This Canberra couple love their home but are looking at the future to drive their reno plans with the Panel’s expertise on hand

The story so far: Sophie and James bought this 1969 single level three-bedroom brick home on a quiet street as their first house together in May 2015. They love this suburb and the surrounding areas; Aranda is just 10 minutes from Canberra’s CBD and a few minutes’ walk to a beautiful nature reserve. They decided to live in the house for a year to get a feel for what they like and what they want to change. “We’ve done a lot of work landscaping the backyard and now our focus has moved inside the house so we can create a home that’s ours,” says Sophie. “As we think about starting a family, we’d like to look at options for adding another bedroom and second bathroom. We also want to bring some more natural light into the living areas on the southern side of the house.”

What’s stopping them? Sophie and James married last year and have been busy collecting ideas and saving money for the renovations. “We want to make sure we get it right and that it’s something that we will still like in 10 years time,” says Sophie.

What the real estate agent says: “Aranda was the first Belconnen suburb to be settled, back in the 1960s. Traditionally, there’s an older demographic here with the majority of the original owners still living in the homes they built or bought. But the area is becoming popular with young families who love the larger blocks and the fact that it’s a safe and established area. The market in Canberra is generally stable but there’s high demand here and low stock. That, coupled with the fact that some people from interstate are prepared to pay higher prices just to get into the market, means Sophie and James have bought very well. They paid $625k for this house a couple of years ago and recent sales indicate it would be worth at least $700k now. They can also feel confident that if they were to add more room and renovate, they would not overcapitalise as the record price for the suburb was recently set at $1.4 million for a house in their street.”

the Panel’s advice:

Andrew Benn: Architect and director, Benn + Penna Architecture

The bones of this house are great but the layout is a little confusing. The entry is huge so I’d suggest knocking out the walls to create a larger living space and a sightline from the front door right through to the garden. The garden is a great asset and it’s north facing so the light is wonderful – a verandah across the back of the house would make the most of the aspect. In terms of adding to the footprint in the future, I’d suggest an L-shaped extension to make the most of the connection to the garden. There’s a carport to the left of the house, which means they could lose the garage on the right and instead build on an extra bedroom, another bathroom and a second living area that’s modern in style.

Wayd Munro: Builder, Focusbuild

Sophie and James want this house to be their forever home but are worried about how much it’s going to cost to meet the needs of family life. In my experience, it’s best to spend the money now on what they want rather than wait until they decide to sell; the unhappiest sellers are those who have the work done to make their home more sellable and don’t get to enjoy it. The best thing to do is to get your grand plan in place, then you can work out what’s best to do first, in an order that will take into consideration future work, and spend the money in sections over time rather than all at once. Here, I’d concentrate on sorting out the kitchen, living area and verandah so they can enjoy life for the next couple of years then look at extending once the family grows.

Lisa Koehler ISCD educator, stylist and interior decorator

It’s obvious that this home has been really well looked after but it’s stuck in a time warp. Sophie likes Scandi style and I think that’s a good starting point for this home but I’d like to see that look mixed with a bit of Japanese-style warm timber and clean lines to stop it feeling too cold. You should start your moodboard with the floor and these red boards just need sanding and refinishing and they should come up beautifully. I love the idea of the verandah across the back of the house. James asked about composite decking, which can be great because it’s low maintenance but with an eye on the future, it can get hot for little feet. I’d suggest blackbutt timber because it ages beautifully and it can also be whitewashed to work back with the interior floor.

Anything else? 

brick by brick: “The one thing that dates this house more than anything else is the exterior brickwork,” says Wayd. “Sophie and James have several options to improve the look if they don’t want to go for a full render, which can be pretty expensive. They could simply paint over the bricks with a paint designed to cope with the silica content (that’s what makes them a bit shiny). Or they could consider ‘bagging’ where you basically wipe a sand and cement mixture over the bricks with a broom or hessian cloth before painting.

It gives a rougher finish than render and you can still see the brick character, but it’s softened. Or they could do what the people opposite have done and pack-point every second line, then paint so it looks like weatherboard! It actually looks pretty good and you get the aesthetics of weatherboard with the longevity of brick.”

light the way: “Sophie and James have installed sheer blinds and while these let some light through, it’s still pretty dark,” says Andrew. “I’d put shutters on the outside. Shutters are an affordable, practical shading solution – they can be angled remotely to control the light at any given time of day and they allow daylight through while providing adequate ventilation and privacy.

You can buy them in vinyl, timber, composite or aluminium depending on the budget but I’d recommend a white powder-coated aluminium, as it will stand the test of time. Exterior shutters look great, too, and are a cost-effective way to give the outside of the house a facelift.”

variety store: “Someone has spent a lot of time building cupboards in this house,” says Lisa. “Sophie and James want to update the built-ins and one option is to change the doors. The choice includes louvres, laminates and veneers but I think just a simple coat of paint would work well here. You can paint in semi gloss – doors should be up a sheen level from the walls for durability – and interesting handles will add personality and take the doors to another level. One thing to think about when choosing wardrobe doors is to make sure the style, colour and texture works with the other elements in the room, like the window treatment and wall colour, which are the other dominant features of the room. All three vertical elements need to work as a team.”