I had a very clear vision for my home in Prescott Ave, with full plans and schematics for a major extension and renovation. But whether you call it fate or destiny or serendipity, a local real estate agent contacted me with an offer for the property even though it wasn’t on the market. I had to weigh up and balance all the ramifications of doing a major renovation on my home, going through council approvals and finding alternate accommodation for the duration of that process whilst running a business and being a single mum to two children, compared with taking the offer and creating a family home much more quickly. It was a heart-wrenching decision because I adored that home and the vision I had for it, but as a firm believer in taking the opportunities that the universe delivers to you, I decided to create a family home in a quarter of the time.
Property renovation and new builds are my loves, so I scour real estate as a hobby. I’m in direct consultation with local real estate agents and they will often bring properties to my attention or will introduce me to their clients so I can advise them on the renovation of potential of properties they are interested in but are unsure of what can be done. Beechwood was one of these properties – it sat on the market for some time as people saw it as an ugly duckling and were unsure of what to do with it, but as soon as I saw the roofline and the orientation, I knew exactly what I wanted.
When I sold Prescott Ave, I was in the enviable position of being able to lease it back from the new owners which gave me time to find a new home, and within a week of signing the contract I found the property I name Beechwood. We did a six month build program in 12 weeks, with 20 to 30 trades on site some days, and we were able to turn this around because of the planning and budgeting that was put in place from the get-go. I had a finite move in date which was October 28th, 2018.
I absolutely had a vision for the property from day dot, and that’s exactly what it looks like today. I looked at that property and I saw the finished look in my mind’s eye, but I doubted myself so many times because well-meaning friends, family and even the builder questioned my vision. They couldn’t see the finish line through my eyes. What they saw was a yellow brick 1980s house that really was an ugly duckling.
There were many times along the way that I stumbled personally wondering what I had got myself into, but my KWD design team stood behind me and reminded me that this is what I do, this is what I know and to trust my gut. The first rounds of plans were very grand, pushing out walls, increasing floor space and even doing a double storey, but it quickly became evident that town planning would be involved, and the initial costs were way outside my comfort zone.
Every project has a budget and mine was no exception, so we worked within the confines of the building structure playing solely with the internal space planning, so no permits were required which expedited the process, with only a minor punch out in the kitchen and laundry.
Being an insomniac, I am often online throughout the night. I get a lot of inspiration from American design and I have always loved the magazine ‘New Old House’, so I could see this classic yet modern property that was airy and breezy. Coming from a house that was really small I wanted to feel like I had elbow room and particularly with a growing 13-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl I needed to create a functional floorplan where every space was usable.
The inspiration for the interior really came from the exterior. With the house being on a good size block of land I immediately felt like bringing the outside in, and because I never design an interior without considering the exterior, the garden design from the front fence to the back fence was front of mind. So I essentially created the interior based on the garden. And with the house orientation facing north I knew that every room would have a view of the garden.
The landscape design was signed off before the interior, and I brought the outside in with shades of green, grey, white and terracotta which are all courtesy of Mother Nature and all leaning toward a modern farmhouse aesthetic. It was also important to me to show some flexibility in new design styles and move away from the British Colonial and Hampton-style aesthetics KWD is well known for. Beechwood really represents an emerging style that perfectly suited the coastal location with a distinct focus on the landscape design.
Key support partners were vital for expediting the short timeline for this project. At KWD we don’t draw up architectural plans so I engaged Steve Hofer from WKH Architects who I had worked with previously and he was the perfect fit. We chose to work with 3D Windows & Doors who we knew could create the perfect designs for a modern farmhouse feel. And then I needed a builder, so I chose Tyson Mann from KLS for his ability to achieve what I wanted on time and on budget.
And whilst I am passionate about landscape design I didn’t have time to draw up the plans myself so I worked alongside Peta Donaldson from Blac Design and she brought my vision to life. We designed the gates with Red Hill Gates and O’Halloran Electrics created the outdoor electrical plan and supplied the perfect lighting solutions.
The day I settled was the day the interior was demolished. By the end of day one every single plaster sheet was off the house and within two weeks the garden was gutted. It was all hands on deck to deliver the project within 12 weeks so the interior, exterior and garden were worked on simultaneously.
The challenge for me was to drill down and take the advice I give my clients all the time which was to not put in everything on your wish list. I had to be clever with what I left out and the things I didn’t put in were actually my best decisions. I had to hone down on the style, hone down on my time and budget constraints, and get the very best specification within that framework, and I believe I achieved that.
I also had to be considerate to supply partners who have supported KWD in the past and who I wanted to support in return, and I felt it was my turn to enjoy the products that I specify for my clients’ properties in my own home – like The English Tapware Company tapware, a Victoria & Albert bath from Luxe By Design, a Sub-Zero fridge and Wolf oven, door hardware from Domino Architectural Fittings, joinery designed by my team and built by Gravina, and Soapstone and Carrara from Gladstone Granite.
I also wanted to showcase some incredible hard finishes that KWD has in development and test them out for myself, like the hand selected European oak flooring from Italy that has a subtle look without knots and distinct grain, sisal wall-to-wall carpets, custom made rugs and a beautiful range of tiles which I have worked on importing with Earp Bros and National Tiles.
KWD has a very talented joinery design team and I wanted to push their boundaries. We reworked the kitchen design 12 times and also reworked the joinery in my master suite to get the perfect result in terms of design and storage solutions (in particular for my shoes).
I became quite a demanding client of KWD, pushing the team to be the best they could be and it was wonderful for me to be on the other side of the fence so I could learn more about how we can best service our clients. One of the highlights of this project was a weekend lock-down when the whole design team and procurement team spent a Saturday and Sunday session working on the specification. We did the whole design in two days and within one week the procurement team had the whole project quoted and within two weeks everything was ordered. I really pushed us to do a lot of work in a short space of time to show what we are capable of. In a way I was the ideal client because I didn’t change one element other than playing with the joinery design.
The kitchen colour we chose on that weekend is what we used and the tiles we selected went in, so I feel really confident that if you trust the design process and the decisions made by the professionals, you’ll get a great result.
The things that changed along the way were introducing exciting features and making the most of opportunities. For example, we didn’t initially know that the roof space in the entrance existed. It was only when the ceiling was demolished that we realised we could create that ceiling height, and from there the strapping was introduced to make a feature of the space.
And then we added the strapping to the powder room to reiterate the entrance.
Engaging professionals to do their job has meant that a lot of things have turned out better than expected. For example, I had turned my back on the south facing rear garden area because I thought it was dark. In fact there’s a lot of western light in the afternoon and all day sun, so having an expert like Blac Design create that space has made such a significant difference and I never would have come up with that idea.
Engaging experts to make your life easier and to get the best possible design is definitely worth it. Some big decisions that were game changers were things like changing all the windows, which was enormous, and also the entrance which was a surprise packet. I have a unique ability to visualise the end look before a project starts so by the time everything was done, I had lived in the space in my mind’s eye for three months, so for me it was all about the anticipation of completion so I could see the vision realised. I derived the joy from the materialisation. Actualising it made it better.
Probably the sticking point in the whole project was where to put the Jetmaster fireplace, and also the design of the kitchen joinery. The end result is a triumph. I had a bee in my bonnet about how I wanted to kitchen to work, and whilst I don’t cook a lot myself, I do have people cooking in my kitchen and it needed to work for them. I changed rules that I previously told my clients, like not to have a sink in the kitchen island. But I’m a convert now. I love being able to chat to my kids while I’m at the sink rather than having my back to them and it doesn’t detract from the design at all. And having a bar in the kitchen is fabulous! There are hidden drawers and slide out doors and so many design features that you don’t really understand until you use the space.
The space planning was the key to the success of Beechwood. Seeing beyond what everyone else saw when they viewed the property. There were so many discussions around making the most of the floorplan, and we used every single square inch of the footprint, and whilst the house isn’t much bigger than my previous home it’s so much more functional and feels so spacious.
Working with materials that were made to look old, that was my goal. I didn’t want it to feel new. From the advanced planting to working on the hard finishes – like hand-ageing all of the external stone and having it hand-chiseled, using old terracotta tiles from Earp Bros that look aged and featuring handmade tiles from National Tiles that are perfectly imperfect – all of these elements contributed to the lived-in look I wanted to achieve.
The most dramatic change is in the master suite where we did some exceptional space planning and combined two rooms to make one large retreat. The custom joinery that we designed with Gravina is exceptional, with the rattan insert doors that add texture, and the fabrics from Elliot Clarke that give a nod of classic British design which I love. The window treatments throughout Beechwood were made by Lynch’s Window Fashions.
The ensuite with the bath set in front of the full glazing has an incredible garden view. It’s a stunning place to get ready in the morning. The hand-aged detailed door hardware is a ‘live finish’, so it ages the more you touch it, and The English Tapware Company hadn’t done their contemporary range in the English bronze before so it took three months to arrive, but it was worth the wait. I went to America and sourced a lot of the furniture and it was so exciting when the container arrived, and we work closely with The Montauk Lighting Co. for the lighting which is like the jewellery in the property.
For the custom-made furniture throughout Beechwood we worked really closely with Sorrento Furniture who expertly manufactured sofas, armchairs, bedheads and ottomans based on KWD’s designs, and the results were perfect for each space.
Adding texture was so important. The shiplap in Charlie’s room is such a feature, and while wallpaper is a trend, I only really wanted it in Jemima’s room. I wanted the home to feel peaceful, airy, light and bright whilst being gutsy, warm and inviting – and while it took a lot to get me away from my favourite blue and white palette, I must say I am firmly of the believer of #greenisthenewblue.
The kids love the communal spaces as well as having their own zones. There is so much space for them, with their own bedrooms and bathrooms, the family zone, dedicated outdoor entertaining zone, the in-ground trampoline and Aquacon swimming pool.
Being in the design industry renovating is my passion. I find it an absolute joy. The highlight for me is working on site and seeing all the changes happening that I am directing. I felt so proud and honoured to have worked with everyone involved and to be honest when it was over, I missed the action. Whilst it brought peace, I missed the adrenaline of the project, so I know it won’t be the last project for me.
KWD’s design ethos is that for every dollar you put into a design project you want to get two dollars back, and you want to spend money on what you should, not where you shouldn’t. For me I believe in spending more money on the hard finishes – the things you touch and feel. At KWD we are quite anti creating big spaces. We believe in creating a home that brings a family together rather than creating spaces where they are forced away from each other. Making spaces more beautiful and more practical and finishing a property in the best possible way within a clients’ budget is what drives us.
I understand hard finishes, their form as well as their function, and how to use them in innovative and interesting ways and how to make the very best of them for the interior and for the exterior. To me more expensive is not necessarily better. I know how to save money and where to spend it. Creating intimate spaces where clients can have meaningful interactions is what KWD is all about. We’re not about designing mansions, we’re about families being together and communicating and creating those really functional spaces whilst catering to today’s lifestyle demands. And this is exactly what we created in Beechwood.
To all of our amazing supply partners who helped to bring the Beechwood vision to life, a heartfelt thank you for your time, your expertise, your effort and the quality of your products and services.