When Ruth Woods’ husband died several years ago, she was left with the difficult decision of what to do with the Brunswick home they had shared for more than two decades.
Before his death, he had told her she should sell the Victorian terrace home as, after 20 years, it had become run down.
But after much thought, she decided to stay and take on a renovation.
“We had discussed things before he passed away because he was very ill,” she recalled. “But the street I live in is so lovely and I have very good neighbours so I decided to stay.”
Nervous to tackle the renovation project on her own, Ms Woods said the best decision she made was to engage an architect, who helped her through every step, even when the project became much bigger than she had anticipated.
“It started as a small renovation, but it quickly became apparent that I was going to need to do something more to the house,” she said.
The brief to SWG Studio architect Santoso Budiman was to renovate and restore the existing main structure, including the original outbuilding laundry and second toilet, without extending the footprint.
And there were three must-haves.
“I wanted good storage, lots of power points and fly screens,” Ms Woods said. “I got everything I wanted, so I was really pleased.”
Her house has been transformed from a dark and often cramped space into a modern, light-filled abode. As for that outbuilding, it is now a renovated laundry, while the second toilet has been updated and incorporated into a fancy new garage with storage.
One of the biggest challenges for Mr Budiman was the small footprint, which was long and narrow and quite restrictive.
This not only made the build tricky, as the new extension wall fell on the boundary line, but it also required clever design to get the most out of the internal space.
“Joinery items played a huge role in this project because none of the bedrooms had any proper storage previously,” he said.
Now, Ms Woods has a floor-to-ceiling wardrobe in the main bedroom, and a library shelf unit in the second bedroom, complete with a sliding ladder to make access to her book and vinyl collection easy.
Bi-fold doors leading to a decked area mean Ms Woods now has both a view and access to the backyard from the kitchen.
“In the old house, the kitchen was in a lean-to and there was only one small window out the back,” she said. “Now, I can sit at my kitchen table and just look at the garden.”
The heritage character that drew Ms Woods to the home in the first place was maintained, with the original ceiling, including the ceiling roses and cornices, fully restored.
Meanwhile, the floors were replaced with new oak timber boards throughout, creating a consistent flow.
Having moved out for the duration of the renovation, Ms Woods found herself in awe when she returned to live in the house.
“It was really quite odd moving back in because I lived for so long in quite a run-down house,” she said.
“I was too nervous to do anything initially, but since then I’ve had fun settling in and redecorating.”
Ms Woods, a self-described procrastinator, said having the support of Mr Budiman in making decisions was priceless. However, according to him, she might be underestimating herself.
“It was a pleasure working together with Ruth,” he said. “She was so efficient and confident with regard to making decisions, and for that reason the process went smoothly.”
Postscript with Ruth Woods
What do people comment on the most when they first visit?
Those who knew the original house comment favourably on the layout, light and storage. People also love the kitchen, which looks out on to the garden.
Would you have done anything differently?
I am very happy with what we achieved. However, in an ideal world, I would have created a larger living area, but the budget did not allow for that.
Best renovation tip?
Get an architect. As a first-time renovator, I was anxious about the process. However, Santoso (Budiman) guided me through all aspects, including necessary approvals from council and surveyors. Communication between the builder, architect and myself was excellent, which ensured problems were dealt with efficiently.
Your favourite spot?
Sitting at the kitchen table, looking out on to the outdoor decking and garden.
Favourite time of day at home?
Early morning with the newspaper — because I’m old-school and still like newspapers — and a cup of coffee and, hopefully, some sunshine.
Brunswick’s best-kept secret?
I like the proximity to the city and good parks. I can walk to shops, services and cafes and leave the car at home.
What does home mean to you?
Home is about family, friends, shelter, comfort and warmth — and lots of laughs.