From ‘Just-Liveable Dump’ to Dream Home

Beautiful Beach House Transformation

~ Amber Creswell Bell / domain

"Ultimately we decided that we would build to get exactly what we wanted."“Ultimately we decided that we would build to get exactly what we wanted.” Photo: Thomas Dalhoff

Scott Simpson and his family had been living in Sydney’s ever-popular Coogee, when they were first drawn slightly south to the beachside suburb of Maroubra. “Maroubra offered good value for money. It had all the amenities we need, close to the kids’ schools, shops, transport, etc. It is a short distance to the freeway heading north or south so it’s very convenient,” says Scott.

The family of four (plus two dogs) felt that they had outgrown their first Maroubra home of two years when they started to sniff around for a new “forever” house, wishing to remain in the area. “We kept our eye on the market for around six to 12 months but only got serious once we sold our last house … from the sale of our last home to purchasing this home was around three weeks – so it was relatively fast,” Scott explains.

The Simpsons’ house-hunting strategy was always with the view to doing a major renovation or rebuild. “We had looked at homes that had been renovated and there were always things we would have changed,” says Scott. “In some cases it was possible to make these changes but others we couldn’t, so ultimately we decided that we would build to get exactly what we wanted.”

Before photos. 

Describing their newly purchased home as a “just-liveable dump” complete with 70s shag pile carpet, barely two bedrooms and an original kitchen, the Simpsons knew that it was certainly not a home for their growing family of four.

The Simpsons wanted to create a home that was modern and practical and a place where they could entertain. “We also wanted a home that allowed the kids to have their own space and that would be big enough as they grow older,” says Scott.  “We had a good idea of what we wanted to have in the home and to a certain extent how we wanted it laid out, what we needed help with was dimensions of rooms and creating a practical home.”

Mark Wilson, of Danette Architecture, was engaged to help design the home, and for the internal living areas an interior designer was used.  “Engaging a good architect who we felt comfortable with was really important. We didn’t have any ideas as to how we could tie our home in with the adjoining semi whilst creating our own home. This is where the architect was excellent. He understood our tastes and gave us good ideas,” reflects Scott. “Lighting was another aspect of the home where the architect was very helpful. The LED strip lighting in the bulkhead around the living area is great. These lights provide plenty of light for us to watch TV and move around the living area but are soft and gentle at the same time.”

In construction.

The site was an awkward shape, with a narrow street frontage, increasing in width to the rear of the property, due to an angled internal shared wall with the neighbours. The biggest challenge the family faced was the home being semi-detached. The neighbours had already put a second storey on so the Simpsons had to work in with that house. “Council were also a small obstacle,” says Scott. “The initial design of the front of the home was set further forward which was rejected by council, so we had to make a few tweaks to set the second level back in line with the neighbouring home.”

The whole project was 22 months duration from start to finish, and 16 months from the initial engagement of the architect to the builder starting. The house was almost completely knocked down with only two original walls remaining.

The house went from a very small two-bedroom, one-bathroom semi to a four-bedroom, three-bathroom house with large open-plan living and a smaller second living area. Key design aspects such as acoustic and visual privacy, fire separation from the neighbouring properties, a thermally insulated residence and maximisation of sunlight were all considered. Recessed window and opening reveals were achieved in the design, similar to brickwork, to provide depth to the facade and architectural interest.  The roof design, by using a timber framework to replicate the existing pitch of the dwelling, created high ceilings on the first floor and accommodates the tricky removal of stormwater on a long thin roof.

Not able to identify any one feature as his favourite, Scott is most proud of the fact that they ultimately achieved exactly what they set out to do: “To create a modern family home that we love to come home to, enjoy entertaining in and a place where the kids and their friends want to spend time in.”

After photos. By: Thomas Dalhoff