PROPERTY: Terrace renovation a labour of love

Nobel Prize-winning physician Albert Schweitzer is credited with saying: "there are two means of refuge from the misery of life - music and cats."

Both are in very much in evidence in Shirlie and Ian Andrews' renovated timber terrace on The Hill.

A stunning work by Austrian artist and self-confessed cat fancier, Rosina Wreichmaster, incorporating both cats and music, hangs in their front room, aptly named the music room.

The room is filled to the brim with books on shelves made from the timber recycled from an old waterbed, and unusual musical instruments the couple have collected in their travels over the years are everywhere you look.

A drum from France sits on the floor near the fireplace, as well as Shirlie's collection of percussion instruments from her teaching days.

A lute and a Chinese two-string violin called an erhu hang nearby on a wall.

Next on Shirlie's wish-list is a baby grand.

The music room sets the tone for the rest of the house, which evokes a great feel the minute you walk through the door.

A true labour of love, which the couple have worked at on and off for years now, the run-down timber 1880s terrace came into their hands adorned in "revolting pink and purple colours with green carpet".

It wasn't their first renovation. The Andrews have done a number of rental properties and do-er-uppers over the years, but this was the one they did for themselves.

"All my friends got PhDs while I renovated," Shirlie quips.

Ian's background in town planning and urban design was a big plus, as was a small legion of friends, labourers and tradies.

The original terrace was in reasonable condition, despite the gaudy paintwork and some plaster damage from the Newcastle earthquake.

But the couple readily admit it took two years to pull the house apart and three years to put it back together, working around their other commitments.

"The downstairs kitchen, bathroom, laundry and a flat built in the '50s were so badly done, we gutted them and started again," Ian says.

The floorboards sat just on the sand, and when the roof was removed, the whole house started to wobble.

"Then, when I took the internal linings off, there was no cross bracing," Ian recalls.

"We discovered as we went basically; it was a lot of fun," he says.

Rotten floorboards, white ant damage, a sunken wall that needed jacking and a new foundation, and an old chimney that disappeared somewhere above into the flat addition, were just some of the challenges the couple faced.

A few years of hard yakka have made all the difference and the rebuilding process has heralded a gorgeous new kitchen, laundry and bathroom area with additional bedroom, bathroom and office space upstairs that largely follows the original footprint.

Now, walls smartly clad in Colorbond, cedar windows and two fabulous deck areas to the rear have created a very comfortable inner city house that remains faithful to its early origins at the front and has been cleverly and sympathetically modernised at the rear.

"We are very proud of what we produced, we think it is a beautiful place," Ian says.

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