HOME AND DÉCOR

Our Home Renovation, part one

When I asked recently for blog post suggestions, I was so flattered to receive questions about our home renovation. It’s centre of my mind at the moment, so it’s quite an easy topic for me to write about. And while I find it completely overwhelming — all the details and decisions to make — I also find it SO FUN! It’s a creative process I really enjoy, even if it keeps me up at night with visions of tiles and kitchen taps. I’m not sure how much you all want to know, but I’m happy to share if you’re interested. So brace yourself for a loooong post, the first of many I’m sure.

It’s been more than 7 years since we renovated our London home, and three years since we have had a house of our own, so I was really excited to take on a project again and to create a home for our family. We house-hunted for more than six months, exploring so many different options and areas, before we found this home. The house, which happened to be just down the street from where we’re living, came up for sale and Michael suggested I take a peek. I was reluctant for a few reasons. For one, I was hoping to buy something on more land — ideally with sunset views over the pretty rolling hills in our area. I also thought this house, with only 3 bedrooms, would be too small for our big family. But Michael convinced me to go see it anyway.

It turned out that I wasn’t the only one interested in a peek. When I walked into the ‘open house’ I found dozens of other keen house-hunters milling about, yet I felt at home immediately. As I stood there surrounded by all these people, I was overcome by a strange impulse to kick everyone out of ‘my’ house! Isn’t it funny how you just know when it’s right? As I walked through the house I was moved by the sense of history within its walls, and I had visions of my children running up and down its halls, creating their own memories in this special home. Here are some photos of the house before we started doing any work on it (how pretty are all the panelled walls?!).

Perhaps it was because of our many years living in old homes in London that I was immediately attracted to this house. With its original wooden floors, old timber windows and tall ceilings, it felt familiar and comfortable. It is more than 115 years old, very old in these parts, and was one of the first homes built in our neighbourhood. While there have been some additions made to the house in the past 20 or so years (an old porch enclosed to create a sun room), the majority of the house remains in its original state. And location wise, it is pretty perfect — the house sits on a verdant plot on a quiet street in town — literally a 2-minute walk to the village and shops. Having older kids, I have realised how important it is for them to have the independence and freedom to walk into town, to meet up with their friends, to take the bus into school, etc.  — and it’s quite convenient when you run out of butter or milk to be that close to the shops. What we will lack in acreage (and sunset views), we will make up for in ease of living, less time in the car, and freedom for our kids.

There are some downsides though, but all things we can work with. On paper, the house is small for our family of seven. And I’m sure many people would be turned off by the lack of storage (as in nothing — not even a single closet!). As it goes with many old houses, the layout of the house was a bit poky — with a kitchen in the middle of the house, a bathroom taking up precious space at the back leading onto the deck and garden, and a sunroom/study taking up a lot of not-very-useful space. We definitely needed to renovate to make it work for our family. Here’s the floor plan of the house at the time we bought it:

I knew that if we could put a kitchen at the back of the house where the bathroom was (with views onto the garden so I could watch the kids play while cooking), add an ensuite bathroom off the master bedroom (where the study is on the floor plan above), and create a bedroom in the sunroom for Wilkie, we could be very happy in that house. All of our kids are happy to share rooms, so I knew we could create a room for the boys, a room for the girls, and a small space for Wilkie. I also needed to squeeze in a laundry room — with five kids, it’s a room I spend lots of time in, and it’s one of the things I miss most from our home in London!  So I started drawing up plans for the house (I will spare you those amateur sketches! haha), and then we enlisted the help of an architect to do it properly. : ) Here is the floor plan we decided on:

A few things to note:

  • The driveway is located at the side of the house, so while the original entrance is at the front, we decided we’d mostly be entering the house from the side. We designed the layout of the house accordingly — adding a laundry room just off the entry (a place to throw wet beach towels and dirty clothes as you enter).
  • We knocked out the old bathroom at the top left corner on the old floor plan. This is the northwest corner of the house — the sunniest spot. By making this living space, we’ve allowed more light to flow into the adjacent  rooms.
  • The kitchen is the hub of our home, where we spend the most time. We decided to create a big kitchen with windows and doors flowing onto the back deck and garden. I am most excited about this space! Here is a kitchen I’ve used as inspiration. And here is a second one.
  • We are leaving the bedrooms mostly untouched, except we’re adding built-in bunk beds in the girls room to allow them to have more play space in their room. (Also, my girls don’t share a bed as well as my boys do, so they’ve asked for their own beds!) Here is an image I’ve used as inspiration for their room — I love how the panelled wooden walls incorporate the bunk beds.
  • We’re building a small wardrobe just off the master bedroom (basically in Wilkie’s room) and one in the girls’ bedroom, so we’ll will have two closets in the house! We are buying old wardrobes to put in the other rooms. (I’ve found some really beautiful vintage ones from Oyster Linen — how pretty is everything on that site?!)
  • The old sunroom and study had metal windows throughout. We are replacing those windows with traditional wooden casement windows in keeping with the style of the original home. I managed to find 20 matching old windows from an architectural reclaim place nearby. (I’ve had this image in mind for what I hope the space will look like. Wilkie’s room will be so cute!) Those windows are going in this week and I’m so excited about it.

In terms of the design process, I have actually found it to be pretty straightforward. Because I’ve renovated an old home before, the design choices we’re making in this home are not too different from ones we made in our London home. We really want to honour the original style of the house, so we’ve used this to guide us in our decision making. We’ve chosen older, traditional-style taps in our bathrooms, I decided to use traditional subway tiles in the showers, hexagonal tiles on the floor, and our kitchen and laundry room are going to have the same shaker style wooden cupboards and drawers as our London home. The aim is to make the house feel like it’s always been this way.

I’ve created a Pinterest board for our renovation project and have pinned so many inspirational photos. It really helps me to have visuals to reference when making decisions (what did people do before Pinterest?!!). I printed some of my favourite images before renovations began and taped them up in each room — this really helped me to visualise each space, and it also helped me to explain to our architect and the builders what I was hoping to achieve with each room.

So far we are about 5 weeks in to the renovation, and we probably have another 7 or 8 to go. Most of the decisions have already been made (phew!) apart from paint colours, which is a whole headache of its own.  Any paint tips send them my way!

I’ll try to get another post up when I have progress to share, and then of course I’ll share photos of the house when it’s finished. I can’t wait for that! In the meantime, I’ve been sharing progress photos on my Instagram stories.

Please feel free to share feedback and ideas. I’m also happy to answer questions too!

Courtney x


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Comments (47)

Monica
August 1, 2018

Hi Courtney! Thanks for the update and this amazing post, I really enjoyed reading it! I have a question for you regarding your kids sharing bedrooms. We recently moved into a new flat and it was about time since I’m 35 weeks pregnant with my second baby (I read your post about not finding out the gender by the way and loved it so much that we don’t know if it’s a girl or a boy). 😉 My idea is to cosleep for the first 6 months at least like I did with my daugther, but then I’m hesitant about putting the baby with my 20 months old daughter (she’s a light sleeper) or in its own bedroom. Did your children share a bedroom from that early on?? And if so, did your older kid woke up more frequently as a result? Also since I don’t know the gender, would you have put your kids to share a bedroom if they had been from a different gender? Many thanks! Warm regards from sunny Barcelona!!


Jo
August 1, 2018

So exciting! Question: what will you do for an office? (I’m trying to figure this out too!)


Courtney in Australia
August 2, 2018

Hi Jo,
After the renovations on our house are finished, we’re hoping to build a little studio in the back yard. The studio will be small — just a bedroom, small seating area (with a desk for using as our home office) and a tiny bathroom with an outdoor shower. This is where guests can stay when they come visit and we’ll use it as our office at all other times. I’ll share about this too when we start working on it!


Leanne
August 1, 2018

So beautiful – love the simplicity and how you are honouring the home’s original style.

Do you think this will be your “forever” home? If so, has that effected any design decisions?

xx


Courtney in Australia
August 2, 2018

Hi Leanne,
Thanks for your sweet comment.
I’m not sure if this is our forever home. (I still dream of living on a farm and having horses some day!) But I also love the house so much that I hope we can keep it, and if we don’t live in it, hopefully we can rent it out. So yes, I’ve made decisions in the hope that we’ll have this house forever. I’ve even invested in the range cooker of my dreams! 🙂 x


Annie from Brimful
August 1, 2018

It makes me innumerably happy that you’ll soon have your own permanent space to call HOME there in Australia. Yay Adamos!


Jenny
August 1, 2018

How exciting! Can’t wait to see photos of when it’s finished. Loved your London home.


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Kate
August 1, 2018

I LOVE this post and am so delighted for your family, what a lovely home it will be! We recently made a new kitchen and mudroom in our 200+ year old stone house and wanted it to blend simply with everything else. For colors, my favorite is Farrow and Ball’s Cornforth White as a trim and cupboard color against a crisp white (plaster) wall (like Benjamin Moore’s Simply White). It is particularly dreamy when used on Shaker pegs. It’s timeless, airy, and clean. I ended up wanting to repeat it all over our house.
Thank you for sharing your progress!


Michelle
August 2, 2018

Hi Courtney, I’m loving following your renovation journey. I grew up in the area so can really picture the space and can’t wait to see the final product. I’m curious about what you’re doing for heating and cooling? I know those old houses can be really cold in the mild winters of the north coast 🙂


Courtney in Australia
August 2, 2018

Hi Michelle,
Thanks for your comment. Lucky you that you grew up in this area!
After going back and forth about aircon, we’ve decided to bite the bullet and invest in two (hidden) aircon units — one in the kitchen (in the vacant space above our fridge) and one in the living room, hidden behind the wall, accessible from the hallway. This means we’ll probably be super hot in our bedrooms, but the cost to duct the aircon throughout the whole house was so super expensive. For heating, we will be putting back in the old wooden stove. We’ll also have a gas unit we can use in the winter when it’s really cold and we don’t have time to light the fire. (We’ve also made sure we’ve insulated under new floors and in walls. These Aussie houses are so badly insulated for the cold winters!


Sonya
August 2, 2018

Dulux Natural White looks great in our old Victorian home in Sydney


Courtney in Australia
August 2, 2018

I think we are leaning to Natural White for the interior walls. I just have to find a good colour for the kitchen that compliments this warmer white colour but doesn’t look too warm compared to the marble! Dilemmas dilemmas!


Michele
August 2, 2018

We’re also in the midst of a renovation, so it was lovely to read about someone else’s plans for once (they look great!). We’re actually coming towards the end of ours but I do have a paint colour suggestion for you …though I’m sure you probably don’t want another colour to consider!! We have a bright older style home and we’re also going with shaker cabinetry and more traditional fittings. I had so much trouble picking a nice white that worked well in all our rooms. Some of the whites like Natural White just looked far too creamy and others like lexicon were too icy and stark, even in the half and quarter strength. Our painter was doing an under coat in a white paint called Builders White. I know, it’s a terrible name but it is a proper paint colour, not just an undercoat paint.

Anyway, long story short the colour looked great on all the walls, it’s just a nice bright white, no blueish or grey or creamy tinges in sight! Despite its terrible name i would recommend it for anyone just looking for a white paint that is fresh and bright and just looks “white” on the walls. Which is actually harder to find then it seems!

Anyway, whichever colour you pick I’m sure it will look lovely! Congratulations on your lovely home and best of luck with the renovations!


Courtney in Australia
August 2, 2018

Thanks for the paint tip!
I had another friend also recommend the basic Dulux white colour (Vivid White) which is the standard builders white. If I was building a more modern house, I think this would be the white we’d choose… but when I painted it on our walls, it looks too stark white. I think we have to find something slightly softer and warmer. Isn’t it funny how whites look different in each house? Even different from room to room…


Alex
August 2, 2018

Lovely renovation, I have to say I prefer the smaller homes and the shared bedrooms, compared to the massive homes that other families of your size would usually choose. A few questions, as Wilkie grows won’t he want a room that is not attached to your bedroom? (Perhaps when he reaches that age Easton will be out oh home, what a scary prospect!) Also, do your boys still share a bed? At what age do you think they’ll want their own beds. And finally, with the girls bedrooms, don’t you think they will grow out of the bunks quickly? Sorry so many questions, can’t wait to see the finished renovations, that style of home with character and wooden floors/white walls is my dream style


Courtney in Australia
August 2, 2018

Thanks for your comment, Alex.
Yes, as Wilkie grows (hopefully not for a few years!), I’m sure he’ll want a room that is not connected to ours. But the hope is that we’ll be able to shift things around by then. We’re hoping to build a little studio in the back yard (for guests and to use as an office), and Easton might want to move into the studio in a few years. At that point, we can use Wilkie’s room as our office and Wilkie can move in with Quin or the girls.
Yes, my boys still share a bed. They actually really love doing so. We’ve offered them their own beds over the years, but they are perfectly happy still sharing a bed, which makes things quite easy.
The question about the bunk beds — the girls are SO super excited about the bunk beds, and I don’t see them outgrowing them any time soon. Like I said above, perhaps if Ivy outgrows the bunk, Marlow and Wilkie can take the bunk bed room. My kids are super flexible in terms of where they sleep, so hopefully they’ll stay this way. : )


Rivky Breuer
August 2, 2018

The new layout looks great! Remember your never going to have everything you HAD (in London etc) & everything you are GETTING, there is always a trade off. For paint colors I would stick to a ” fresh linen” type of white ( I think it may be the exact name of a benjamin Moore paint we used) & use some teals, oranges, rich grays and/or vintage style wallpaper as accents. Good luck!


Alison E.
August 2, 2018

Love it! So exciting. Does Wilkie’s room have its own entrance or do you have to walk through the master?


Courtney in Australia
August 2, 2018

Unfortunately, you have to walk through the master to get to his room. I think it will be fine for a few years, at which point we might move him out of this room and convert it to a home office. We contemplating creating a door to his room from the original front door entrance/hallway, but then we couldn’t fit in a closet in that space. We’re trying to make the most of what we have, and unfortunately this was the best solution.


Julie
August 2, 2018

Paint… issue of mound can be a problem with the humidity. My sister lives in far North Queensland and one tradesperson told her not to paint the house white due to mould. It was the most ill informed comment. You can buy mould resistant paint… and make sure it’s prepared properly by a professional residential painter in your area. You can then paint whatever colour you want and you should have years of enjoyment but do spend on getting the right paint for your environment.


emiliebabyccinokids
August 2, 2018

I am so excited for you guys about this and it looks wonderful!! I am sure it is going to be even better when it is finished!


Courtney in Australia
August 2, 2018

PLEASE come visit!!!! xxx


Vera
August 2, 2018

Oh it looks adorable! It’s great to see what you are building for your family.

Being from Europe, I wonder if the houses in Australia don’t normally have a second level? Is there a reason for that, do you know?


Charlotte
August 2, 2018

What a lovely house !!! And lovely inspirations too ! I’m sure that you’re going to be so happy in here !
I’m an interior designer in Paris and I post losts of inspiration on my instagram account @cha_gille if you want to have a look 🙂
I can’t wait to see the next steps of your renovation project ! (and no headaches for the paint part, it’s one of the best in my opinion, colour is so important !)


Rebecca
August 2, 2018

Love this blog and your plans…the house looks beautiful. We renovated an old house some seven years ago…used 1/4 strength lexicon on the walls and 1/2 strength on the kitchen cupboards. These old houses have so much roof space, we managed to put in a staircase and have an attic…options for later on if needed. All the best and I look forward to seeing your range! X


Sophie
August 2, 2018

Hi courtney, I wondered hiw it will work out for your oldest when he wants some alone time / has a girlfriend to bring home… 🙂


Madelin
August 2, 2018

If you’re looking into greys at all we did dulux tranquil retreat in half strength and I absolutely love it! The perfect grey, not blue, not beige, not greeny, love it. Our house is old too and we paired it with porters paints Snow White on trims and above the picture rails. We also painted our jarrah floorboards with porters floor paint in Snow White which has actually gone more off White over time but I like that contrast now (despite using tannin blocker!!!) In the 70s back extension of our house that we are renovating we are doing Snow White everywhere. It works well as it’s very sunny and light there and our floorboards are pale oak. Good luck choosing your paint!


Karen
August 2, 2018

The house looks beatiful, can’t wait to see it all finished and turned into a home!


Cherie
August 2, 2018

It’s such a lovely house and I’m sure will be amazing once the renovation is finished. I’m pregnant with my 3rd and just like you are doing for Wilkie our new baby is going to have a cozy little space in one end of our walk in wardrobe. When I tell people some of them laugh but I think it’s a perfect space for a little person.


Kate
August 2, 2018

This is so exciting, what a beautiful find. There’s something about the quality of light and warmth that reminds me so much of the house with the yellow door. Hope you’ll have many happy years here.


Mandy
August 2, 2018

Pinterest Board link doesn’t work


Courtney in Australia
August 3, 2018

Oh really?! It works for me. That’s so strange. Thanks for telling me. I’ll look into this now and see if I can fix it. x


Lindsay
August 2, 2018

I loved this detailed renovation post. What a beautiful home and layout you guys have planned and started to create. Thank you for sharing with us all and I can’t wait to see it complete and how you decorate! Very exciting 🙂


Gabi from yanamssam
August 2, 2018

dear Courtney
thank you so much for sharing your beautiful renovation plans, its such a pleasure for me to be allowed to accompany it, as I’m very interested in all this house/home stuff. I’m convinced that it will be very beautiful and I’m especially pleased that you have chosen a house that maybe seemed a bit too small for your family, but feels like home for you. We also live in a flat that actually seems too small for a family of 5, but sharing our bedroom with the living room is possibe to live still in the green in the middle of the city and being so close to each other is a very nice thing. So thank you again. kind regards G.


Rachel
August 2, 2018

Hi Courtney,

Thank you for sharing this post on your renovation. The house looks absolutely beautiful and you have such good style I know it will be amazing once it’s finished. I loved seeing glimpses of your other homes.
We are currently renovation our 1930s semi in England. Choosing the right paint colour has been a bit of a process for us and we have made a few mistakes and ended up repainting some rooms. The colour we seem to have finally settled on is Dulux white cotton in the washable a tough range. Which is great for busy family homes! It’s a warm white without being creamy and seems to work well in our north and South facing rooms. Of course the light must be totally different in Australia but maybe one to try out and see what you think.
I will look forward to your next renovation updates.


Claire
August 2, 2018

Thank you for writing such an interesting post. So many lovely ideas – and I think you are so right to keep as many old features as you can. Does the master bedroom have a window? If not, how will you light it – is light coming from somewhere in the roof…


Courtney in Australia
August 3, 2018

Hi Claire,
Thanks for your sweet comment and for the question.
Unfortunately, our bedroom will be the darkest room in the house with no windows. However, we hope to always keep the doors open to our ensuite bathroom — which is lined with big windows and light flooding in. My hope is that the French doors leading to the bathroom will be open most of the time (and even when closed, the doors have windows within them, so some light will still enter).
It’s also going to pose a problem come summer when it’s so hot and we will want draft into our room. This is definitely a downside to this bedroom. I’m probably going to regret not investing in aircon in that room!


Emma
August 2, 2018

Thanks for sharing, love your ideas and style. Can’t wait for more news and pictures 💕💕


Kati
August 3, 2018

Thank you for sharing such a detailed post, Courtney! I’ve always been interested in home design and really love your style❤️ I’m a little weird like this, but I am SO thankful you included house plans. I love to see pictures, but what I’m always most curious about is the whole layout of everything. So thank you! Can’t wait to see the final product!


Kath
August 3, 2018

Hi Courtney, love the plans and can’t wait to see the final product! I’m curious to know whether you will have any mosquito / fly screens for the summer? Or any tips on how to get around this 🙂 Best of luck with the renovations!


Courtney in Australia
August 5, 2018

Hi Kath,
This is definitely a challenge we’re faced with. We’re having a new sliding door and sliding window in our kitchen and dining room custom built (we couldn’t find reclaimed ones to fit the space), and we’ve invested in sliding screens for both of these. It’s almost impossible to screen the casement windows we’re putting in in Wilkie’s room and along the side of the house. We may have to put a mosquito net over his bed and then leave the windows open at night. (Or just be really conscious of closing them at dusk and opening them back up later in the evening.) The boys’ room and girls’ room both have sash windows, so hopefully we’ll find a screening solution for those rooms. x


Enirak
August 4, 2018

Looks so beautiful! It is really a dream house.
Is the Pinterest link Marilou’s kitchen from Trois Fois par Jour?… very famous cookbook here in Québec!


Laura
August 5, 2018

What a lovely house! I love hearing about people’s inspirations and what leads to their final design decisions. No house is perfect, yet it sounds like you are making the most (+ tax) of this wonderful find. Best of luck … and keep the reno posts coming!


Maria
August 5, 2018

This looks exciting and very good, Courtney! I love your style and admire your nerves with 5 kids (incl. one baby) to renovate a house 😉
I was wondering since it is an old house that’s been painted over and over, if the panelled walls are to be sanded before painting them again? All best of luck with your new home!


Courtney in Australia
August 6, 2018

Hi Maria,
No, we’re not going to sand them back. It’s too time-consuming (and expensive), and we are hoping it will look okay to paint them one more time! 🙂 x


Marilyn
August 9, 2018

Thanks for sharing the renovation process- I am about to start mine too so this is so helpful! Your new floorplan is brilliant, love it! just curious if you got help from interior design/architect to help you navigate? Like I know I wouldn’t think to convert study into laundry/master bathroom for sure..


Mathilde
August 13, 2018

I’m inspired by your life in Australia and specially by this home renovation. It’s gonna be so beautiful ! And I approved a lot to have a not such a big space because is cheaper and the cleaning is faster… And I always find that more cosy. And not so much tips for paints, my husband and I just love fresh light white. Have fun on the process and thanks for sharing !!


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