BLISSFUL NEWTOWN RETREAT: First home in Sydney
My first home in Sydney!
I could not believe we bought our first house! I was so proud of me and my husband. Coming to a new country with $10,000 and saving the deposit for a house felt like climbing Mount Everest. According to Behavioural Psychologist Dan Ariely, meaning and creation are the main motivators for people. Those who reach the summit of Mount Everest never say “I will never do that again, this was hard”, instead they go down and start planning the next one again. This is simply me.
We bought this Newtown property mainly because that is what we could afford, but I fell in love with the backyard and its cosiness. Being so close to the city, enjoying the pubs, restaurants, alternative lifestyle of Newtown and escaping to this meditation oasis when you need to felt like the right choice at that age. All I could see was the Buddhist Centre a few steps from my home, my favourite Thai restaurant in Sydney and #BankHotel. House gave the feeling of “happily lived in”. Energy was great!
We did not do much renovations during the time we lived there. Who has time to renovate at the age of 25 when there is a pub next to you?
I love the lifestyle in Newtown. It was quirkier when we were there. My neighbour used to set up a whole stage with enormous speakers and gave death metal concerts in his backyard, I made so many friends from the LGBT community. I met a porn star in my first mothers’ group. After having my first child, I have realised babies do not “sleep like a baby”. Death metal concerts next door were not fun anymore! We moved to Lane Cove, but kept our Newtown house because we were very attached to it and couldn’t consider parting with it at that time. We moved back to our Newtown house a few years later when the kids were a bit older to renovate the house and sell. It was the time to buy our family home from the Lower North Shore area.
$10,000 budget – including cosmetic changes, furniture and some decorations as my furniture did not fit in from the door, a dishwasher and a fridge.
Curb appeal is step one of house sales. We always had a queue in front of the house during the open days. I had to give something pretty and exciting for people to watch while they were waiting. offee scented candle we lit in the house filled the street. Everyone should try the lifestyle of being so close to Newtown shops afterwards. (Evil subliminal advertising plan!) .
My daughter painted the fences at the front porch. When she finished, I painted the concrete with charcoal concrete paint. Next day, all was painted over by a “graffiti not so artist”, so we painted it back again. Concrete paint is very thick and exceptionally durable. So, I still check the house when I go to Newtown and the front porch looks the same after 5 years.
I had a tiny budget and the house was rented out for a few years and I knew painting would be my best friend for the next six months. Newtown house flow was OK. I never understood why they put the toilet in the best part of the house next to the backyard, but oh well, cannot change it with this budget. One thing I had to somehow change/make look good was the awkward shape of this backyard. Not sure why more land was given to my neighbour from my backyard, but the result was the right border of the backyard was uneven and had some sharp angles. Backyard photos never looked nice as they were always taken from a weird angle and a very wide-angle lens to make the backyard look big. Even though it was a large backyard by Newtown standards and a little oasis with all the established plants, we could never capture its true beauty. Little pots and shed had to go, this beauty has to turn into an oasis again.
I haven’t done much for the backyard other than pressure cleaning and fixing the pavers, painting some sections of the fences white and carefully dressing it according to its scale. Eyes will follow pretty things, just guide them where you would like them to look by placing attractive items in these spots. That awkward and uneven shape of the backyard was suddenly pretty attractive after painting that section green and organising a modular furniture in front of the uneven section. You could almost say the shape of the backyard was intentional with these small changes.
Built in bookshelves made the house more welcoming but still it was a small living room. I had to be incredibly careful with the size of the furniture. Scale was my biggest concern here. Again, too many colours, what is the colour palette here? These high ceilings are gorgeous.
Look at how cute these windows are after painting. Change the light fittings, paint, add built-in bookshelves for warmth and it looks like a different room. High ceilings looked even higher with 2 wood panels on the sides of the fireplace, large long mirror on the fireplace placed vertically to highlight the beauty of the ceiling and made the room look larger. I know area rugs are supposed to go under the furniture and cover the whole area, but I bought two #Freedomfurniture rugs for this room, one large, one small, and the smaller one made the room look bigger when the direction of the rug stripes were right. Just experiment when you are not sure. All shops accept returns.
Even though I love textured paint, this was not the right colour for this room. Blue skirtings, brownish two tones walls and dark floor made this room look smaller than it was. There was also no natural light here. This room was screaming for a white paint. Unfortunately, I do not have an after photo ☹
Kitchen was tricky in the Newtown house. It was outdated, no dishwasher in this century and it was filthy. I have researched the prices to change the benchtop. It felt like this would make the biggest impact. One of my close friends suggested the same thing; I truly trust her taste. Unfortunately, my budget was not enough. I have decided to try one of the benchtop paints. Even though it looked good, I would not suggest it. It started chipping so quickly even though I have done everything according to the instructions. It looks like stone but feels cheap. I also painted my tabletop with the leftover paint to create a stone effect.
I scrubbed the stairs so hard my neighbor thought we changed the stairs as well. It was an entirely different color after cleaning.
It is so important to find good tradespeople. I wanted to add a dishwasher above the washing machine. Many tradies asked for crazy prices or said cannot be done. One guy I found from #Airtasker created miracles for us. All work was done without any fuss, reasonably priced and quick. I used #Airtasker many times during this renovation. Just one night before the open house, we had some electrical problems and none of the lighting in this area worked. We posted the task at midnight, a few people replied immediately, we chose the most experienced one. He came at 6 AM in the morning, fixed them all and we had the open house at 9 AM.
Finally, we had space for a dishwasher. Big part of the budget went to dishwasher and fridge. My budget conscious husband bought the fridge from Gum Tree. Fridge had to be reset every 10 days ? It was working normal for 10 days and then decided to heat the contents instead of cooling ? We could never reach the seller again. But #FisherPaykel dishwasher was a gem! I have never seen a dishwasher drying even plastic containers that well in my life.
Upstairs did not need any work. Phew…
Houses are larger at Lower North Shore. None of my furniture from Lane Cove would even pass through the front doors of the Newtown house. We moved all our furniture except a few items to #Kennards storage for 6 months. I went to #LawsonsAuctioneers and spent $500 on furniture that would need some love. Seven chairs (four for the table, two occasional chairs for the living room and one for the upstairs make up table), a small table that I painted with the leftover benchtop paint, and a large mirror on the fireplace. Any second-hand item you buy has to be disinfected as you do not know where it was kept and how it was used. I was not planning to use them later so painted some even without undercoat, upholstered majority, and used them all for 6 months. Kept only a few and sold in #Ebay after the sales. Used the decorative items I had and borrowed a few nice pieces from my friends.
House sold for a great price. Anthony from Newtown Belle Property was a sweetheart. We were renting out for $580 pw. The investor who bought the house rented out right away for $730 pw. It felt like a huge renovation at that time, but it was all cosmetic changes really. Still, it was a great confidence booster. We learned how renovations work in Australia, that we can do it, our marriage is strong enough to handle renovations, kids are OK without their toys for 6 months and they are good, understanding, easy-going kids and finally my IT geek husband can use some power tools.