This smart build mixes old with new, offering plenty of scope for modern family life. 

CHEAT SHEET

Who lives here: Wendy Walklate, a working mum; her husband John, state director for commercial real estate and investment company CBRE; daughters Evie, 18; Ruby, 17; and Poppy, 13; plus Tommy the dog and Stevie the cat.

Style of home: A four-bedroom home with two bathrooms and two powder rooms on a corner block.

Timeline: Planning took three years and the build took 11 months.

Cost: The total build cost $850k, including architects’ fees.

Family means everything to John and Wendy Walklate. When they renovated their 1880s Queenslander in the leafy Brisbane suburb of Bardon, it was with their three daughters in mind. “It was a brilliant house for small children,” says Wendy. “We really loved it.” But as their daughters approached their teenage years and became more independent, the couple realised the girls, Evie, Ruby and Poppy, might benefit from a move closer to the city where they had easy access to public transport. “It was also quite hilly where we lived, so we had to use the car to do everything,” says Wendy. “And as the girls were growing up, we had a bit more time on our hands, too, and so liked the idea of being able to walk to cafes and restaurants.”

However, they were reluctant to leave their home. Renovating the house had been a labour of love, completed with the help of architect Paul Owen. “Paul understood how we like to live our lives and created a house where everything worked for us,” says Wendy. “So, we thought, why don’t we buy a block of land nearer to the city and ask Paul to design a house that would work equally well as the girls got older.”

The couple struck gold when they found a rare vacant block in inner city Paddington, minutes from a vibrant high street with the restaurants and transport access they desired. The problem was the 418-square-metre site was half the size of their existing block. But John and Wendy were confident that Paul and his team, including architect Steve Hunt, could design a home with space for family and friends to hang out together, and peaceful areas to spend time on their own. A good connection to the garden and pool area was also key, as was a fireplace, even in sunny Brisbane. “Believe it or not, it can get down to 5°C in winter,” says Wendy.

But perhaps most importantly, the house had to have character. While British-born Wendy adores old houses, she was also attracted to the practical advantages of a new build, such as sound-proofing, insulation and the sheer novelty of everything working properly.

“Luckily, our architect Paul was very accommodating of our tastes and, even though we have a brand new home, it has so much character,” says Wendy. “Because this was the second time we’d worked with him, he knew us well, and both John and I felt very comfortable with his suggestions for the house.”

One idea they loved was the clever use of tiling throughout the house, which links the various rooms and adds subtle colour, texture and that all-important character. “I particularly love the pistachio green tiles, which are a nod to colours that would have been used in the 1880s,” says Wendy.

Despite a lengthy three years in the planning, the actual 11-month build ran smoothly. After having waited so long for their new home, the couple and their daughters couldn’t be happier with the result. “Because it’s so well planned with lots of different areas, it doesn’t feel small at all,” says Wendy. “Unlike our previous house where the girls ran around on one level, we now have two storeys. Now that they’re teenagers, they have the whole of the upstairs level to themselves, with a bedroom each, a bathroom and a small sitting area.”

“Downstairs, there’s plenty of space for us all to do our own thing,” says Wendy. “One of the girls could be doing her homework at the kitchen bench while John is in the library playing his guitar, and I’m in the sitting room watching TV.”

Perhaps one of the home’s most successful aspects is the impressive double-height indoor/outdoor room that flows from the kitchen and out to the garden. It’s here that the family gathers for weekend dinners and get-togethers with friends. “The room was specifically designed so that we could fit in our big 12-seater dining table that Paul designed for our previous house, which we love,” says Wendy.

Having created a home that suits their maturing family, John and Wendy are in no hurry to move. “We’ll be here for a while,” says Wendy. “What it goes to show is that you don’t need a massive house to be comfortable as a family.”

Lessons learnt: “You can’t escape stress so just make sure you stick to the budget and that everyone is doing what needs to be done,” says Wendy.

Biggest regret: “Nothing. Quite honestly, there isn’t anything we would change. It’s just a very livable, easy and fun house. We love it.”

Best tip: “Don’t rush it. While the planning stage took longer than we thought, it meant that every detail was decided before we started building. That meant that the build ran more smoothly and also helped to keep the project under budget, because everything had been costed beforehand.”

Timeline: 

2011

July – John and Wendy purchase a narrow 400sqm block of land in Brisbane.

October – Architects Paul Owen and Steve Hunt are engaged. The land already has DA approval for a house, so John and Wendy amend the existing plans.

2012

November– The revised planning application is lodged. The design has to take into consideration a traditional building character overlay, which affects the size, design and materials used.

2013

May – Planning approval is granted.

December – After finalising every last detail, the drawings are completed and the project is put out to tender.

2014

September – Construction on the house finally begins.

October – The slab is poured.

November – The home’s walls are framed.

December – The heritage-style metal roof is put on.

2015

April – Work starts on the mammoth tiling job.

May – The move-in date is postponed after delays with the cabinetry installation.

July – The family finally move in, despite a few small jobs still in the works.

Find out more about Owen Architecture at owenarchitecture.com.au.

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