09 March 2013

The Big Project : Update 1

So, with the move to Sydney a definite thing that is actually happening, it's been all systems go on The Big Project. Yep, we're renovating. From a distance. 

It's our first time going through the process (which is a nice way of saying we have no freaking idea what we're doing), but thankfully we have an awesome architect who is holding our hands. And who, after five long months, is only just now starting to get annoyed by my midnight emails agonising over kitchen bench options. Anyhoo...

Here's what has happened so far:

1. I found an architect. Via Google. Now I'm sure there's all kinds of checklists and such that give you detailed instructions on choosing the right architect for your project. But there's also Google, which is what I went with. I googled 'Paddington architect' and a bunch of options turned up. I picked Roth Architecture because a) I really liked their portfolio - light, modern and clean but with the personality of the owners coming through in each project; and b) they'd done a bunch of terrace houses in the area, which meant they'd dealt with the council on similar projects before. Very helpful. 

2. I put together a brief. Basically a list of things we wanted in the house plus a package of inspiration images. All those pages I'd been ripping out of magazines and pinning for the past year or so, with little notes explaining what I liked about each image. It was kind of like scrap booking your dream house and then handing it over to someone who might actually make it all happen. This bit was lots and lots of fun. 

3. We had a chat with the architect. We talked on the phone and then met in person. We talked about our lifestyle and how we think we'd use the different spaces in our house. We talked about what we liked and what we didn't like. And we got a bit excited about all the possibilities. Well, okay, I got a lot excited about all the possibilities. 

4. The architect sent us a sketch design, a rough plan of the house. Basically a starting point to play with, to talk over; something to check we were all heading in the same direction. Seeing all those fragments of ideas come together in a drawing - of our house! - was pretty awesome. 

5. We went to council for approval (well technically our architect went to council for approval). The finalised sketch design was turned into a plan with all the lines and measurements and stuff that proper plans have. Then we had to get a bunch of reports, which our architect coordinated for us - geotechnical, water something-or-rather...my memory is a bit vague. But I do remember that there were a lot of invoices to pay. Come to think of it, my biggest learning so far is that this whole renovation thing involves a lot of paying of invoices.

6. We got council approval. Hooray! Our architect was great at advising us on things that would be giant red flags (like our original idea to add a second story to our garage), so we'd kind of compromised on things before we went to council. It meant that the plan we submitted was pretty inoffensive. Aside from one adjustment to a roof line, all was okay. 

7. Things started getting serious. Up till now it'd all been pretty pictures and scrap books, but to move forward we needed to zoom in on each room and really finalise the layouts. And to start making decisions about tap ware and floor finishes and lighting. So naturally I froze. I did absolutely nothing. I felt a bit overwhelmed by it all, completely overcome with indecision. But we met with our architect in Sydney last month and it was very reassuring and helpful. Although I guess I am still breaking out in a nervous sweat whenever I think about lighting. Or kitchen bench tops for that matter. 

Right now we are in the process of getting a council construction certificate and finalising the detailed plans and all the specifications. Then all that information will go out to tender, we pick a builder, they build, we pay another bazillion invoices and then we move in... Easy, right? 


The light at the top is the Muuto E27 pendant lamp in black. You can get it from Kido.


UPDATE: I just sent my husband an email about toilet options. I am totally turning in to Bill Murray's wife from Lost in Translation. At least it was just an email and not a box of carpet samples. Though to be fair we aren't actually having carpet in our house so...


  1. What are kitchen bench tops? Here we have some houses with the benches built within one side of the wall to avoid using chairs on that side. Kind of like Church seating. Fun seating for the kids.

    I've been hearing a lot about the movie Lost in Translation. Adding it to my list to watch.

    Good luck with the move and renovation!

    1. Thanks for your well wishes!

      Ahhh, I see the confusion! You're thinking benches as in long seats, I thinking as in 'benchtops' - the top of the kitchen counter, the prep surface. First choice is marble because it looks amazing, but I keep reading that it stains super easily...so then there's Ceaserstone which is more durable but I don't love the look so much...and someone else has suggested wood (not very durable) or stainless steel (painful to clean)...arghhhhhh!

      ps. You must watch Lost in Translation! It is SO great, one of my absolute favs :)

  2. Good luck with the move and house! We've owned 2 houses which have both been reasonably old (100+ yrs) but as someone with an architecture background, I've always thought it would be great to design my home from scratch.
    What sort of floors are you going to have? I have an obsession with floors, especially timber floors.
    Speaking of light fittings, check out these: http://edisonlightglobes.com
    Just love them and they look good in contemporary or old homes. We've purchased globes for our place. Would love to get some of the light fittings too.

  3. wow! the wonders of technology! all the best with the reno and move emily.

  4. Ha! Your Lost in Translation reference made me giggle!

    I can only imaging how equally exciting and daunting the whole process must be. Best of luck with choosing those bench tops and with your incredible taste I just know it's going to be amazing when complete.

  5. How exciting! A little nerve wracking for sure, but a least you appear to have a good architect to guide you on your way. I hope it all goes well for your Emily. We've been preparing for a small scale renovation at our new home and where I have been ready to give up on some 'wants' at times, others have reminded me its really the most important place on earth for me at the moment, so not to give up on ideas and concepts that seem difficult. Its been good advice (so far!).


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