The Can of Worms, illustrated

As a bit of an epilogue to the saga of our restoration of the bit of Australian Architectural History, I promised to add some photos.

You can see the professional ones done by the good photographers at the Design Files. Those are amazing, much better than anything I could take.

I have a policy of only putting my own photos up on this blog — very long story involving a copyright troll operating from underneath a bridge in Las Vegas — but I’ll make a small exception here to include some publicly available real estate photos so you can see what changed. Keep in mind they used a wide angle lens, which I can’t reproduce.

Our architects also had someone come in and “stage” the house. It was 44 degrees out that day, the AC was unable to keep the house cool, and I felt bad for the team. But it wasn’t my idea to move all the furniture around (I thought we had placed it nicely) and take all the books off the shelves (why bother with bookshelves?) and replace the books with forgettable objects. Never mind. Design is a thing, now, and it’s the domain of those under forty. You can see the shots they took on Jane Cameron’s website.

Here are a few Before/After of the same basic shot. So, front of the house:

View of the house from the side:

View from the front door down towards the driveway:

The inner courtyard (zen garden impossible with constant leaf litter):

The back deck (note the aluminum wall which became a brush fence):

Of course the photos don’t do it justice. The garden is a dream. It’s private, peaceful, all native, soft edges, full of birds (and fish!). I told Sam Cox to do whatever he wanted, as long as it didn’t involve an expanding budget. He is basically an artist who uses a backhoe and spray paint in place of a paintbrush or pen and paper. He didn’t draw up any plans, didn’t give me a computer rendering, didn’t plan out all the plants and zones. He and his team showed up with a backhoe and huge boulders, which he expertly placed so it looks like the house is nestled into its surroundings.

Over the course of the next few months, they tore out and gave away the bluestone tiles, box shrubbery, and tropical plants, built a new deck out of spotted gum to replace the painted and rotting jarrah deck, a brush fence to replace the aluminum wall, a storage bin and platform to replace the rotting cupboards (that the possums had been using to get up onto the roof), a bike shed and brush fence and gate down on the driveway for privacy, and poured a concrete pond in the front. Dean, his expert slate layer, spent backbreaking hours laying acres of Castlemaine (local) slate on our patios and building a rock wall to replace the purple pool equipment hiding wall (See below) and I think he might still be suffering a little PTSD from the experience.

Another major project was to cover the pool with a slab of reinforced concrete. The picnic table is now sitting atop a 27,000L water reservoir. The rain that falls on our roof is pumped in, and then another pump runs an irrigation system out. Here’s the before and after of that:

And of course at the back of the house, where the water issues had resulted in a mould issue, the patio had to be torn out and re-built with the right drainage, with an extra “aggie” drain run underneath. They transplanted the rare Yuzu tree, which was sitting in an odd well-like structure (below), out by the deck. It’s thriving and recently hosted some Dainty swallowtail caterpillars.

Not long before Christmas, we had a brief discussion about plants — me basically saying “whatever you think will work and maybe some kangaroo paws” — and now it is a thing of beauty and a true oasis. You must come and visit. In the pond, five tame goldfish and oodles of little invisible native fish (to keep the mosquito population under control) endlessly entertain me. Little scrub wrens and wattlebirds hang out and chatter all day long. The native plants are starting to fill in and wander around. When it’s warm enough, I spend all my time outside. I’m sitting at the back table as I write this, listening to the whispering of the breeze in the gum leaves overhead.

So that’s the house, wrapped. Looking back, I can’t believe we actually did it. If I had known at the start what would be involved, we probably wouldn’t have taken it on — we’d have been too intimidated by both the scope and the price. So I’m glad we didn’t know.

I like to think that Marion and Walter would be pleased to see the care we have taken to try and stay true to their intentions, particularly with respect to the garden. We love the simple lines of the house and its practical layout. It has lived up to the sense I got when I walked in the door that very first time: This is a place that can become a home.

2 thoughts on “The Can of Worms, illustrated

  1. Thank you so much for sharing Mary. Now that you have your dream home may you long live there and enjoy the birds and space. I’ll be thinking of you there.

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