What to do when your ideas don’t fit the ‘cookie cutter’

Here we have the multi-talented BuildHer, Justine Gaitz. She’s a copywriter (she wrote her blog), artist, and creative director of Terren, which you will learn about later. Not only that, she’s a mum and lives next door to her parents! Read how she started down one path on her building journey, then ended up on another to make her dreams become a reality.

My connection with BuildHer began like any other… bonding over a joint love of Polished Concrete. (Half of you are laughing about how ridiculous that sounds and the other half are nodding because they get it – the polished concrete fanclub is very much a BuildHer staple. )

It was 2019 and it had been a long 18 months since my husband and I had purchased a property to develop – with my parents. The plan was for two townhouses and endless amounts of free babysitting. My parents (South African immigrants) had always been fairly conservative when it came to money so they were convinced that they wanted to do the “safe thing” by approaching a ‘custom’ builder that had built hundreds of homes in our neighbourhood. They planned to walk through one of their display homes, and pick from their list of “extras” in order to build two modern homes, that they would know the cost of from the outset. Of course, I now know that’s how the volume guys draw you in – and for those that are willing to build their exact spec home and stick within their design parameters – it can be a very worthwhile model. However for me – the polished concrete lover – being told that to remove the “included tile flooring” from our spec and instead polish the concrete structural slab (my original plan) was “simply not possible” and perhaps the final straw in a long list of red flags. In hindsight, that should have had us walking away from that builder a LOT sooner.

Anyway, at this point we had been through several town planning iterations, finally had town planning approval and were presented by one extremely condescending project manager with a contract price that was simply unbuildable. His only solution was to “not go so crazy in the colour room” in order to bring the price down. I needed impartial advice and after plenty of late-night googling I found BuildHer and with one quick chat about why there was no reason I couldn’t have the polished concrete floor of my dreams, I signed up.

Doing the course, and more specifically being part of the community, gave me the confidence to walk away from the project home builder and refuse to be condescended to like that again. We had to redesign, and redraft the entire project but I felt confident that it would be possible and thankfully my parents and husband were willing to trust me to take this project into my own hands.

For the sake of brevity, I’m skipping several steps here but eventually, after redrafting we found three builders we were happy to tender our build and felt confident that in doing so we were in the power seat to achieve a market rate and then have our home built by someone we felt we had a great rapport with -Michael Ryan from Marbuilt. Vitally this confidence came directly from having BuildHer in my corner.

Find yourself a builder who will go above and beyond, like getting their tiler to slice a 20mm Terazzo Tile in half so that they can fit in the tiled floor wastes.

Michael and his team immediately treated me and my family with the respect that BuildHer had told me we required in order to trust someone with our biggest investment. As a fellow polished concrete fan, he totally got my aesthetic and we could tell that he actually WANTED to build our homes. I can not tell you what a change that felt like after being on the project home conveyor belt for so long.

We signed the contract with him and over the next 8 months of building (yes he built both homes in 8 months!) we watched our dreams come to life. The rest of this story is perhaps best told through these photos of the home we have been lucky enough to live in for a year now.

Another life-changing experience that happened through this journey was the creation of a new business – Terren. After talking to our friends about what we had been through, Rodney Seidner told me that I would probably relate to the business idea that he and his other business partner, Paul, had been toying with for a while. They wanted to create pre-designed Architecture packages for those that didn’t want to subscribe to the volume builder process but also didn’t want to design their home from scratch without knowing what it would look like or cost. The pair were already running their very successful design and construct business – S&K Group so in order to bring this new idea to life they needed a third partner. I immediately knew this was exactly the kind of thing I wished had existed in 2018 when we started designing so I was super keen to be involved. But, as ever, I ran the idea past the BuildHer Facebook group and the responses were unanimous that YES this was a needed service that many could see themselves using. Once again, the group’s support gave me not only the confidence to make a major career shift but also the constructive advice I needed in order to make it a really useful service. You can read more about terren at terren.com.au or hear all about how one thing led to another on the podcast.

Me, my husband Ricky Pearl and our manager Earl Pearl (the Vizsla)

Written by Justine Gaitz

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