Toby Johnstone August 11, 2012
Orange laminate lightens up the kitchen.
To keep the budget in check, the Watmores cut out the middleman and sourced all their own products for this expansion.
When people renovate, they come across two types of costs - discretionary and hidden. The first could refer to the surround-sound system in the man cave or the voice-activated fridge in the kitchen. They are easy to avoid when the purse strings get tight. The other type is far more painful because, after the costs are extracted, there isn't even a fridge to console them in their man cave.
One of these hidden costs is the builder's margin of 15 per cent on prime-cost items and joinery, which can make all the difference for people on a tight budget. So when Anu and Mark Watmore renovated their Victorian worker's cottage in Rozelle, they did all they could to cut out the middleman.
Out with the old
The idea of a renovation was on the minds of the Watmores even before the hammer fell on their $780,000 purchase in Rozelle. Although they loved the feel of their three-bedroom worker's cottage, certain elements needed changing.
For one, the couple were not in love with the back additions, including the separate laundry, bathroom and outside toilet of dubious construction. As a couple who like to entertain, they also felt cramped by the small living room and outhouse kitchen. So they enlisted architect Scott Weston to put together a smarter design, one that wouldn't break the budget.
When you step back from it, Weston's plan was quite simple. Help the owners in buying all the necessary prime-cost items themselves to save the 15 per cent margin that the builder would have put on if he sourced them. The Watmores bought everything from the gas cooktop to the towel rails. This meant that they didn't have to compromise on the product.
Occasionally builders will opt for a similar brand or product depending on price and availability but, by taking the decision out of the builder's hands, any deviation from the purchase plan was by choice.
This was just one element of what is a bold take on the renovate-at-the-back routine. The core task for Weston was to clear away the dark, poky little rooms and create an open-plan space for a family of four who like to entertain. The heart of the house is now the kitchen, which is lit up by the bright-orange laminate that Weston secured from Laminex at a discounted price. If you open the folding doors, the kitchen becomes part of the indoor/outdoor space, which seamlessly incorporates the covered timber deck and barbecue area.
Although keeping down costs was important, Anu reflects there were moments when they did ''indulge and put our budget aside''.
These include the heated tiles in the bathroom, as well as the custom table-and-chair sets. ''We didn't want to move in the house and regret anything,'' she says.
With the job complete, their sentiment is far from regretful. To the delight of their large extended family, they have a home in which they are proud to entertain.
''My husband now says he has to manage his calendar,'' Anu says. ''It's never a quiet weekend at our house!''
In a nutshell
Time Eight months.
Land size 278 sq m.
Internal size Before, 85 sq m; after, 125 sq m.
Architect Scott Weston Architecture Design, 9699 8660.
Builder Damien Howison - UpA Level Construction, 0413 317 369.
Anu says: ''The thing I like the most in winter is my heated bathroom tiles. When you wake up in the morning and you go to the bathroom it's heated and it's heaven.''
Anu says: ''Our background is not architectural design or anything, so I wish I had more time prior to the renovation for research. It's very hard to visualise the house and spaces until they are built.''
What went wrong
Rain slowed construction down in the initial stages.
What went right
Finished before Christmas so the family could entertain.
Concrete composite rates $10,040
Concrete in situ $2358
Concrete formwork $243
Masonry brickwork $14,938
Structural steel $12,949
Roof plumbing $4103
Electrical services $16,121
Plant hire $687
Masonry blockwork $1928
New joists to roof space $2570
Client PC purchases $48,920
Council and consultants' fees $88,836