish disposal, recycling bins and pantry.
This new kitchen is also accentuated by mood lighting from the floor, below the cooktop area and on the underside of the island benchtop.
Perhaps a slight error in the aesthetics of this new kitchen is not aligning the horizontal top shelf of the microwave with that of the refrigerator.
The Transformation Process
After demolition of the old walls, a new 2.7m ceiling was built as an extension of the old ceiling. As the floor level of the old alcove and laundry area were about 100mm lower than the old living areas, a new floor could be installed on top of the old porcelain tiles which saved demolition costs to this area.
The previous owner of this house did not install a single batt in the ceiling for whatever reason. In winter, the house was like an icebox as it had no insulation from the cold. The old rickety wooden windows from the 1960s were barely wind-proof with its hinges falling apart. In summer, the house felt like an oven on those 40 degree Celsius days.
During the renovations, I installed Bradford Gold batts throughout the entire ceiling and internal walls of the house to provide insulation and reduce noise transmission.
Once the electrical, plumbing and batts are in place, a new ceiling is installed.
The old kitchen benchtop became increasingly vital being our makeshift kitchen as the renovation progressed.
But once the new walls and new ceilings were in place, it was time for this old benchtop to go so that tiling for the new floor area can commence.
New kitchen cabinets and drawers are installed after new walls and floor tiling are completed.
Mysaucepan wanted a predominantly white kitchen finish and wooden floorboards over the entire new living spaces.
I reasoned this would not be appropriate as we ought to have a different floor texture to demarcate the different floor areas of the house as we are already installing European oak for the formal lounge.
A predominantly white kitchen finish will appear stark whilst a wood motif will create warmth as we are surrounded by lush greenery and bushland.
According to our building designer, the largest base dimension for caesarstone benchtops is 3 metres by 1.4 metres. Any larger size will require joining and smaller sizes will be cut down from this base size accordingly.
So it was highly co-incidental the proposed new living area was able to accommodate this dimension and I immediately agreed on this measurement. On the day of delivery, it took three tradesmen to transport the island benchtop from the truck into our house as I am told it weighed 300 kilograms. Two cavities are pre-cut to accommodate the kitchen sink and a pop-up electrical powerpoint socket.
Each of the vertical caesarstone pieces that make up the side of the island benchtop weigh 100 kilograms.The benchtop is supported by the frame of the kitchen cabinet while the caesarstone sides are secured by a special glue.
Light fittings can be installed once the kitchen cabinets and benchtops are in place.
I chose three dome-shaped Odessa pendants made of bright copper to contrast with the woodgrain motif and black porcelain floor of the new living space.
The new living spaces consist of the dining area that seats 10 diners, a focal space for a grand piano, a casual sitting area and a cocktail bar.
In creating this space, I envisage the possibility of the piano and casual sitting area to be converted into a rumpus space in the event this house is occupied by a family with young children. A mother can cook in the kitchen while keeping a watchful eye on her kids.
The new living space is accentuated with mood lighting from the ceiling which highlights the 3-dimensional features of WOW tiles from Spain.
Transformation – Old living space to create new sitting area and cocktail bar
The previous owner of this house carried out a renovation which extended the living space to become an informal lounge area.
It was a budget extension because the new ceiling is lower at 2.4 metres and supported by dark wood beams which we both disliked. The vista into the backyard was framed by large plantation shutters.
Both Mysaucepan and I dislike plantation shutters for a host of reasons. They require ample space to swing open and when they are in a close position, the view limited by the horizontal planes which are also dust traps and a pain to clean. We are at lost as to why they remain so popular with so many people.
The wall behind the TV was hastily patched with budget linoleum in time for the sale of the house. Again, I remember potential buyers talking about this space and loving it as an informal sitting room because it is close to the kitchen. For me, the only thing on my mind at that time was calculating the cost of demolishing and renovating this section of the house.
During the renovations, I manage to sell off the plantations shutters on eBay for approximately $100 each. There were plantation shutters each of two bedrooms as well which I replaced with contemporary panoramic windows.
I was glad to see the last of the plantation shutters replaced by new sliding doors that extend out onto the new entertaining deck.
As the far corner of the house has been squared off to create more internal space, the new wall has been brought inwards to create the new bedroom behind it.
It is exciting once the structural elements are completed because they are the most difficult phase of a renovation.
I regard painting and floor tiling to be aesthetics in nature though floor heating has been installed to all tiled areas of the house.
I weighed up the cost benefits of floor heating and decided it was worth the investment because we would be spending a lot of time in the new living spaces. The cost of this floor heating becomes relatively insignificant when amortized over many years.
Though it may seem a luxury, I do foresee floor heating becoming more affordable in future. For contemporary homes in higher value neighbourhoods, I strongly believe floor heating as a feature would enhance the real estate value of a home.
The old alcove and laundry has now been transformed into our new dining room.
The new living spaces encapsulate the concept of modern living where internal areas transition seamlessly into the great Australian outdoor.
Transformation: Building a cocktail bar
Mysaucepan loves having cocktails whenever we have dinner on a night out in town. So when we embarked on our home renovations, her instructions to me was to incorporate a cocktail bar so that she could have cocktail parties with her girlfriends at home.
I thought it wasn’t a bad idea because a simple cocktail at any bar or restaurant in Sydney would set you back at least $20 a pop and a group of girls could easily spend upwards of $100 each just on cocktails on a night out!
So having cocktails and happy hour at home makes a lot of sense in terms of saving money and not needing to drive thereafter.
However, the cocktail bar Mysaucepan had in mind was not what I envisaged. She wanted to be Tom Cruise in the 1988 movie Cocktail where she plays mixologist cum sommelier behind a counter facing a group a her girlfriends as they get sloshed on cosmopolitans and martinis.
I reasoned that the concept of a counter bar is extremely dated and expensive to build, let alone requiring a larger space. Despite being a bigger alcohol consumer than her, I figured it would be a little too decadent to build a bar that my dad had in our family home back in the 1970s. I remember it was fun sipping Coke at the bar while my dad drank his Johnny Walker Black on the rocks. My dad still likes his whisky and in a home renovation, that bar has also been removed and replaced by a more practical one that is in-built into the wall.
I made some initial enquiries to get estimates for building shelves and countertop and a few quotes came back around the ridiculous region of about $15,000.
Hence, the search began for a 2-metre buffet table that would slot into a purpose-built alcove and become the bartop with luminated shelving overhead to store all the liquor and alcohol. We finally found a beautiful buffet table that we both liked and it cost just under $2,000.
I instructed my builder to create the allocated space to fit the buffet table with allowance for the following:
- Powerpoint socket
- Eight wall brackets for 900mm-wide shelving which I bought from Bunnings at around $28 each
- In-wall electrical wiring for strip lighting
- White perspex
- Wall mirror
In total, the materials above for installing this cocktail bar cost around $800.
We only needed to assemble the legs for the buffet table and best of all, this buffet table can be removed from the alcove in the event we decide to dismantle this cocktail bar.
Once the electrical wiring for the strip lighting are connected, the large piece of white perspex and mirror are attached to the wall.
The shelving are then attached to the brackets and the buffet table slotted into the alcove.
I fixed white aluminium angles under each shelving to reduce the glare of the strip lighting.
I ensured a strip of lighting ran underneath the buffet table to accentuate the natural contours of the black floor tiles.
The overall result of the cocktail bar is rather pleasing with a modest spend. Most importantly, Mysaucepan was pretty chuffed with her new cocktail bar.
So dear readers, is there a part of our home renovation that you liked and if you had completed a home renovation before, which is your favourite part of it?