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Renovating through a pandemic


Meet the Newcastle couple renovating through COVID-19 to restore a 60-year old family home.

By the time Louise and Brad finish renovations on their house in Belmont, three generations of the one family will have lived under its roof.

Despite needing serious repairs, the couple decided to buy the house where Louise grew up and turn it into a forever home for their own growing family.

“After my mother passed away several years ago, we had to decide what to do with my family home. It was originally built in the 1950’s and had several different renovations over the years, which made the layout very odd,” Louise said.

“Along with the obvious sentimental value, it is in a gorgeous location with incredible views over Lake Macquarie. The only challenge was whether we could make it livable for our growing family. In the end, we decided it was worth the effort, so we moved in and the renovation planning began.”

The vision

With only two bedrooms, an obscure layout and most surfaces made from asbestos, Louise and Brad have pretty much started from scratch to allow enough space for three growing kids.

“The main goal was to provide enough space for our kids as they get older. These days children either stay longer or come back home to stay multiple times, so it was important to build a forever home that would allow for that,” Louise said.

“The old house really didn’t take advantage of the magnificent views, so we also wanted something that would capitalise on the beauty of Belmont Bay. We often have family come to stay, so we also needed spaces that could accommodate large family gatherings.”

While Louise, a registered nurse, and Brad, an electrical engineer, have some renovation experience, they enlisted the help of a local designer and builder to bring their vision to life.

“We really struggled to design a layout that could fit all the rooms we needed, so had to engage some help. We looked at several building designers to find one we had a good rapport with and felt understood our needs and importantly budget,” Louise said.

“It was pretty much an instant fit when we spoke with Melanie Symington from Seaside Homes. Her previously designed houses were all in line with our preferred Hamptons look and she had a lot of experience designing houses around Lake Macquarie.

“Melanie spent a lot of time with us to understand our immediate needs and also helped us design for future requirements as well. After a lot of back and forth, we finally came up with the perfect design.”

“Once we had the design, we needed a builder. Melanie put us in touch with Ryan Barnett from Hercules Building. He was really easy to deal with and was very flexible with getting the work done to our budget and importantly timing.

“We had to refinance our existing loan. It wasn’t a standard type loan but Newcastle Permanent was very helpful and we ended up with exactly what we needed to cover the renovation plus a contingency to allow for the unexpected.”

The process

Louise and Brad originally planned for the renovations to take up to 9 months and rented a house just around the corner when major works began earlier this year.

We’ve always made it a family project, so the kids are also heavily involved and don’t mind getting on the tools themselves.

Despite weather events, multiple variations and a global pandemic, they are still on track to finish by the end of the year thanks to precision planning and the flexibility of their builder.

“COVID-19 has had a few little impacts, but you just have to allow more time for deliveries and work out different ways to get important items to the site. Our concreter got stuck on a cruise ship at one point, but Ryan has been great at constantly adjusting schedules to adapt to the forever changing scenarios,” Louise said.

“Many people warned us of the stress and challenges a major renovation like this would bring, but we still didn’t comprehend the extent. Every week brings a new challenge and decisions to make, but there is also an immense sense of achievement and pride as you see your dream and vision start becoming a reality.”

Throughout the process, the couple have embraced the history of the house and unearthed special discoveries along the way.

“When we settled my mother’s estate, new electronic deeds had to be issued and we kept the old ones as a memento,” Louise said.

Original title deeds from 1958

“We also uncovered an old garden bed made from concrete with an inscription on it of J.R.Buckley 10.8.58 and we dug the deeds out again to find they had also been issued by Newcastle Permanent decades ago.

“It’s a real sense of belonging that Newcastle Permanent has been helping families in the area for such a long time and that relationship continues today helping our own dream home become a reality.”

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