AN original frame and floor were the only features kept when this Islington miner’s cottage was converted into a luxurious inner-city pad.
But it was the home’s history that inspired the hard work that went in to the three-year transformation of the Chinchen Street residence.
Ricci-lee Wheeler bought the property from her father, who had purchased it about 15 years ago as a rental investment.
With partner and carpenter Ryan Bartlett, she spent three years renovating while living-in.
“I just remember when I first went in there, I laid on the floor and cried,” Wheeler says.
“I was thinking … this is a dump.
“Until I started to look at the floor, ripped up the disgusting schoolroom carpet to find there was hardwood floors under it.
“The floorboards was what made me say ‘I can renovate this’.” And it is the floorboards that are Wheeler’s favourite feature of the completed home.
“Because you can’t buy that,” she says.
“You can’t replace 100-year-old hardwood.
“And we were able to rescue them perfectly.”
While the floorboards were retained, the rest of the circa-1892 home was gutted (the couple filled nine skip bins in the process).
A bedroom was removed, making the finished home a two-bedroom dwelling.
“I sacrificed a bedroom for the lounge and dining,” Wheeler says.
And it was “absolutely” the right decision, she says, given that the original layout had next to no living space.
“There was probably, inside the house, four internal doors before you even got to the backyard,” Wheeler says.
“A very rabbit warren sort of a house.
“Typical miner’s cottage.
“We gutted the whole thing, made it all open, took all the doorways up to the roof.”
The remodelled home has a 7.1-by-3.5 metre open-plan lounge and dining area, a space that in the former house was shared by the third bedroom.
The kitchen servery has an opening to the living-dining space.
French doors off the kitchen lead to the backyard.
Wheeler says this outdoor space presented the project’s biggest challenge.
A fig tree had to be removed at a cost of $6000.
When pavers were removed to make way for turf, the couple found not only bricks under those, but another layer of cement.
Wheeler says the hidden past of an old home was important to consider in a renovation.
“As soon as you pull down a wall or move anything, put 20 grand on it,” she says.
The hidden past also revealed some pleasant finds.
“When we pulled out the fireplace, the deeds of the house were all in the fireplace with notes and love letters,” Wheeler says.
As with the decision to remove a bedroom, the couple also went against the grain when it came to the bathroom.
“The bathroom, a lot of people would have put the laundry in the bathroom,” Wheeler says.
The laundry is a separate room located between the bathroom and kitchen.
“The bathroom, it’s massive,” she says of the 3.2-by-2.8 metre space.
“We decided to go with a double vanity, bath tub, put all the luxuries in there.
“A lot of miner’s cottages, the bathroom is like a concrete bunker.”
The luxuries include the custom-made double vanity.
The Natural Stone Factory, Sandgate, created it using a piece of marble quartz that Wheeler selected.
It features gooseneck taps, from Highgrove Bathrooms.
The free-standing bath, its floor-mounted tap and most of the other pieces in the bathroom are from Highgrove.
The “beautiful” but “really expensive” grey porcelain tiles are from Mirror Ceramics.
For inspiration in styling other areas of the home, Wheeler sought expertise from Empire Furniture, Hamilton.
She says it’s where her show-stopping pieces were sourced.
These include an ornate wall-hanging mirror in the master bedroom, another mirror above the fireplace in the dining area, a royal coral sculpture displayed on a living area side table, and a palm tree artwork on the wall between the kitchen and lounge/dining space.
Others, such as tikis and hula pieces, were picked up on travels to Hawaii.
Wheeler says she was going for a tropical theme.
Having enjoyed the fruits of their labour, the couple sold the home in September and are now living in Georgetown while searching for their next renovation project.
“We’re not going to live in one again,” Wheeler says.
“We’ll buy another one and flip it.”