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    June 2011
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Home is where the heart is

We have been living in our teeny tiny house for three years now. That was not the intention when we bought this home. You see, we used to live in a BIG Federation home. On a big block, just under 1000m2. We had sold a small holiday home in the South West of Western Australia and I decided to buy our current house to renovate and either sell off or rent. We decided that we would move into this house for one year, renovate hard and fast and rent out our family home. After a year, we would move back home and look for our next project.

                                                                                                     Our grand home

                                                                                                    Children’s library

My dream laundry was built just two weeks before we moved out. 
One end of our lounge room
 One end of our main bedroom

Our girls weren’t particularly happy with the move. It meant living in a small house under constant renovation, and sharing a room. Miss i in particular was quite angry. She had reached the age of appreciating her own space and did not want to give this up for our dreams.

It was only for one year we promised them. We rented our home to a family from Melbourne who needed a home for 12 months while he completed a year of medical fellowship.

We moved into this house and very few people saw it’s potential. One relative stated that it was like “the house you live in while you are in Uni, with eight other people.”

We hired storage for all of the furniture that would not fit into this house. We bought cheap Ikea wardrobes and bunk beds for the girls. We joked that it would be fun to live with the bare essentials. Miss i missed her books. She was left with just one Billy bookcase to fill with her absolute favourites.

The electrician was first on the list. He rewired the home, moved light switches from awkward positions behind doors, and installed light fittings and ceiling fans on the bare bulbs hanging from each room. All the walls are solid brick which meant with every power point and light switch, the wall wiring had to be chased into the wall. This left gaping channels which needed plastering. Oh, the fine, red dust everywhere.

Next was the painter. Repair and patch walls, and paint neutral throughout, keeping it safe for future buyers. This house consists of just six rooms. Three bedrooms, one bathroom with toilet inside, a lounge room and a dining/kitchen. The laundry was in the condemned building at the rear of the property. We had to shuffle furniture for two weeks to allow him access into each room. We camped on mattresses in the rooms he was not painting at the time. Plaster dust everywhere.

Three months had passed and I had the tradesmen organised to refit the bathroom. Homme was asked to fly to Monaco for work and was allowed to take me, at short notice. Tradesmen were stalled while we escaped for ten days on a whirlwind tour of Nice and Paris. Upon my return the bathroom was stripped. For two weeks we used a portable bathroom which we hired for the back yard. Once the bathroom was completed, we had the shock of our lives.

We were pregnant! We fought hard to conceive our girls (IVF and FET), and had losses trying for a third child. We were elated, I was nauseas. For sixteen weeks it took all my strength to get through each day and renovating was at a standstill. That Summer of my pregnancy though the tradesmen were back to knock out a half wall between the kitchen and dining space and make us a functional kitchen/dining/laundry/study. We propped our discarded sink on tubs in the front yard and ate all of our meals on the new front deck. A kettle, toaster and all of our utensils were located near the bbq which was our Summer kitchen.

In March our baby arrived and we needed to make space for this little person. A bedside table was placed in storage to make room for his bassinet.

By this time our year had just about ended. As a family, we talked about our journey so far. Yes, we missed our space. Our huge garden, our grand home with it’s large bedrooms and the room with just books and chairs. But what we had gained in this little home was a family friendly street. And quiet.

Yes, our grand home was housed on a major street which had become busier and busier in the time we had owned it. While we rented it, we had continued to maintain the gardens and on each visit we were overwhelmed with the amount of labour required to keep the huge garden looking gorgeous. We also noticed that even on Sundays while we gardened, we strained to talk over the traffic noise.

We loved our new location, overlooking  a football oval, with a glimpse of the sea. We loved sitting on our deck and seeing the harbour lights come on in Fremantle. We have fabulous neighbours on all sides and know many families in our street. We have only moved one kilometre but the neighbourhood is so different.

So we decided to stay in this home, and to renovate more extensively by putting on a second storey. We sold our grand home and landscaped our back yard with a pool. We sold the furniture in our storage and made roots here.

We have renovated the condemned building which now sits cutely at the end of our pool. It has a new roof, gutters, floor and now houses a separate toilet and bath as well as a study/craft area. It is a work in progress given that the next unexpected obstacle was a publishing deal for homme (for a book not yet written). He spent his evenings and weekends, for six months,  in the half finished studio, to write his first book.

We have decided to wait another 18 months before moving out to have the major renovations completed. By this time baby number three will be in kindy and I will be able to attend to the builders questions, and to source the items needed for our dream home.

We pass our old home regularly and look at it with fond memories. It was with surprise that we noticed it went on the market a couple of weeks ago. Of course, homme and I went to the first home open to see how it looked. To see if we felt any lingering emotion to this home we had lived in for eight years. I was nervous, what if all I felt was regret at selling it? When I had moved out of this home, it was with the intention of moving back. I had not said my goodbyes.

The home presented beautifully. The owners had painted it white throughout, not to my style, but it looked loved. Their furniture was contemporary, but well styled. I have always had emotional attachments to my homes and I was relieved that it looked like a family who cared for this home lived here. (this is the real estate website – it is the Amherst St address) (Notice the bathroom? Exactly as I renoveted it. Glad they love the black walls and white/chrome fittings.)

Why had this family lived here for only two years? We confessed to the Agent who we were when it was announced at the first home open that the house was already Under Offer. I had my suspicions when I noted the new double glazing on the front entrance leadlights and in the master bedroom. I also noted that they had made the two largest bedrooms, with the most ornate fireplaces, the toy room and a guest room. No one slept in these rooms closest to the main road (house sits on a corner block). The Agent confirmed my suspicions that although the family love the property, they find it too noisy.

Homme and I both left the home open inspection feeling really happy. We adore this house but it no longer felt like our home. We felt proud of the major renovations we had done, and how functional they were. We left with a fire in our belly to make our current home the place we want to live in for a very long time.

Have you ever had seller’s remorse? Do you make emotional attachments to homes?  



3 Responses

  1. Oh, your old home is just soooo beautiful. My husband and I have an affinity for old homes. We live in a Victorian right now and it’s always ‘under construction’. But I’m so glad you have no regrets and love your new home. After all, you will have a whole bunch of new memories with your lovely little boy. Plus this home will be the only one he will remember 😉

    Thanks for sharing your home. It’s inspired me to do a little sharing of our home too!


  2. Sounds like you did the right thing!

    I do miss our Adelaide house. 900 sq m, solid brick, California bungalow that we renovated perfectly. Due to the big difference between SA and Melbourne prices, it bought us a 220 sq m cottage in Flemington!

    It was a lot of work though – heaps of gardening and maintenance to do (cracks were a part of life as was cleaning). On my last visit to SA a few months back I drove past it and could see that the gardens LC had planted were thriving and the place was loved and spotless. Lucky them!

  3. I really loved this post, Vanessa. It’s reminded me that home really isn’t about bigger, better, best! That’s just ‘house’. The pleasures of ‘home’ are far more subtle and important than space and appearances. I’m glad you found homes true meaning so beautifully and contentedly. I bet your ‘little home’ is even more lovely than your ‘big house’ too. x

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