IMAGES COURTESY OF G.J. GARDINER HOMES FROM RECENT RENOVATIONS
To rebuild or to renovate? And how do we know if we can afford to? Many of us have stared down this dilemma, feeling like Alice in Wonderland looking at our existing home and wondering when it became so small; or when our children became quite so big.
People who love their homes often head towards renovation, and along the way they seek out certainty of result and price, only to discover this can be akin to finding the Holy Grail.
Julie Nelson had given up renovating her family’s much-loved 1927 Spanish-mission house in Caulfield. While the façade was beautiful, the outdated rear add-on was too small and it was freezing in winter and searing in summer.
“We wanted a contemporary kitchen and living area and we were looking for space for our kids to hang out with their mates,” she said.
Moving was not an option – they loved their home and where it was. So Julie and her husband found architect Selwyn Blackstone, who designed a new contemporary double-storey back for their home. All was going to plan until the tenders came in and the Nelsons realised their dream renovation was going to remain that way, with quotes well outside budget and no certainty on costs.
About this time, Julie visited the Melbourne Home Show with her sister. By chance, she spoke to Michael Krause’s team from G.J. Gardner Eastern Suburbs. She explained that her family had hoped to renovate but quotes had taken this out of reach.
“They were friendly and helpful. They helped us figure out what we could do and what we could do without and still achieve what we wanted. For instance, our original design included a very expensive timber-and-glass staircase, and by taking it out and putting in a standard carpeted staircase we made a substantial saving,” she said.
“We thought we needed expensive heating and cooling to cope with the size of our new home but Michael and his GJ team showed us how we could use zoned systems instead and make another substantial saving.
“With GJ we picked all of our finishes and it was all costed upfront. It was so much more reasonable than the previous quotes we had received and it was a fixed price so we could go ahead. They were also very happy to work with our architect, which was important to us.”
After the contract was signed and work started, any variations have been costed and signed off, removing surprises but not flexibility.
“We know where we are, what we are getting and when it will be finished. Michael has been delivering all the way,” Julie said.
The Nelsons are looking forward to moving in September into their new double-storey renovation, including main bedroom with walk-in wardrobe and en suite, kitchen, living and dining area opening onto outdoor living and laundry. Upstairs are two bedrooms, a study and bathroom. The original front of the house includes two bedrooms and formal living and dining rooms.
Krause says he and his team only take on work that they know they can give their full attention and finish to the highest standards with full budgetary control.
“With us you won’t get surprise over-runs. We build every house as if we were building our own home. We are meticulous over quality and we hate to waste money.”
Krause says while their core business is building new homes, they also do a lot of major renovation work, with recent jobs in Brighton, South Yarra, Camberwell, Caulfield, Abbotsford, Richmond and Heidelberg.
“People want contemporary living spaces combining kitchen, meals and living. They want butler’s pantries and walk-in robes and en suites. Victorian and Edwardian houses look fantastic up front but when you go through the front door the rooms can be small and boxy and you want more space.”
Krause says some of customers prefer to knock down their existing home and build a new one, but others can’t bear to part with their homes. They generally keep the façade and update the back to get what they require.
Another client, Richard Conacher and his wife, are onto their second major renovation with Krause.
“I needed a fixed price because we had limited funds. I did have someone look at it on a cost-plus basis but I couldn’t do it because he suggested it was going to be much more than Michael’s price. Michael was very reasonable and I knew he was very honest and would deliver the project to that price from our first experience,” Conacher says.
The renovation of their 1930s red-brick duplex in Camberwell began last September and is nearly finished. The renovation has included new living, dining and kitchen area, a bathroom and laundry. Their previous renovation with Krause was of a Richmond terrace house, which the young family outgrew.
“We didn’t want to move too far out and we found our great duplex for sale and realised we had to renovate again. Our duplex had a great floor plan with a central hall but didn’t have any of the contemporary spaces or features we wanted,” Conacher says.
“It was a very good experience the first time around and it has been a great experience this time. His foreman is fantastic and it’s been very easy.”
G.J. Gardner Homes Melbourne Eastern Suburbs,
281 Whitehorse Road, Balwyn, 9836 3004