Q&A with Caroline from West End Cottage

For a long time now, I have been following a great Brisbane blog named West End Cottage.

It chronciles every step of the long process involved in renovating a home in (you guessed it) West End, an inner city suburb of Brisbane.


West End Cottage - before Photo from http://westendcottage.blogspot.com.au/
West End Cottage – before
Photo from http://westendcottage.blogspot.com.au/


I’m really fascinated by the design and building process and have watched this project weekly, seeing the cottage evolve from it’s bare bones into a stunning new home.

Caroline and her family, have recently moved in to their newly renovated and extended cottage and what once was the worst house in the best street, is now, nothing short of amazing.

Q&A with Caroline from West End Cottage

How long have you lived in Brisbane?

I first came to Brisbane in 2001 on temporary secondment whilst working on the CHOGM project. The day I arrived in Brisbane I knew that I would eventually move here – it just felt like home. I officially moved to here in 2002 after purchasing a house in West End. I was visiting a girlfriend and we randomly attended an auction – I ended up being the successful bidder.

For anyone who hasn’t read the blog, when did you purchase the cottage?

My partner and I (with only one child at the time) bought West End Cottage back in 2007 – we were living away from Brisbane at the time and I always had dreams of renovating our ‘worst house in the street’.

I’ve always had a fascination with older-style homes and I wanted to transform our tiny cottage into a functional family home whilst at the same time retaining it’s charm and character. It’s such a shame to see so many Worker’s Cottages being demolished when there is so much that can be done with them – you just need a vision, and I had plenty. 

Is this your first renovating/building project?

Hell no! I had done some minor renovations in the past and in 2004 I managed a rather extensive renovation as an Owner Builder on a house nearby.

What were your main objectives for re-designing the home?

Create a family home that would comfortably cater for a family of six

Retain the charm and character of the original cottage

Ensure adequate outdoor space

How did you choose the architect? 

OVP (Owen and Vokes and Peters) were the third architectural firm that we engaged (after things didn’t work out with the previous two, for different reasons.)  I was after something original and a little bit different but that was still in keeping with the existing dwelling. After my initial meeting I just knew they were the right people for the job. Not only did we have a good rapport but we both had the same general vision/goals for the project.

Any tips for others who may be embarking on the same journey?

Find someone whose work you absolutely LOVE. Meet with them, meet their clients and see their previous work for yourself (if possible.) You have to get on and enjoy working with them (I spent more time with Aaron than I did my partner during the design/construction period.)

Do you have any favourite resources (websites/shops/salvage yards) that you have used during the renovation that would help others who are renovating a Queenslander or older home in Brisbane?
As you can imagine, I have spent HOURS researching various ideas/products for the home. I do plan on putting together a list of products and services that were used during the renovation that I highly recommend based on quality and customer service. My go-to resources are too many to list but some of my favourite ones are:

The Design Files
My favourite Architect and Interior Designer websites – I love seeing their new work
HOUSES Magazine and HOUSES Kitchens and Bathrooms – I cannot miss a single copy
Galleries at favourite holiday destinations/special places for local and original pieces of art
Finlayson’s and Brett’s Hardware
Design Blogs and Instagram feeds – for heaps of free inspiration

What is your favourite spot in the new home?

Can’t really say for sure right now – each room has it’s own very unique and lovely quality about it. There are still many things yet to complete so each space is still a work in progress but I do love the sitting room, our eat-in kitchen, the ensuite and the brick terrace/courtyard that is wedged between the old cottage and the new addition at the rear – I can’t wait to crank up the fire when the weather starts to turn. Marshmallows and hot chocolate are ready and waiting!

Do you have any tips for surviving a renovation or building project?

Be prepared for delays – the design and construction phase can take longer than you expect. Keep some funds tucked away for unexpected purchases – e.g. we changed our bathroom tapware selection mid-reno which cost three times more. Don’t move in until the house is fully completed – we made this mistake thinking that there were just a couple of things to finish off and we have been living on a construction site since then – kids and renos definitely don’t mix.

…and after – the new addition at the West End Cottage


West End Cottage - new addition Photo from http://westendcottage.blogspot.com.au/
West End Cottage – new addition
Photo from http://westendcottage.blogspot.com.au/

From what I have seen, this project shows such clever use of design and an incredible amount of detail.  The once humble Worker’s Cottage has been transported into our modern era and adapted to suit the life of a large family, while working with the restrictions of a Demolition Control Precinct (DCP) and on a small lot.

If you follow West End Cottage on Instagram, you will see some snippets of the interiors as the home slowly takes shape with new furniture, light fittings and soft furnishings.  Caroline has a lovely aesthetic and her years of research are coming to fruition with the interiors!

Thanks for sharing your tips and insights Caroline, I’m looking forward to more shots of your beautiful home as it all becomes complete.

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