Dreams do come true!

Creating a Low-tox beautiful and functional home with BuildHer Rachel Harris

Let’s meet our BuidHer Rachel. She focused on creating a “low tox” home and now we welcome you to join us and take a tour with us.

We love this beauty! She – yes, she is a SHE and is full of depth, classic design, love and feels lived in. Rachel started her journey like many others, in stages and planned her build for what felt like yonks! She put her time and effort into to learning about building, refining her design and moodboards. Most importantly (and we are hearing this from many women), she wanted to build a healthy home. One that is functional, smart, sustainable, and as low tox as she could make it.

Rachel-House-BHC-035 LR
All Photographs by Dylan James Photography 

The period charm of the front façade paired with the contemporary warm extension at the back is a delight to be in. The warm American Walnut / Alabaster Matt cabinetry @polytec paired with Grigio Orsolo stone benchtops by @artedomus give the kitchen a classic feel. The glazed back wall looking out on to the green is inviting, and framing the view is lush greenery growing over the timber pergola.

Pops of colour and personality find themselves in the bathrooms and the second family living is exactly as its intended – cosy, relaxed and connected to the garden, living and kitchen.

The low down

So who lives here?

Rachel and Mark, with their three kids Lucas 13, Poppy 11, Gil 8 and their new spoodle pup Tug  

When did it happen?

2013 – 2019

Who helped?

“I was particularly interested to incorporate passive solar principles, low and no-toxic products, glues, copper free tapware, solar heat pumps, a great floor plan and rooms that were versatile. 

I wanted a living space that was able to be closed, so different groups/ages could gather without all being in the one space. We were very clear on our vision for the home, including floor plans, air flow, passive solar chimney.”

How great is that!?

Bought in 2013 the family was wanting to keep the original façade and front section of the house, they renovated this area in stage one. Keeping the front rooms and street appeal of the house while needing to extend up and out for more bedrooms and a functional open living area.

They built out to incorporate a kitchen, dining area, separate living, sauna room, bathroom, powder room and upstairs adding two children’s bedrooms. All this, of course, with the vision of creating a low tox home at the same time.

We were keen to hear from Rachel about her favourite part of the home and Rachel told us:

“My favourite part of the home? That is hard, I really do enjoy so much of it.

I love the kitchen, the eastern morning light and it’s connection the dinning space and how it can connect to the living room or be closed off from it. We all spend a lot of time in the kitchen dining area.

I love the light, the warmth, and the cross ventilation. I love that daily I am grateful for being able to build this home and live here. Oh, and I love our filter tap in the kitchen (weird I know)! We had a bench top filter tap for 10 years and having an all in one is the bomb.

That said, I really did love the process of creating this home and the choosing of the finishes and design I would love one day to build again, who knows.”

Rachel worked closely with her team her builder MK Millar Constructions who came highly recommended. She also engaged @Co_kitchens to help refine the kitchen design and used her BuildHer Collective @buildhercollective community and knowledge to pull her project together and give her the confidence to move forward.

Rachel wanted to work with someone who got her vision of creating a low tox home. Building, after all, is a relationship that can last a long time!

“After an awful and very expensive issue with a former trade in late 2015, I was keen to engage someone who had very high standing with former clients.”  

Rachel credits Mark’s contacts and her confidence in her solution and decisions being a key reason to why after 3 months of first talking to MK Millar she was ready to build! Those of you in the journey know how amazing that is as she needed her Planning Approval and Building Permits to get over the line!

Every build comes with its share of tough times and the compromise for Rachel and her family was that they lived in the front of the home (the previously renovated bungalow) for much of the build. It saved a lot of money, meant Rachel was onsite and could chat with the builder and his super team.

“It was also hard with three kids in one room. We had a makeshift kitchen in what is now our laundry and one living space for everyone.  

But it was worth the sacrifice, and we are each so grateful. Especially with the many months of lockdown we have endured in Melbourne this space has saved our sanity, well some of it.”

Rachels Tips

  • Get a builder that you trust. Look at houses being built in your area. Even knock on the door and talk with the owners, ask if they would use the builder again. Do your research – get the best builder you can, that will save money and stress.  
  • Being part of BuildHer Collective helped with the workbooks and info to develop your vision. Some of which I had done, but this really helped solidify key areas.
  • Do not rush to renovate. We would never have this home if we had tried to do it all when we first bought and did stage 1. Waiting gave us the opportunity to live with the rough back section and get to know the house, the block and what we did and did not want/need, where we wanted to place the kitchen, what the light was like on the block and so on. And it gave us time to save!
  • If you are going over on budget, pull back on things like custom built-in pieces which are typically $$, save up and have them installed later when you have the budget. My husband’s study is fitted out with short term furniture for now. 
  • I learned a lot – from trusses to floor levels. Despite having a great builder, there were a few hiccups – I think you just have to expect to have them. Mark absolutely listened and fixed our concerns.  

There were sometimes days between me seeing an issue and talking with MK Millar, it was great for me to get onto a Q & A with Rebeka or Kribashini or Facebook and ask questions of what others have done in similar circumstances. It reassured me that Mark was giving good and sound solutions and reduced my concerns. 

Honestly, the member fee paid itself off many times over, as did having a trustworthy builder. 

As you know, for many of us the building journey is one that continues months and years after the majority of works are finished. And that’s OK! Rachel worked hard on her vision of creating a low tox home and it has paid off.

Rachel and Mark are now saving for curtains and blinds, and living room furniture, plus a bunch of paving… “Our choices meant we did go over budget, about 10%, so these things needed to wait”.

Need some support with your building journey?

BuildHer Collective can help you here because that’s what we do – we help women build!

Our Build Like a BuildHer program has been designed to help you understand and navigate the building and renovation process, and includes all of the things to get you through. We know for Rachel it was invaluable, so if you’d like to find out a little more about it, click HERE.

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