Meet DevelopHer Anna – a civil engineer who’s passionate about building, Anna recently embarked on a remarkable journey to create a dream home for her family. With a love for building and an eye for design, she shares her experience from the initial decision-making process to the final touches. Join her as she navigates through challenges, collaborates with experts, and pours her heart into creating a space that’s both functional and beautiful, picking up valuable lessons along the way!
What was your background and why did you want to renovate a house?
I am a civil engineer and have always been fascinated by the building process and the ability we have as humans to come together and create something new. I love homes, as they are something we all interact with every day, and therefore, each aspect needs careful consideration. There are so many little decisions that need to be made along the way to balance all the competing priorities such as cost, aesthetics, and buildability, which can be exhausting but also what makes it fun and challenging.
When you bought this house, what did you see in it?
My husband and I had been looking for our first home and were initially undecided whether we wanted a turnkey or project house. After viewing a number of places, we couldn’t find anything brand new that we fell in love with and decided we could do a much better job ourselves! After viewing this house, we could immediately see the potential as either a renovation or knockdown-rebuild with great proximity to the High St, parks, cafes, and public transport. After a bit of back and forth with the real estate agent, we ended up signing the contract on a park bench Christmas Eve. Due to the poor condition of the original house and advice from multiple builders about the costs of trying to retain the original façade, we opted to go down the knockdown-rebuild path. By starting again, we were able to add features like a pool and garage and make use of the site footprint.
Who are your design team?
We engaged Tecture as our architect after falling in love with their contemporary design and timeless interiors. They had worked for a number of developers and understood how to deliver a high-quality outcome to a budget. We wanted to reflect the same quality and attention to detail in the exteriors and worked with Kate Patterson to develop the landscape design.
Why did you direct the site this way?
Through a competitive tender process, we signed a contract with Blueprint Constructions to deliver the build. As we were both working full-time with a young toddler and one on the way, we knew that we needed a competent, experienced builder to provide the day-to-day project management of the site through the build. With this taken care of, we were able to focus our time on the more strategic decisions that needed to be made while ensuring clear communication between the various professionals to deliver the final outcome.
What were you hoping to achieve?
We wanted to create a standout family home that combined elevated modern design with exceptional flow and functionality. We also wanted to achieve a sustainable house that catered to the future needs of the family. We started with a floorplan that ticked all the boxes for the modern family, ensuring the house had a good flow and space was utilized effectively. I particularly love the layout on the ground floor where the garage seamlessly flows through to the mudroom, butlers, and kitchen/living area. As we often host our overseas families and friends, I knew the importance of having a home that functions for entertaining large and small groups. The backyard alfresco and pool and BBQ area have been a hit over the Christmas break, and the highlight windows and in-built bar in the living area bring the wow factor.
How did you change and upgrade the finishes as you went along?
We locked all our fittings and finishes in at the start of our build as we had decided to run a competitive tender to find our builder. By providing all this information upfront, we were able to accurately compare tenders and have greater certainty over the overall cost. In saying that, we did have a number of smaller design changes that needed to be made through the build. Through the relationship we had with our builder, we were able to discuss these items as they arose, consulting with our design team as required to make decisions on how to move forward.
What was your favourite part of the build?
I really loved the design phase as this is where you have the greatest ability to influence the final design outcomes. I spent a lot of time measuring spaces and imagining how I would use each room, including mapping out what would go into each drawer/cupboard. This resulted in quite a few minor changes (such as leaving a space in the joinery for the microwave) that provide that extra layer of functionality to the design. I also love the framing stage when you can view all the elements that generally get covered up. Seeing all the pipes and conduits wrapping in and around the building is a good reminder of how complex our homes are and all the different expertise required to bring them together!
What were some of the learnings?
One of the most unexpected things I learned along the way is how much building a home is about mindset! Our home was built during one of the most uncertain times in the construction industry, with all the price rises, interest rate rises, and long lead times. We had a number of long delays, and the construction ended up taking over 6 months longer than the original schedule. In the moment, I wasted a lot of time stressing about costs and dwelling on things that did not go as planned. By stepping back and reframing the situation, I realised that there are always positives that can be drawn from these moments and by focusing on the final outcome (with the aid of a solid feasibility), it enabled me to think clearly and make the critical decisions.
Would you do it again/where to from here?
100%, I am still looking back at the beautiful photos of our house and thinking we did that. I definitely have the appetite to do another project and am open to a wide range of projects so long as it has a solid feasibility!
What would you say to anyone looking to join BuildHer Collective or DevelopHer?
There is something very inspiring about listening and sharing your experiences with a group of like-minded women who understand the building industry through and through. The fortnightly Q&A’s were an invaluable resource throughout our build, providing a space where I could ask all my niggly questions and get real-time feedback and advice.
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