Who lives here? Teachers Rebecca Wiggins and her husband Rodney, their sons, Rupert, 7; Frederick, 4; and Humphrey the golden retriever.
Style of house: A 100-year-old weatherboard cottage in Hobart with a modern extension.
Timeline: Work started in 2012 and was completed in 2014, taking around 18 months.
Cost: The renovation and extension was originally budgeted at $200k but ended up closer to $250k.
Just over a decade ago, Rebecca and Rodney, fell for a weatherboard cottage in the hillside suburb of Dynnyrne in Hobart. “Our first impression was of how light it was. It felt homey – it had soul,” says Rebecca.
It had started life as a modest, four-room cottage, and over the years had grown in that organic way typical of so many older homes. For Rebecca and Rodney, the disparately proportioned spaces, ceiling heights and other oddities that make up the fabric of this dwelling were what added to its beauty and character.
“When we first moved in, some of our neighbours showed us photos of the original house,” says Rebecca. “The hallway was once an enclosed verandah, and the floorboards had been laid in different directions in various rooms. It had obviously evolved over time and, in the past two years, it’s evolved again, since we added our little ‘pod’ downstairs.”
That ‘pod’, in fact, is a contemporary extension of the area below the house and deck built on a double block. But it wasn’t the Wiggins’ original idea.“We wanted to go up and have a ‘retreat’ just for us,” says Rebecca. “We had planned to create a space for our boys later on, but in the end we decided that if we waited another 10 years, we’d only have five before they grew up and moved on.”
For the renovation, the Wiggins took their “booklet of things we liked” to a local architect they knew and whose work they admired – Daniel Lane, co-director of Melbourne-based Preston Lane Architects. “Our tastes, our aesthetics, were on the same page,” says Rebecca, “so there was never a sense of being told what we should do.” After prolonged discussions – “it took us a long time to commit!” – they decided to build downstairs, partly due to budget constraints, but mostly because “it just made more sense to focus on somewhere we could all spend time together”.
The brief was simple – to integrate a pared-back, modern extension downstairs with the older part of the house, without either losing their integrity. “I wanted a look that was very different to the upstairs, but still linked, which is why we have the lovely Tasmanian oak detailing downstairs,” says Rebecca. Rupert and Frederick’s rooms would be kept small to encourage them to spend time with the rest of the family, and generously sized sliding doors in the “lower lounge” – as it’s now called – would connect inside with out, opening onto the garden and pool.
Considering the time frame, and that there were two pre-school-age children at home, the build ran pretty smoothly. “I actually loved it!” smiles Rebecca. “We blocked off the stairs and the deck, which at that point was just a void, so the boys couldn’t fall out – and we’d sit at the window and watch the work going on. The boys absolutely loved it, too.”
It was only towards the end, during ‘The Big Concrete Fiasco’ that things got a little more stressful. “There were the usual budget worries, including an unexpected blowout of $40,000 to put in stormwater infrastructure,” says Rebecca. “Plus, we took the builder and architect’s advice not to have underfloor heating because it might cause the concrete floor to crack, but it cracked anyway.”
On reflection though, there’s little that Rebecca would change. “At times, there are things I wished we’d gone ahead with – like the cabinetry we’d planned in the lower lounge, and the timber sliding doors. But the space works so well and we adore it.” Standing on the sun-filled deck, with its views to Hobart and the Derwent River, it’s easy to see why.
“We should’ve integrated an outdoor kitchen… it would’ve been perfect as we cook on the barbecue every night” Rebecca, owner.
Biggest mistake: “I’m shocked that we gave this area such little thought as the space is huge – it wasn’t on our radar and we regret that.”
Biggest cost: “The cost of soft furnishings once it’s all finished. The rugs, sofas, pillows, window furnishings and art are a part of the budget that I didn’t account for. Well, my taste and budget don’t always see eye-to-eye! For now, we’ve settled on some affordable yet stylish furniture.”
Follow Rebecca on Instagram at @thirteenredshoesblog and check out her store at thirteenredshoes.bigcartel.com. For more of Daniel’s work, visit prestonlane.com.au. For info on Robec Building, visit robecbuilding.com.au