Amazing reno: From hovel to hip
PAINT was peeling off the walls, inside was cold and dingy and the bathroom was little more than a concrete bunker underneath the house.
But that didn't stop Ant McCormack and his architect partner, Melina Hobday, from living in the 1880s cottage known as the "Hove St hovel" for nearly five years before they renovated it.
"It was liveable - but only just," Mr McCormack said.
"The bathroom was outside, under the house, and we had an umbrella parked at the back door for when it rained.
"People would come to our house and be like; 'where's the bathroom?'"
The young Brisbane couple had rented rundown, inner-city Queenslanders for many years before deciding they wanted one of their own.
"We love Queenslanders and worker's cottages, and we wanted something that hadn't been touched too much," Mr McCormack said.
"Something with character and the original bones still there."
That's when they found 17 Hove Street in Highgate Hill.
"When I first saw the house, I was not very sure at all because it was pretty rough," Mr McCormack admitted.
"The only thing that had ever really been done to it was a cheap, late '60s kitchen add-on."
"But we wanted something we could sink our teeth into, while at the same time respecting history and heritage, but also bring up to speed."
Mr McCormack said living in it for several years gave them a feel for the place and how they wanted it.
"We spent years designing it, literally sitting in the house and sketching," he said.
"The first thing we did was the garden, and then we worked around that.
"We're both gardeners and it was kind of just a nothing garden with some very strange plants, so over time we chipped away at that."
The couple also did some painting and other minor improvements themselves until it became necessary to move out and get a builder involved.
"We planted some tropical birch trees so that they would become a nice focal point for the backyard, but that gave the builder quite a challenge to work around," Mr McCormack said.
"He wanted to drive an excavator over the top of them!"
They made every effort to ensure the character of the original house was retained and its appearance from the street maintained.
"We wanted to retain and respect the heritage of the cottage so we restored the original floors and VJ cladding," he said.
"We even retained the original chimney which was tough to do.
"An 1880s worker's cottage in Queensland with a double-height chimney - I think there's only a handful left."
Hidden behind the worker's cottage facade is a double-storey home with all the comforts and conveniences of modern life.
"There's nothing that didn't get touched in some way," Mr McCormack said.
An extension was added to the back of the property to create an open-plan living space on the lower level, connecting a terrace and private garden.
A double-height space over the kitchen and a large two-storey glass door allows natural light to fill the house.
"It's a small site so a lot of thought went into maximising the space and the important small details like off-street parking for our scooter out the front," Mr McCormack said.
The smart design has created a 162sq m floorplan featuring three bedrooms, including a master with a walk-in wardrobe and ensuite, an open-plan living/dining and kitchen, a family bathroom, separate laundry, office/library, back terrace and front veranda.
"It sounds cliche but most people so just say 'wow' when they walk through the front door and see this massive double-height glass door fully open," Mr McCormack said.
"It's completely unexpected, as is the amount of space.
"Better design makes the space bigger, not just having more square metreage.
"Everything is exactly where it should be."
Mr McCormack said they never considered raising the property and building underneath completely.
"I'm not a fan of getting a worker's cottage and putting it on stilts," he said.
A career opportunity in Melbourne means Mr McCormack and Ms Hobday are selling their dream home.
"We both love the house and have lived in it for various stages for over 10 years, and we've kind of become attached to it emotionally," Mr McCormack said.
During the initial stages of the renovation, he found a number of interesting keepsakes that helped to piece together the property's past, including the paint brush that had been used for its last paint job, a handmade ink well, bullet shell casings and newspaper clippings from 1920 stuck to the floorboards.
"It's our home, but we have to remember it's just a house," he said.
Mr McCormack said they would miss having everything at their doorstep.
The home is within walking distance of Brisbane State High School, St Laurence's College, Somerville House, South Bank Parklands, GOMA and Mater Hospital.
The property is being marketed by Luke Croft of Ray White - South Brisbane and is scheduled for auction.
Mr Croft said the property was a good example of what can be achieved with a small lot.
"It ticks all the boxes of low maintenance living in a premium inner-city location," he said.
"I've worked in the area for 16 years and I've never sold anything like this."
RENO FACT CHECK
Time taken: 10 months
Total spend: Approx. $500,000
End valuation: Going to auction, so cannot give a price guide