Let’s just say Dinesh and Ian’s taste had won us over before we even arrived at their handsome beach house. Even their street is bound to impress – nowhere near the well-worn tourist path, and with sweeping vistas of Mornington Peninsula. By the time we made it to the front gate, we knew we were in for a treat.
According to the Australian Heritage Database the original homestead is thought to have been built for Captain Lintott on his 290 acre farm sometime between 1854 and 1861. Since then, the property has been intrinsically linked to bayside, Melbourne and indeed national history via a series of fairly high profile occupants, each of whom has of course had their own touch or impact on the building and its environs. Dinesh and Ian had originally thought they would renovate and extend in keeping with the colonial style of the building, but council planning dictated otherwise and they were required to opt for contrasting contemporary extensions. Three years of planning and one year of building later, and the product speaks for itself.
The result – a most sensitive and thoughtful restoration of old, juxtaposed alongside the very best of modern residential architecture. A ‘beach house’ just doesn’t do justice to this home – it is the kind of abode anyone would be delighted to call their permanent place of residence. Indeed – how the couple (and their delightful ‘ladies of the manor’, two adorable but protective miniature schnauzers) tear themselves away every Sunday is anyone’s guess!
When you’re renovating a period home, unexpected surprises are of course de rigueur. Initial work to the existing building revealed that walls were not only vulnerable but were unstable. The back wall near the kitchen crumbled entirely (exposing wads of old newspaper used as the original insulation) whilst front walls were effectively encased with new internal frame. This has created an incredible depth in the first part of the house – walls are literally twice as wide given the space a solid and impervious finish that beguiles its original specifications. The ‘old’ part of the house contains a welcoming room, two bedrooms and a spacious hallway (one end delivering a beautiful back garden setting; the other a bayside visual feast).
These really have been wonderfully restored – French door shutters sit beautifully by double glazed windows (the house has hydronic heating and doesn’t drop below 18 degrees in winter, or over 25 degrees in summer), timber polished floors (the couple only had one option, Baltic Pine, when it came to restoring the classic timber flooring from that period). Originally from Sri Lanka, Dinesh has created a signature touch with truly stunning furniture from his homeland, including the most astounding 200 year old bed made entirely from ebony. Moving through the hallway to the back section of the house and you enter a spacious, sleek environment that would have knocked the socks of Captain Lintott, we’re sure. What a space!
It’s hard to know what to mention first – the tactile simplicity of the rammed earth walls running either side of the kitchen/dining/lounge area, the bespoke steel stair case with its half wave cut-out pattern, the most brilliant high-gloss stone cascade kitchen, the view onto a natives-meet-exotics garden framed in layers of textured sandstone, right down to the less-is-so-much-more luxurious furniture and quirky touches (such as the super fun ‘Campari’ lights from the industrial designer, Ingo Maurer from Germany). We could go on.
But instead, we’ll move up the stairs and into the master bedroom, with its knock-out water views, expansive wall-in wardrobe, cosy and functional office space and more little reminders of the owners’ fine eye for style (think Swedish ceramic table, miniature Ganesha elephant gods, bespoke hidden entertainment unit, LED lighting strip over the shower and even a permanent book hanging wall tiles alongside the toilet). Ian and Dinesh’s home is the trifecta - luxe, class and taste.
Ian and Dinesh have been incredibly generous in sharing some invaluable build and renovating insights. Trust us – a quick read from these two and you might very well save yourself months of mayhem and dollars alike.
Research is key
For three months solid the couple each took one full day from work and allocated it to renovation research. This was a masterstroke – it enabled them to find the very best deals, to research everything they needed to know on a topic, and to get the best for their home. They also bought over 100 books and magazines (trade publications as well as consumer) and trawled the internet endlessly to become as informed, inspired and knowledgeable as possible. In Dinesh’s words, don’t be lazy. Home renovations and builds tend to be some of the biggest investments in our lives – do you really want to be writing blank cheques?
Collect quotes and opinions
Collecting a minimum three quotes became a golden rule. Dinesh is quick to point out that this does not mean three quotes from the builder; one quote from the builder and then two separate quotes sourced independently by the home owner. Be sure to compare apples with apples – have suppliers quote on precisely the same job so you can make the right decision. The couple involved more than one draftsperson/ architect in the process. This gave them a greater understanding of the project and how it could be realised. They also became aware of quoting cartels and rather than succumbing to them, did their best to break them in order to get the best deals for their home. To put this advice into perspective, the couple saved about $50,000 on their windows and $45,000 on cabinetry – serious, serious savings!
Make sure you own all the plans and drawings on your home – don’t leave the copyright with a third party. If something goes awry in the build, as an owner you have the freedom to take your plans elsewhere; not so if they don’t belong to you. Intellectual property will of course cost you money initially, but it could well save you plenty more down the track.
Collect a quality team
Listen to recommendations from sources you can trust, find people whose quality expectations might even surpass your own if that’s possible and invest in their talent. The couple appointed an interior designer who played a crucial role in the home’s final stages. With her encyclopaedia of contacts, her eye for function as well as form, Dinesh and Ian are adamant that she not only added immediate value (from knowing how to get the most from cupboard space and where to hide power points, to how to style a whole room), but contributed to the home’s re-sale value (not fans of baths, the two were nonetheless talked into having one). Providing a quality team can however work both ways, as was the case for the couple when their builder dismissed a plumber for ignoring requests and attempting to cut corners twice. Dinesh and Ian were able to introduce the builder to a plumber who’d helped them on a previous renovation, and the two have developed a mutually beneficial business relationship.
Communication and organisation is paramount
Dinesh and Ian would meet with their builder every Saturday for up to four hours to discuss the work in progress. This was not only a review, but a forecast to the immediate work ahead. Information was meticulously documented - Ian maintained a dropbox folder shared with key contacts and a large hard-copy folder containing all information was printed and copies given to each key group on the build. Maintaining an audit trail meant the couple always had their finger on the pulse. When the build was at its busiest and people weren’t sure if they were Arthur or Martha, the audit trail kept everyone on the same accurate, objective page (and even reminded Ian and Dinesh about some of the decisions they’d forgotten they had made – easily done in the frantic pace of a build). Dinesh and Ian would occasionally visit outside the prescribed times, which not only kept the builder on their feet but gave the couple a raw update on precisely where things were at. On occasion when the build was closed for the day Dinesh and Ian would wander the house taking photos with his phone that highlighted problem patches, emailing them immediately to the builder. The groups had a very frank but fair relationship with each other. Dinesh and Ian would listen to their suppliers rather than remain stubborn on certain issues. This not only won them respect, but opened their minds to other ways of achieving the same – or better – outcomes.
Hands on deck
Ian took extended leave from work to project manage the build for five months. This move certainly saved the two a fortune – not only did it mean everything was kept on track but Ian (and Dinesh on weekends) were able to do a lot of the running around on behalf of their builders, thus keeping the experts on site and focused on the job at hand. It also afforded a quality assurance that might have otherwise slipped through the cracks – seemingly small things (lighting not adroitly aligned) could be nipped in the bud before they became permanent fixtures. Ian’s self-appointment paid for itself when it came to the bespoke stairs. An oversight meant there was no way the install could go ahead as planned (it would have resulted in piercing the hydronic heating), and it was their builders who recommended anchoring the stairs to the window H-frame and Ian who identified a solution by creating a beam at the base to which the bottom of the stairs could be affixed.
If you don’t have the budget now, plan for later
Dinesh and Ian went over their budget but even so, they had certain priorities they knew had to be part of the renovation and build. Other features however, they were content to put on the back-burner for the time being. However, their genius stroke was to plan for these features now, rather than later. For example, if the budget didn’t allow for the specific remote operated blinds they were after, then the build would at least lay the foundations to make installation smooth down the track. And have a contingency fund! In Dinesh’s words, everything you end up seeing tends to happen in the last three months of the build. Running out of budget right at this point could be disastrous.
The right builder – and the right deal
Make sure all roofing, plumbing and draining work comes under your agreement with the builder. The building industry is regulated and if something goes wrong, you have a recourse that might otherwise not be there. When you consider the potential cost of problems associated with such works, this is advice well worth putting into practice. Additionally, Ian and Dinesh chose a contract that allowed them to select the materials and pay their builder on an hourly rate (they reviewed his work on a weekly basis to check against invoicing). This type of contract meant the builder didn’t add additional cost onto supplied items, the clients selected the materials they wanted, and gave the builder the focus of building rather than sourcing materials. Whilst this may have some risk as you don’t lock in a price with the builder, you get the desired quality and also avoid paying the costs associated with the risk with a fixed contract, which potentially means more money can be spent (or saved!) on the renovation.
A sincere thank you to Ian and Dinesh for letting us into their home and sharing their renovating and building experience.