Part 3

Crafting the Cottage

Well I last wrote the blog on the 11/11/2016 and its now the 22/12/2016 and I am sitting still for the first time as I am strapped into a seat in Japan Airlines economy section after a blitzing six weeks and my there is a lot to share.

Firstly, time in renovations stretches more than elastic so always allow an extra buffer, or three…especially if you get creative half way through and double the scope of works!

November started with demolition of four internal walls. After an engineer inspection we discovered that the benefit of a four-metre-wide home is that the roof trusses support the entire building! With that liberating discovery out came the removal of four rabbit warren walls in the rear of the house to open up the entire back area.

Form follows function is an age old interior designer’s mantra. The existing floor plan had the rear entry door open to the toilet, adjacent to an enclosed 1.8 x 1.8m kitchen next to a closed-in, small triangular room that really was just a walkway past the fireplace into the toilet area. The laundry was only accessible from the rear garden and the path to it uncovered.


At the request of our lovely followers here is the addition of a before and after slideshow of each room.









Somehow, I always had the vision of this as the perfect rental for a young working mum and the worst element of that would be tottering out barefoot in ice-laden mountain mornings through the garden to get the washing or drying done before sunrise. After numerous bubble diagrams and chats with all trades on site the solution was sought – move the toilet to the existing external laundry on the opposite side of the house; open up the wall and make the room internal and connect it to the kitchen. Combine the toilet and laundry together (as there is a bathing area in the middle of the cottage) enabling an extra two square meters of kitchen space.

Once this was decided the diving wall between the dining and kitchen came out and with some exceptional on site welding of structural support iron beams in the ceiling, we had an open plan L-shaped kitchen dining space!


What a difference! The fireplace had now truly become the focal point of the home. One obstacle to overcome in an 1897 miner’s cottage is the years of add-ons to the home, and floor levels.

Working on a strict budget meant we needed a forgiving material, easy to install, warm underfoot and dramatically contemporary to create an urban aesthetic in the mountains. Gerflor Australia’s Fisherman’s Ocean, available from the local Lithgow flooring shop now dictated the kitchen palette, and due to its patterning, it is exceptionally forgiving to the wear and tear of a rental property.

Speaking of kitchens, be very careful when sourcing recycled and preloved items from eBay that your auto bid entry does not accidentally add an extra 0 to your maximum bid – for a moment our $800 pre-loved kitchen with all appliances suddenly had a thirteen second  window of escalating anywhere up to $8000!!! As the laptop key bounced thrice with my excitable touch typing!

Blood pressure dropped, the kitchen was ours and the boys were sent to Chippendale in Sydney to collect it! The same night I explored a great site called FREECYCLE, where people gift away items of value and a lovely family in Pymble were in need of their storage space again and hence we collected a second kitchen and all appliances that weekend.

The next six weekends were spent crafting and creating cupboards, benches, splashbacks and storage out of pre-loved joinery.  Re-inventing pre-loved materials takes lots of time.. and patience, and many trips to the local Bunnings store – who mind you were a wealth of information and help. Then, with a little magic late night help from Zarrella Kitchens, two new starlight wall units and silky white sink doors reinvented the entire space.

Tip – when using pre-loved joinery – it’s worth investing in new doors and materials made by a professional joiner where it will be affected by heavy use or water e.g. plate cupboard and under sink areas. When finishing pre -loved joinery, use colour to camouflage wear and tear and age.

The Zarella units threw a brilliant contemporary white into the space and added a great contrast to the St James Whitting signature colour Mountain Haze from our Elemental Paint collection…watch this space!

Resene Dark Fuscous Grey – our favourite Grey – worked a treat on the tired and heavily used areas such as the kickboard, corner cupboard and pantry. The Ironwood timber inspired by our colleague Babara Hamilton’s interior at the 2017 Colour your world exhibition, was the perfect linking device for the splashback near the cooking zone. A delightful display zone for spices, home-made jams, local honey and other delectable items of local produce worthy of display. This element was then repeated in the door frame to the laundry toilet – again

Tip – work in threes – From the age of Aristotle, the golden triangle, religious trinities, Nike slogans and Steve Jobs, three is the number that we remember the most and that creates visual balance and anchors in our memory and our interiors!

When recycling appliances go with the well trusted brands, we installed a Miele oven, cooktop and range hood with a stainless-steel splash back and utility rod to hang cooking tools on.

The most difficult element of the kitchen was working in a house with no right angles, my teenage boys discovered a relationship with the walls of that house that not many people would endure! Our sons don’t do the fast food part-time job, but when we have projects on, which is at least yearly in our family we engage them to work, and work they did. They have their own ABN numbers and were paid well for their time. They had training on tools, learnt WHS codes of practice, created invoices and spreadsheets outlining scope of works and projected costs, work and travel hours. Weekends consisted of cricket matches followed by sleepy train rides and angle grinding, sawing, drilling, gluing and feasting on pub dinners and doing it all again the next week!

The journey has been amazing, the last week undoubtedly fanatically fabulous as demolition turned into design and construction as we renovated the rental.

Attention to detail linked the back door colour to the curtains, and the flooring and the most dramatic impact was of course the track lighting. We used commercial track lighting left over from the OHANA project and this completely transformed the interior. Directional lighting works brilliantly for task areas, particularly in food preparation zones. The tubular fittings also shot the light down or across the room and not onto the ceiling – as she is over 100 years old and does not need highlighting! Track lighting is also easily adjustable for height and directional lighting needs.


The skin is the most important element of a renovation. My sons became Resene Paints converts as they discovered the intense viscosity and pigment concentration of colour – with no smell or VOC’s which enabled ALL areas – except the red and dark blue wall, to have only one coat – compared to retail brands that they literally threw out as three coats of white later there were still translucent in areas.

The flooring had the most impact on guests to the cottage as it celebrates colour and imperfection and the patina of age – perfect for Catherine’s Cottage – Gefloors Primetex Fisherman’s ocean and Resene Paints colour wood stain both complemented the age and character of this charming cottage.

Photos went to the agent at 9am Monday morning and she is up for rent and we hope that someone will fall in love with Catherine’s Cottage as we have. So, now I sit on the plane, relaxed, happy and waiting to explore the design details of San Fransisco and Japan!








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