Renovating?

The Market
Building your forever home on a narrow sloping block is not without its challenges, but for Melbourne couple Jacquelyn and Rohan Stevens, it was a journey they were willing to embark on together.

The results, we think, are pretty special.

From the very first moment Jacquelyn and Rohan laid eyes on the 1920s heritage home, they were smitten. Like many Victorian, single-fronted homes in Melbourne, the Moonee Ponds address let on a great deal less than it showed from the exterior.

“It’s a gorgeous little home with character. It’s also very discreet; it’s not until you walk through the front door, and see the beautiful hallway, that you realise you’ve got all this space to work with,” explains Jacquelyn.

What was a three-bedroom, one-bathroom home is now a four-bedroom, two-bathroom plus study configuration, with a separate living area over two stories.

It was important to the couple to make the home energy-smart, with quality insulation, double-glazed windows, hydronic heating and an under-house rainwater tank.

4 George St Moonee Ponds
The renovators retained the home’s footings, extending at the rear of the house. Picture: Supplied

It only took six months to do the build, which is almost unheard of for the scale of the renovation. How did they do it? Working with BLJ Building, a Bendigo-based company, the couple remained extremely hands-on throughout the process.

When they purchased the home in 2014 they went straight to work ripping up all the old carpet, restumping the frame and building a carport out the back.

Then they lived there for three years, planning the big reno. After “lots of time spent on Pinterest” they decided to rent a place around the corner, and were on site most days during the renovation. “It was great being so hand-ons because you acknowledge how much goes into it,” Jacquelyn says.

“This is our second home, but our first renovation,” she adds.

The challenges

While it did only take six months, they were probably the quickest, and at times, most stressful, six months of the young couple’s lives.

So what were the pain points, and how did they manage to overcome them?

Narrow block
With a narrow block your options are limited. Extending out is not an option; instead you must retain the footings, and extend back.

Jacquelyn and Rohan knew this, but it didn’t make excavating the footing – which sat right on the boundary of the house – any easier. They really had to ensure they were looking after neighbouring properties and taking care not to harm any of their home’s original features when carrying building materials and tools through the house.

Their best tip? “Build a solid relationship with both your builders and neighbours. Let neighbours know exactly what you’re doing so they’re aware of times that may cause disturbance.”

Tight spaces
The star of this Moonee Ponds extension is undoubtedly the abundance of natural light streaming through the floor-to-ceiling windows in the open-plan kitchen/living area, which – while expensive to install (all the windows are double-glazed) – was a necessity, as it opens up the tight and narrow space, giving the illusion of a much broader, brighter room.

“Because the space was quite small we knew we had to maximise the light, so we’ve integrated the appliances and hidden the pantry to keep it quite slick and make it look bigger than it is,” Jacquelyn says, describing how they streamlined the kitchen, too.

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Thinking ahead
Jacquelyn and Rohan wanted to make sure there was always going to be a place for their border collie pup to stretch his legs in their renovated digs – so maintaining backyard space was obviously a huge priority.

The couple were also mindful to retain the beautiful heritage features in the front of the home.

Lastly, while they hope the home is forever, they were careful to stick to a timeless monochrome palette so as to not alienate potential future buyers, should they need to sell at any stage.

Now that it’s finished, Jacquelyn and Rohan are settled in and loving their new space – and proud as punch of the not-so-little house they call home.

“We’re in and settled and it’s so comfortable. I just love coming home and spending time in the garden, or having a cup of tea in the morning at the breakfast bar,” says Jacquelyn.

“We definitely saw the house had character and we both knew it could be a beautiful family home.”

They were right.