IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK: HOW TO USE RENOVATION TO TELL A STORY

Hello original cross beams!

Hello original cross beams!

The excitement at discovering the original trim was a beautiful Tiffany Blue (yes it had it’s own pantone even in 1920!), giving the verandah cross beams their first look at how the street has changed in 50 years and convincing the clad walls to show the hidden v-jays beneath, heart be still….

If you’ve ever been a tourist in an amazing new place, you know that feeling of wonder and awe that overtakes you when you realise the history behind the monuments, the architecture, the people, and the culture. It’s a feeling that takes me back to being a child, where nothing is more important than what’s in front of you right now. You want to look at everything all at once, and you run around like an over-excited chook scratching at the surface of everything. The possibilities are endless, and everything seems undiscovered and brimming with potential.

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But not everybody appreciates history. Countless students of history have probably wondered what use they could possibly find in learning about the past. If your kids ever bug you about it having to learn history, tell them we have a lot to learn from the past and thank me for these real-world examples.

Why do you think the Vietnamese-owned bakery down the road makes the best bread/croissants/pastries/pies you’ve ever had this side of the Eiffel Tower? If you’ve studied history, you’ll know that the French colonised Vietnam in the late 1800s and held it up until the 1950s. So what do you do when you enter a country uninvited? That’s right, you swap recipes.Why are there streets named Boundary Street in places like West End and Spring Hill?

It was one of many shameful chapters in Australia’s post-1788 history, whereby a curfew existed to stop indigenous people from entering the town at night. So next time you stagger up Boundary Street West End, after a night at the Lychee Lounge, think about the footsteps you are taking on the sidewalk of history.Why do brides carry bouquets of flowers? (And by the way, that’s also how you pronounce Bocquee.) Well, it wasn’t to look pretty baby. It was to ward off evil spirits with something that resembled a garlicky bouquet garni that nowadays you’d be more likely to find on a lamb roast. If only I’d known THAT the first time around.

So you see, the potential for discovering the stories that these houses could tell is a huge part of why I love the vernacular Queensland architecture. These buildings that are uniquely Queensland give me this same feeling everytime I start a new project. If the walls could talk, what would this old girl–begging to be restored to her former glory–have to tell me?But houses don’t talk, even though they were once so alive. You can talk to old residents and neighbours as I have done in the past, but there are fewer and fewer people alive today to tell the tales of these timber and tin beauties. The stories tend to unfold in my head as I peel away the layers during the renovation. 

To paraphrase from the recent Goosebumps movie, like all good stories there is a beginning, a middle, and a twist! There’s almost never an ending, as architecture and renovation is so incredibly fluid and most certainly filled with plot twists. Like those Choose Your Own Adventure books I used to read as a child, you can choose the path you want the story to take you on, and sometimes the renovation road less travelled is the one that makes for the most interesting stories.

Exposing the original walls in the main bed

Exposing the original walls in the main bed

Looking to the new part of the house from the original..

The original house welcomes the new house

Exposing original vjays after removing cladding

Exposing original v-jays after removing cladding

Tiling in the ensuite to show original details

Tiling in the ensuite to show original details

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CHANGING YOUR LIFE: HOW TO FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS IN 7 STEPS

Dreams-IMG_4097smallIt’s not easy to think about leaving the secure womb of employment after years of picking up that regular pay cheque. It’s habit forming, but remember not all habits are good.

It runs through your mind like a bad slapstick reel on repeat. Head (who looks a lot like your parents) says, “Don’t be ridiculous, how are you going to make any money out of following your dreams? They’re dreams not reality, wake up to yourself.” On the other hand, Heart knows you are bitterly unhappy working for the man, and it knows you have aspirations, and ideas, and a life purpose to fulfil.

Heart knows you are literally dying inside doing what makes you so unhappy. Head goes for the sucker punch and reminds you how hard you’ve worked to get where you have. “What about your super, what about your mortgage, what about your lifestyle”, says Head. Shut up Head, just bloody shut up. Heart pleads with you, “What about your health, what about your happiness? Is this the desperately dissatisfied life you want to live for another 30 years?”

But at some point you need to listen to your heart not your head, because what you know at a deep level is that Heart is always right. If Head was right, you wouldn’t be desperately seeking something else (there’s an 80s movie about that).[read more=”Read more” less=”Read less”]

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m an accountant/finance/systems/project manager who happens to have a very creative side. They are not mutually exclusive as some narrow-minded people might lead you to believe. After all, big, sparkly sequins won’t stick without glue.

My approach to making the move from corporate employee to self-employed has been one part accountant and one part successful, happy person. One part accountant because I have acquired some pretty substantial financial  and business nouse, and I’m not silly enough to pick up my creative shotgun without first having all of my ducks in a row. In fact, I have my corporate career to thank for much of this. And if I hadn’t experienced what I didn’t want, then I may never have found what I did. For that I am truly grateful.

Making big changes in your life is something akin to undertaking a renovation. Where a renovation might start with the goal of making large-scale changes to your home, I started with a goal of making pretty big changes in my personal and professional life. Don’t think you can split the two. They are inextricably linked.

Then comes the planning. Planning a renovation can be a huge undertaking, and it really doesn’t lend itself to a scattergun approach. Similarly, I clearly articulated the steps I needed to take, to move myself from employee to self-employed. With the plan in mind, I was able to proceed one step at a time. Taking the first step is hard, but it’s one you have to take in order to keep walking briskly down your chosen path.

A bit of upcycling and repurposing comes into play when you’re renovating your life. I didn’t simply wake up one day and decide I was going to throw everything I knew into the skip bin of life, never to use it again. My corporate skills and abilities have been very well upcycled in my move to successful, happy person. No experience has been wasted in renovating my life purpose.

As well as accessing the experience and knowledge I already had, I have had to learn many new things. Much like undertaking a renovation, things gets easier the more you do them, and the more you learn from the mistakes you make. And let’s not gild the lily. Of course there have been some pretty spectacular failures along the way. That’s the start of a whole other blog right there! The Chinese philosophy of yin and yang, might suggest that failure is but success in a different costume.

What take-home tips have I got for you on following your dreams?

Dream it. Plan it. Make the first move. Keep going. Check it. Redo it. Never give up!

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RENTVESTORS – HOW TO LIVE INNER CITY AND KICK START YOUR REAL ESTATE PORTFOLIO

Rentvestors-IMG_3859 smallIf you haven’t heard of the concept of rentvestors yet, what decade have you been living in? Probably circa 1984 like me. Anyway, it’s the latest investment thing you need to know about it. Trust me I’m an accountant, and I know a thing or two about investment things. And if it isn’t a thing, it should be a thing.

If you haven’t already guessed, it’s a combination of the words rent and investors. And that’s about as high tech as it gets.

On the subject of things, it’s a Gen Y thing. Because the affluent Baby Boomers (their parents) threw them all under the bus and priced them out of the housing market. Okay that could be over simplifying things, but I’m an accountant not a free-market economist.

Having being kept in the manner to which they wished to become accustomed (blame the Baby Boomers again), Gen Y f-i-n-a-l-l-y m-o-v-e-d o-u-t o-f h-o-m-e. Probably coerced, but nonetheless they left. Trouble is, they couldn’t afford to buy a place where they actually wanted to live. Affordability was not equal to their definition of civilisation.[read more=”Read more” less=”Read less”]

So Gen Y hatched a plan. They moved into rental accommodation where they wanted to live, and they purchased their first property in a place further out where they could afford to buy. Then they rented this investment property out, and stayed on in their close-to-civilisation rental accommodation. Thus, the concept of the rentvestor was born.

Cue serious resting accountant face here. The idea really does make sense. You get your rent from the investment property to cover your mortgage on the place, you get the tax benefits of owning a rental property, you get your foot in the door of the lucrative real-estate market, and you continue to live close to the city or close to your place of work by renting in the area you want to be in. This has the double benefit of also keeping renters in the higher end of town (probably owned by those Baby Boomers).

Developments like the one we have designed, built, and styled at Cheihk Crescent, Collingwood Park (http://www.realestate.com.au/property-house-qld-collingwood+park-121753302) are appealing to rentvestors as landlords. The homes are highly affordable for the investor, they’re brand new so they come with higher tax benefits, and they are extremely desirable to tenants who expect style with all of the modern conveniences of a new build.

I wonder how long it will be until ‘rentvestor’ is added to the dictionary?

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