How do you fit a family of seven under one roof? One creative couple took on the challenge.

CHEAT SHEET

Who lives here: Matt O’Donnell and Hayley Sheehan of photography business Hails & Shine and online homewares store Our Satellite Hearts; their children, sons Ryshi, 12; Nash, 7; Occy, 5; Lucky, 2 and daughter, Alaskah, 10; plus Valentine, the cocker spaniel.
Style of home: A traditional ’50s weatherboard cottage with five bedrooms in Belmont, Victoria.
Timeline: The house was renovated – with work starting on the day of settlement – by Hayley and Matt in a fast-and-furious four-month period.
Budget: The property was purchased for a little over $500k and the renovation cost around $100k.

Room to grow
Over a leisurely yet noisy breakfast, couple Hayley and Matt decided it was time to move home. With their five children in tow, they were simply bursting at the seams in their existing abode. In the local paper, Matt found a run-down ’50s cottage for sale nearby and after a drive past it, he convinced Hayley to come and take a peek.

DREAM IT.
The large character-filled home, boasting five bedrooms on a deep double block fringing the Bellarine Peninsula, had only recently been listed. “We both immediately began to dream of what we would do if it were ours,” says Matt. “Even though the cottage was screaming out for a structural overhaul, our brains went into overdrive on the design front!” He and Hayley saw the house as a blank canvas, one that would allow them the freedom to creatively stamp it as their own. Matt and Hayley’s main aim was to maximise the space in the house, retain the period facade but also give the cottage a much-needed facelift and contemporary style makeover to suit their family’s lifestyle.

Hayley & Matt’s wishlist
1.  “Custom shelving – so that we could display photos of the kids, art books and showcase our collections.”
2. “White floorboards – we love the light, bright and airy aspect of them, and also the fact that they allow us to use our home as a shoot location for our work.”
3. “We wanted to retain the character of the home but modernise the appliances.

DESIGN IT.
From the start, Hayley and Matt were united in their vision of creating a well-zoned family abode that would cope with high traffic. The initial dilemma was finding a house large enough, with good bones, in the right area and price bracket with the scope to develop. “We thought we may be searching for a needle in a haystack,” says Hayley. “But it all happened so quickly that we just had to go for it, which was a challenge with a new baby in the mix!”

Once Matt and Hayley had their ‘blank canvas’, they were resolute that each child should have the option of occupying their own room, with a separate space for study and a lounge. This wish largely dictated the floorplan. The kitchen was relocated to the rear of the home, allowing all bedrooms to neatly flow from the one central corridor with enough room for a purpose-built home office.

With the layout sorted, Matt and Hayley concentrated on how
to best economically rejuvenate their cottage’s dated look. White was chosen for the floors and the walls to inject a bright atmosphere into the tired surrounds. Simple modern tiles and appliances were selected across the home, allowing the family’s artwork and collectibles to shine in their full colour glory, with shelving added to each room to increase storage capacity. An ensuite was added to the master bedroom plans and a much-needed walk-in pantry in the nearby living area “to hide the mess,” says Hayley. “We didn’t really compromise on anything we wanted to do,” says Matt.

DO IT.
After swift negotiations, no sooner did the couple have the keys than Matt started to wield the tools. “Day one saw me take a sledgehammer to the walls of the shed – along with a little help from the builder, of course,” he says. “It was cathartic to say the least!” This zone was turned into guest accommodation, and guaranteed that the family had somewhere to stay and oversee the remainder of the renovation.

Moving the kitchen from the front of the home to the back allowed the couple to create an enviable and expansive open-plan dining/ living area large enough for the entire family. Bi-fold doors were added to encourage a connection between the indoors and out.

There was a curve ball when Matt and Hayley discovered that the front of the home required re-stumping – “an expensive, inconvenient speed hump,” says Matt. Once they had overcome that hurdle, work continued and next on the hit list was the bathroom. “It was important to have a good-sized tub, as well as a double basin to limit the pushing and shoving at teeth-brushing time!” says Matt.

Carpet, tiling and cabinetry in neutral tones followed and at the end of the four-month period, the family were ready to move in. Over the following year, Matt and Hayley made cosmetic improvements to their home – floorboards were painted in the middle of the night, with custom shelves fitted and a wallpaper feature wall in the living area. The result is a home that’s represents the family’s colourful yet laidback style.