Decision making

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Sydney House - Original, The Build

By March we had reached the 12 month mark of our project, although not all of that time has been spent building. Between August 2016 rains, a lot of excavation for the pool and drainage, Christmas break and so on…we probably had only done about 6-8 solid months of continuous construction on the house itself.

By now we’d become very familiar with the millions of decisions that building projects require. Sometimes you can pay your way out of decision making by having all the detailing done ahead of time by your Architect. And we have certainly benefited from some of that. But, as we are living in the house as it is grows around us, invariably there are daily questions and considerations every morning on-site. Since this is an extension to a much-loved original house design, we are also treading carefully. There are some decisions that other Pettit & Sevitt owners would never undertake…just the idea of radically changing a Lowline house at all is sacrilidge to many, including us.

But the reality is we don’t live in 1964 and we had to come to terms with that during the design process. Adding one room to the length of the house would have changed little. We were slowly being driven mad, for example, by having the kitchen so close to the bedrooms. Early mornings with children meant it felt like we’d had no sleep-ins for the past 6 years. Pots, pans, cupboards opening, toaster going, kettle boiling…this all sounds great in a kitchen. But not in your ears at 6am.

Ultimately, our Lowline is now both old and new. It’s no longer an original Pettit & Sevitt because we can’t live in a 115 sqm museum. But we will be able to enjoy its original space with the new space. So, some of the decision making which was most important for us has included:

  • How to join the Lowline house with the new sections neatly and elegantly
  • How not to stuff up the structural features, such as the Oregon beams, of the original (We’ve placed the 2 storeys are on the additions, not on the original house)
  • How to make the overgrown yard usable and relate to the original house (We’ve added the pool, the deck and deepened eaves, the extended Oregon beams and posts)
  • How to use the language of the original for the new (i.e painted brick, Oregon beams and timber cladding)
  • How to make the inside a comfortable family home, with modest scale in keeping with the original (no fancy voids curves or effects…they’re always impressive but wouldn’t be right for a house like this)
  • How to make sure “enough” mod cons are considered but not over the top…Pettit & Sevitt homes never seemed to have enough power points!
  • Whether to salvage our original windows. (We tried, but the glass was so thin in 1964 that the rebate in the old windows would not take energy efficient Low E glass even if we rejuvenated the frames. So we elected to replace all windows with new cedar thus keeping the original look but with new like-for-like frames and contemporary energy efficient Viridian glass).
  • How to continue the finishes and colours we love about the Lowline: the original internal doors were pale eucalyptus, the floors timber and cork, the bathroom tiles were dark…most of these elements will be continued along with some lovely level loop carpet in charcoal tones.

Some of the things we decided wouldn’t be right for us included:

  • The ubiquitous ‘butler’s kitchen’. We have no butler, and this trend will go down as very 2016
  • The media, 2006. And everyone seems to watch on-demand in our house, I don’t have enough time for the great shows on the ABC and SBS as it is!
  • Chrome anything. We’ve gone for stainless steel fixtures in the bathroom and door handles, for longevity and minimalism.
  • Imported timber. Apart from structural Oregon from Canada to match the original beams, the rest of our timber is Australian hardwood. Grey Iron Bark pretty much blunted the builder’s tools (sorry Kitt!) but it is wonderful for the deck. We’re deciding between Blackbutt and Spotted Gum for inside. Would love your thoughts!

The rain in February had delayed our pool builder by 6 weeks, so we would not see the pool filled until the weather had stabilised and the pool trades could catch up on all their jobs. 😦

With this in mind, in March, we focussed on specifying and buying the kitchen, getting our final power points and lights wired (before the Gyprocking stage), choosing our bathroom fixtures.

Here are some photos of all that going on!

Waiting for some electricals to be completed in the eaves, for lighting.

Long slung eaves extended over the deck by 3 metres, seen here just prior to insulating and sheeting. More electricals for lights and fans going in. Our poor garden, in the background.

We’re looking at stone for the steps off the back deck

Mid March view to the house, from the studio. Poor grass!

The streamlined new pivot front door with its green undercoat. Ready for painting. It’s heavy!

After the rain, looking up at the family room in progress.

Watertanks, another decision. Bigger the better in terms of cost per litre. White or Monument? these will sit at either side of the house agains the white brick wall/s

Dusk one afternoon, painting on the to-do list. This is part of the original Lowline showing the replaced windows with sashless doors and windows leading out to the deck.

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