Rod Sewell and his partner, Rose Brezmen, agree that opening up the space has made the biggest difference to their house in New Lambton Heights.
What is now an airy kitchen and lounge overlooking Blackbutt Reserve was once four small rooms with barely a view.
“Everyone is drawn to the view when they walk up the stairs,” Brezmen says.
“The frame and most of the floorboards are original, basically everything else is new,” Sewell says.
Like the house’s evolution, the home owners’ backgrounds are also worth mentioning.
Brezmen was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014 and underwent treatment the next year.
By 2016, she was doing well, so she, Sewell and their then three-year-old daughter, Amity, took a 10-month road trip across Australia.
They were meant to have a year of travel, but they came back two months early, more driven than ever.
“That time and space has helped me to come back with a very different approach to what I do,” Sewell says.
“It was great to have time out to get back to basics and think about life's next chapter.”
Sewell started investing in and renovating property five years ago as a part-time interest.
His portfolio is now established, and he’s renovated six houses, including this one.
“I’m drawn to property,” he says.
“It's something I’m passionate about and enjoy.
“I’m not motivated by the financial rewards as much as I am the end product.
I look to create a product to be proud of.”
To go with his work on houses, Sewell is also shift worker in the mines, and Brezmen is a nurse.
They bought this property in June last year after Sewell was tipped off by an agent.
Sewell drove by the property and decided to buy it before he even saw the inside. He liked the price and the area, and he trusted his instincts. Conveniently, Brezmen works at the John Hunter Hospital, a five-minute walk from their home.
Mark Tisdell, from MUD Landscape Design, suggested Sewell replace the windows with a sliding door, and a few days later Sewell decided to go all out and open it up.
Tisdell told the Herald that his role in the renovations was to conceptually design both the internal layout of the residence and update the landscape.
“Designing the internal layout was enjoyable, yet slightly challenging, as I don’t generally work indoors,” Tisdell says. “However, I think the end result is fantastic and speaks for itself.
Sewell said creating a relaxing, comfortable, usable area in the back outdoor space was the most challenging aspect. The house is built on a steep hill, so they took the dirt out of the hill and made a retaining wall.
“We’re laying back and terracing the back yard. I've used a cut fill method to avoid any material needing to be removed,” Sewell says.
“The rear garden has a significant slope; to design a usable space whilst keeping costs down was certainly challenging,” Tisdell says. “The end result is a collaboration between my ideas and Rod’s onsite build ability.”
They’ve also added a third bathroom to the four/five bedroom home, following the floor plan that Tisdell helped create.
“Callan Smith, an owner of Compass Additions, personally supervised their work making the process a lot easier while I was on shift,” Sewell says.
They decided to whitewash the cypress floors for a specific colour. Whitewashing is a unique process, and with the help of a flooring specialist from Compass Additions, they painted and stripped the floors twice. Fortunately, by the third time, they were perfect.
The couple also Airbnb a semi-self-contained studio next to the house’s entry. The couple says that when they aren’t renting it out, the space provides a great escape.
Brezmen helped with the interior design furnishings and homewares. She said she had little experience in this area, but learnt quickly.
Most of their decoration and furniture came from Freedom Furniture and Alyce from Willow Home Traders.
Along with the previously mentioned businesses, Sewell’s grateful for the help he received from Adam from Total Kitchens, Kristy and Lee from True Painting and Lisa from Tile Megamart.
He’s proud of what he’s accomplished, but this house is part of a much bigger dream for him.
“If this home was renovated for profit, I wouldn’t have poured as much money or effort into the renovation. This renovation began from a vision of what this family home once was and could be again. This result has come through expressing creativity and using imagination. I think by staying true to these values and surrounding myself with like-minded professionals, it helps me to enjoy what I do,” Sewell says.