Living among the chaos of a home renovation is not for princesses. Then again, I ain’t no prince either.
I met up with four builders who eventually gave me written quotations for our home renovation. One of the many questions I posed to each was whether we can live in this house while the renovation was ongoing.
Three out of four reckon it will be fine. And Mysaucepan thought it would be okay too, so here we are, in our fourth month since works began on 19 July 2016. The obvious advantage of living in an ongoing renovation is savings in rent for the duration of the works. For me, being able to liaise and solve problems instantaneously with my builder and tradies on site is even more valuable and important because it makes their job easier and faster. I have learnt much more about building construction on this reno that all my previous renos and new builds.
One of the first things our builder did is to fence off the front of our house with the appropriate signage required by building regulations to designate the area a construction site.
And one of the first things I did is to ensure continuity of the most important connection that links us with virtual world.
The heart of the home
A sleek and modern kitchen is most definitely the heart of a home where family and friends congregate.
The old and dated horseshoe-shaped kitchen was remodeled into an open plan by demolishing its front wall and transforming the rather useless indoor patio and laundry into a new dining area. I felt pretty chuffed when the wall finally came down and we got the first glimpse of our dream kitchen to be in October 2016.
The old kitchen cabinets and gyprock walls were first removed. Demolition of the kitchen benchtop, sink and cooktop were staggered to enable some light cooking while other works were being carried out.
New gyprock walls are now installed and to create symmetrical aesthetics with the new 3-metre benchtop in the kitchen design, I relocated the cooktop and rangehood directly behind the benchtop. We are now using this trestle table as a temporary benchtop when the old benchtop was eventually demolished.
Cooking in a kitchen in transition
A new Phillips induction cooker is my temporary cooking solution when the last vestiges of the old kitchen were demolished. I love the black glass top and sleek design though we have yet to use it.
Despite a kitchen in transition, we did not order a single takeaway meal or pizza delivery since the renovations began four months ago. Instead, we took the opportunity to check out some local restaurants in the suburb every now and then.
Between a portable gas cooktop, turbo-broiler glass oven and microwave, we still managed some of our favourite meals at home.
Pan-seared lamb cutlets seasoned with dried herbs, salt and black pepper is one of the easiest yet tasty meals that we love. This is the last meal cooked with the Kleenmaid cooktop and oven before it was disconnected the next day by our builder.
Another easy and delicious meal is our favourite nasi lemak because beef rendang, sambal and deep fried anchovies can be pre-cooked and refrigerated.
We have had this portable gas cooktop for many years now and it works really well whether it is a winter hotpot or searing steaks.
Some of the lights have been disconnected and tonight, we test out strip lighting to be installed along the new ceilings. Warm white between different strip lighting brands can vary quite significantly.
After forty five minutes in the turbo-broiler glass oven at 220 degrees Celsius, this leg of lamb has a mouth-watering crust, the meat tender and succulent.
On another evening, I prepared some fresh pork and prawn wontons that paired beautifully with this lobster flavoured noodles.
It has been years since I cooked Mexican style tacos and this went down extremely well.
A dish like spag bol can last a few meals to save us cooking everyday.
Storage and reorganising during a renovation
As the back area is being renovated, the dining table and other furniture are stored in the lounge area. Tarpaulin is useful to keep dust out of the furniture especially when the cornices were removed.
Most of our dry groceries have been packed into boxes while some everyday items are left on makeshift space near the kitchen.
Empty space underneath the grand piano is useful in storing bulky items such as three split unit air-conditioners.
Designated Zones – A respite area away from renovation chaos
During the planning stage with my building designer, I ensured the layout of the house is segregated into its distinctive zones:
- Formal lounge zone
- Living, kitchen and dining zone
- Entertainment & outdoor zone
- Sleeping zone
- Utility zone
Identifying and designating distinctive zones is what makes a floor plan attractive and special.
This door separates the master bedroom, study and ensuite from the rest of the house for added privacy and it has been the most important door during the course of the renovations. It may not completely shut out noise from power tools and loud music, but it certainly shuts out dust and debris.
Why do Australians love plantation shutters? My building designer said they give the perception of a house being expensive. I beg to differ because plantation shutters are one of the few cumbersome things that both Mysaucepan dislike, which is rare since we rarely agree on anything.
I find plantation shutters need cleaning because each individual panel acts like a natural shelf for dust. They are also rather awkward because they need swinging space to open and are expensive to install. The previous owner had fourteen large panels installed in the living area and two bedrooms. I have since gladly sold all but two panels on ebay. We currently have makeshift curtains by using a felt blanket and large fold back clips.
Mysaucepan suggested using the new bedroom as the master bedroom because it enjoys the privacy of the reserve. I prefer this one for two reasons. Firstly, this bedroom has a northeast aspect and receives an abundance of natural sunlight all day long. Secondly, it is next to our study / home office that will eventually enjoy sliding door-access onto the outdoor deck in the back garden as well.
Having a bed with linen storage is extremely useful but in a home renovation, this is absolutely invaluable to store fragile items such as crockery and glassware from the kitchen.
Mysaucepan suggested packing our crockery like we did when we moved into this house but being a utilitarian, I saw large baking trays as useful containers to organise and store small crockery items such as dipping plates, tea cups and saucers.
After all, we are only temporarily moving stuff from the kitchen into our bedroom.
Even tall champagne glasses, fruit and salad platters, plates and cups can be stored in the bed. I have also planned a vertical shoe cabinet for “Imelda”, a name coined by our builders when they first opened that linen cupboard used by Mysaucepan to keep her shoes.
I counted about sixty five pairs of shoes for her compared to my total of eight pairs of sneakers and everyday shoes, two pairs of which have not been worn before.
The last bastion for demolition is the master ensuite which is laced with “grandma” features, a term used by my building designer to refer to old and dated decor.
Since the demolition of our kitchen and sink, this bathroom vanity has been converted to be our temporary kitchen sink and drying area.
The existing master ensuite will be completely demolished during this renovation.
While packing our toiletries, I counted five toiletry items for myself – hair gel, hair brush (in front of light globe), toothbrush, shaver and aftershave among the multitude of face creams, eye creams, facial wash, make up among another multitude of accessories that make a woman who she is.
There have been times when a simple lunch had to be prepared in the bathroom because renovations were going fast and furious outside this sleeping zone.
After two months of trawling online for suitable bathware, I finally found a 40mm x 520mm x 1500mm stonetop for Fontaine Industries that suits the dimension of the master ensuite to a tee.
This stone top will complement the matt black tapware and Japanese bamboo vanity bowls I have chosen for our master ensuite.
In the interim, the study has been converted into a temporary storage facility for furniture and kitchen stuff.
The “desk” I have been using for the last year will eventually be used for its rightful function as an outdoor dining table, hopefully in about four weeks time.
Utility zone – garage & laundry
In the “old days”, the inherent deficiency of an old style garage is that it was designed and built too wide for one vehicle and too small for two.
This is the case for our house which spans the standard 22-metre frontage that has no room for a second side-by-side carspace unless living space in the lounge is sacrificed. This option is not only unrealistic let alone expensively impossible even if council approved it. Hence, I have used the extra width of the garage as space for the new bathroom which also triples up as an ensuite for the new bedroom and a powder room for guests. The new bedroom can also be used as a teenage cum parent retreat because it enjoys internal access from the garage and also has direct access onto the outdoor deck and entertainment areas in the rear garden.
My building designer advised it did not make real estate sense to designate a laundry in the garage. Judging by escalating real estate values in Sydney, I disagree because I foresee a future of laundries in garages not only out of cost necessity but it also makes beautiful sense from a design perspective. I reassured Mysaucepan a relatively elegant and inexpensive epoxy flooring for the garage will inspire her to take laundry chores to a higher level with new zeal.
For now, the garage is storage for new kitchen appliances and outdoor condenser units.
I have been looking for a glasstop desk and came across this Molti Computer Desk. Placed side by side, these two desks give me the perfect 2.4 metre length for the study.
The driveway is also being used to store items that can be left outdoors.
I opted for 2.4 metre high sliding doors to take advantage of the reserve vista in the rear garden.
There was no internal access into the house from the garage because the previous owner shortened the garage to make space for a study alcove in the living area. I have used this space in the last year as a home office and is now rightfully converted back into a full length garage with internal access.
New living and outdoor entertainment zone
Underfloor mats have been laid in preparation for floor heating in the new living area that includes a cocktail bar and home to my piano.
Being able to walk from the new living area onto an outdoor deck is a home entertainer’s dream.
For now, it is a multi-purpose facility for tradies, storage for the old cooktop & oven (wrapped in tarpaulin in the background) as well as an area for drying our laundry.
I will eventually find a useful purpose for these brick cuttings, either as a doorstop or a creative tool to deter pesky marsupials that roam in our rear garden.
It can be stressful living on site when you have noise, dust and chaos to contend with each day.
I told Mysaucepan we ought to celebrate in our own small way as each stage of the reno is being completed.
It can be lemonade on some days …
Or margarita on others …
It helps that my best mate Monk pops over on some days with a couple of chardies too.
Apart from that, I am quite content to just have a quiet drink with Mysaucepan, especially during happy hour on Fridays.
Otherwise, I am most happy and alive when I get to play the piano even though sandwiched between a fridge and a porcelain toilet bowl.