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When community consultant Fran bought her house
on the edge of Castlemaine in central Victoria four years ago, it was“dark, dirty and dingy”, but it fit the bill. “I wanted to buy a cheap housethat I could renovate in the way I wanted to, not deal with somebody else’s renovations,” she says. Also, a good sense of community wasimportant to her, and she was already friends with the artists next door.Sawn in half and relocated to the large site by truck around 20 yearsearlier, the weatherboard house had had little love lavished on it in thattime. Fran initially planned a small-scale renovation to improve thenatural light access and make the house more energy efficient: “I hadpreviously lived in a house that was off-grid, with a wind turbine, solarpower and solar hot water, and it was really important to me that I spendmoney on those features.”However, she quickly realised that achieving her aims was goingto require more work than she had thought. The house was a warrenof small, dark rooms, with few windows to the north, making it cold inwinter. Lacking any significant thermal mass, the house needed to bethoroughly insulated to achieve better passive thermal performance.Polyester batts were installed in the roof and almost all internal andexternal walls, a job that necessitated removing weatherboards andreplastering inside. The underfloor was insulated too.
A vintage mirror etched with alyrebird design was the catalystfor a hunt for similar pieces thateventually yielded three pairs of etched French doors.
Castlemaine building design firm Lifehouse Design came on boardto produce a design for a floor plan reconfiguration that would workwithin Fran’s small budget. They concentrated on opening up the spacesand adding carefully placed windows for better solar gain and cross-ventilation, and to make the most of the rural views while maintainingprivacy.The two bedrooms and the bathroom were retained as they were,but a collection of small walls and a triangular cupboard in the northernpart of the main living room were demolished to open up the space.The door and part of the wall between the kitchen and the living roomwere removed, leaving a large L-shaped cut-out that brings light into thekitchen and connects it with the living space. Lifehouse Design’s RobynGibson is particularly pleased with the long, thin window made by a localbuilder and set into the south wall. “The shape of the window capturesthe peaceful treetop views to the south without letting too much warmthescape or giving the neighbours a view in,” she says. Double glazingand low-e glass reduce the heat loss from the window. The tiny existingwindow was salvaged and incorporated as an opening section at one endof the new window unit, to allow for cross-ventilation.Along with some help with painting and carpentry from friends,Fran employed local tradespeople for the renovation. She and her son
Two of Fran’s collection ofsalvaed etched lyrebirddoors lead fro the ainbedroo to the deck on thehouse’s north-east corner.
A sall section ofsupportin wall wasretained when the livinspace was opened up. t’sbeen faced with stackedslate as a feature wall. Acorner study space istucked in next to theentry to the kitchen.
For budet reasons, Franchose an kea odularkitchen. While she’s happywith the carcase, soe of thesurfaces haven’t worn verywell. She says that next tieshe would have the tiberbenchtops and cupboarddoors custo ade locally.