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Deborah Hutton is a style icon and first-time renovator who is currently transforming her outdated home into the house of her dreams. Images courtesy James Hardie. Builder is Michael Fahey from Virtue Projects.
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Deborah Hutton’s top 5 reno tips

No home renovation is without its challenges, so it’s important to surround yourself with experts who know what they’re doing and are able to help you realise your vision. Television presenter, magazine editor and media personality, Deborah Hutton, found just that as she started the renovation of her seaside home in Sydney’s East – an experience she is tracking on Renovation Rookie.

Here, the first-time renovator shares what she’s learned and why she believes that behind any great renovator, is a great builder, architect, and a knowledgeable group of friends.

 

The goal is to go from this…

home-exterior-facade-house-before-image

 

… to something that looks like this. 

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Get a good reference

Building your dream home is a significant investment, so having a builder who you totally trust is critically important. I was fortunate to have a personal recommendation from a close friend who had used Virtue Projects before and literally said to me, ‘I have your builders when you’re ready!’

After meeting Dave Klees and Michael Fahey and talking through the project, I felt extremely comfortable that they would deliver a quality build and have my best interests at heart. One thing that was particularly reassuring was that they understood the materials I wanted to work with. I had found Linea Weatherboard at the Sydney Home show (which is on 5-7 October) and loved how it mirrored the Queenslander style that reminded me of growing up in Brisbane, and captured the Hamptons look I love. When I brought this up with David, he said that he loved working with Linea Weatherboards as it was easy to install and came primed, ready to paint.

Finding the right architect can be a great investment

Finding an architect was not as easy and if I were to do it again I would do it very differently. I couldn’t seem to find one that understood my brief and I was apprehensive of what I perceived as an enormous cost for an architect to design and oversee the project. I chose a different path which in hindsight has cost me much more.

With no understanding of the enormity of the task, I began with a draftsman, thinking it couldn’t be that hard to draw up house plans. Especially when I felt I knew the footprint/layout it needed to be. How wrong I was. That was my first insight into understanding that the ‘devil is in the detail’.

Take the time you need to get the plans right

I eventually engaged an architect, but after some weeks still couldn’t get the project to where I wanted it. A designer I was working with suggested another architect. A few months on and we’d redesigned the house again and got it to the point where I was happy to submit the DA. Having done a good job working within council restrictions, and with my neighbours, the DA was approved in a record six weeks! Big tip; Don’t get too greedy and include all interested parties in your plans!

 

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The Queenslander house is a classic piece of Australian architectural design that beautifully integrates indoor and outdoor living.

Get a little help from your friends

When I look at the house today, it’s amazing how the design has evolved from where I started. I was never really happy with the front façade, the floorplan was great but the overall look didn’t quite fit in with my Hamptons hopes.

Surprisingly, the solution came to me during a weekend away in Brisbane. A clever friend of mine was completing his own renovation project in a similar Queenslander/Hamptons style, which I loved and I said, “I need your help…I want something like this!” So, we brainstormed and drew up the new balustrade with the crisscross timber detailing and enlarged timber posts there and then.

If you’re really struggling, pulling in a designer for a one-off consultation can really help reinvigorate the process and get it back on track. I was also lucky to be introduced to Natalee Bowen who is a Hamptons style builder and interior designer. She sat down with me, went through the plans and ran through design options that have helped formed my look. She gave me the great idea to include Linea Weatherboard on the internal balustrade which mirrors the look of the house externally. That detail looks fabulous when you’re standing inside looking out to the balcony.

Know what typifies your look and don’t compromise

Thankfully I’ve not had to compromise to achieve my intended style. The biggest Hamptons element of my home is that stunning weatherboard look. Everything was designed around that pivotal component.

Choosing Linea Weatherboard was the easiest decision from the get-go. I wanted to build my home with a look that showed my love of the Hamptons/Queenslander style. Linea Weatherboard delivered that look with the added benefits of resisting flaking, warping or swelling and being less prone to damage from termites and moisture. Considering where the house is located it became a significant factor for ongoing maintenance.

I was comforted by the fact, David, my builder, loved working with Linea Weatherboard and thought it was the best option to nail the style, something Natalee confirmed for me. It was validating to hear the experts agreeing with my choices.

I thought this was going to be a simple renovation – I had no idea! It’s basically a complete rebuild and much more complex than I had ever imagined. On such a significant project, knowing what I do now, I would never have started this process without taking more time to search for the right people to have by my side.

Overall, what I have learnt is from the get-go, you need the right people on your side who understand your vision and can help you bring it to life. Don’t begin unless you have full confidence that together they can deliver every step of the way.

 

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The Queenslander house is a classic piece of Australian architectural design that beautifully integrates indoor and outdoor living.

Deborah Hutton’s top 5 reno tips

  1. Take your time to find the right architect and be 100 per cent comfortable in your decision before you start anything
  2. Do a short course on understanding builder’s construction jargon and you won’t feel like such an idiot
  3. Do your homework on all products and their benefits that you intend to use.
  4. This project will consume your life. Get ready to start at 7am every day and answer a thousand questions about things you’ve no idea about!
  5. Listen to people who you trust to help articulate your vision. Having imagery to support your direction is critical so create a digital mood board using Houzz and Pinterest to help guide the principals

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Deborah Hutton

Deborah Hutton is a television presenter, magazine editor, media personality and first-time renovator who is currently transforming her outdated home into the house of her dreams. And fortunately for HomeHub followers, sharing every high and low on Renovation Rookie.

The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Homeloans Ltd.