I chatted to Monica about her experience renovating her Californian Bungalow in Sydney. As a community we supported her through the day-to-day of her reno journey and helped provide inspiration so Monica could transfer the house into her dream home; check her story here….

Celebrating Heritage & Art Deco Features

We are a typical young family, with two toddlers.  We bought a small 3 bedroom Californian Bungalow during peak Sydney auction craziness. Although we could see it needed some work, it was what we could afford and we fell in love with some of its original features – the original hardwood floorboards and the Art Deco stained glass windows and cornices.  The rest of the house was an ugly early 80s extension, complete with patterned ‘grandma’ tiles, pantheon columns on the porch and only one 2 x 2sqm bathroom.

We lived in the house for about two years before starting our renos.  I wanted to launch straight in, but my husband insisted that we should live in it for a little while, to get a sense of what we liked, what we wanted to change and to give us some time to really prepare for our reno.

Our main objective was to add a second bathroom and open up the kitchen, so that it wasn’t so pokey.  We hired a draftsman, who planned to extend out by about 1.5m to allow for a second bathroom, a re-jigged kitchen layout and some additional pantry space.  We were excited by the idea…

bathroom renovation window restoration renovation Californian bungalow sydney
Before / After Bathroom Renovation

We went ahead and paid his fees…plus got everything we needed to get CDC approval. The certifier, the engineer… in the end we spent about $10K before we even touched a brick!

This was our first mistake.  

We didn’t anticipate how much just extending out that little bit would add to our renovation cost. We had set an initial budget of $150k. When we got a couple of quotes back for the plans we had, it was going to be double that!!  The roof would have had to be re-pitched, foundation laid down and that was a bulk of the added cost.  We felt this would be over-capitalising.

At this point, of the two builders we got to quote, we felt really comfortable with one of them, Phil Martin from SPP Building Services.  He was great and we appreciated his opinion that perhaps our initial extension plan wouldn’t be great bang-for-buck.  In the end, we decided on a compromise situation, where we wouldn’t extend out, but we would work within the existing framework of the home and re-jig things somewhat to make it work a bit better.

kitchen renovation heritage art deco renovation Californian bungalow sydney
Before / After Kitchen Renovation

The reno all went really smoothly – and I have my builder to thank for it.  He was brilliant in managing the entire process.  He is a perfectionist and every single tradesman that he hired was one too… I couldn’t be happier with the service received.

But, as our friends kept warning us.. we were way over-budget!  We chose more expensive finishes, expanded the scope (eg painted our house inside and out)… it all adds up.  Still, I’m very happy with how it all went.

How did you find the planning process? Any tips to make this easier?

Spend lots of time researching and working out what you want. Renovating Mums was my lifeline!! I am so grateful to have found the group – a wealth of information, advice and support.

Where did you find your reno inspiration?

Living room renovation Californian bungalow sydneyI wanted to make sure the “new” complimented the “old” without looking too jarring. I scoured Pinterest for kitchen ideas as I thought the kitchen should centre all the other design ideas. I found one that I loved, I engaged a colour consultant very early on in the piece and it formed the basis for all my other choices.

How did you go with the budget? What blew your budget?

Bathroom renovation heritage art deco renovation Californian bungalow sydneyWe didn’t originally budget for painting the house both inside and out. However, once we got into it, I wouldn’t have been happy with only a freshly painted half house and the outside hadn’t been painted for what looked like 30 years so that was a massive additional expense.

As with old homes, things creep up that need attention – our slab needed re-doing as it was discovered that it wasn’t in very good nick…bam. An extra $10K.

And of course…my tiles.

Did you use an Architect, Building Designer or Interior Designer? Did they make the process smoother?

We used Tom Maric from MCAD Designs, a draftsman to draw up the plans as it was a relatively simple job.  I didn’t hire an interior designer, but I did hire a fabulous Dulux Colour Consultant,Odette Trapani.  She not only advised on wall paints, but the choice of colours for my kitchen cabinetry. I used the paint swatches as a basis for picking out everything else, like my floor tiles and stone. I’d say she was worth every penny!

Do you have any fabulous trades you can recommend?

living room restoration art deco renovation Californian bungalow sydneyYes!! My builder was hand-on-heart amazing.  From the moment he quoted us, right through to helping us move back in with a load in his Ute (talk about going above and beyond).  Phil was on site every day, making sure everything was running smoothly, honest with pricing, thorough, his trades were all amazing, he was an excellent communicator and all round great guy.  Philip Martin, SPP Building Services.

garage renovation Californian bungalow sydney

How did you source your fixtures & fittings?

Sourced myself.

  • Kitchen/ Dining tiles – Olde English Tiles
  • Bathroom tiles – Renditions Tiles
  • Bathroom and kitchen fittings – Cass Bros
  • Kitchen Brass handles – Handle House (they are in QLD but ship!)
  • Stone – we used Amara by Smartstone and this was installed by Marble Design
  • Lighting – West Elm and Restoration Online
  • Decking – Danias Timber (spotted gum – sourced by Builder)

art deco living room renovation Californian bungalow sydney

A few quick fire questions;

Lessons learnt?

  • Do your homework – don’t launch into plans until you are clear on budget and costs;
  • Budget – you WILL blow it.  Try to put things in perspective.. add costs to something that will really count, for other decisions, you might have to compromise.  You’ve got to make clever choices. It definitely all adds up!
  • Trust your gut – If something doesn’t sound right to you, push back on it.
  • Don’t buy a toilet without physically seeing it in the store… ours has the dreaded poo shelf!! Hahaha

Biggest Mistake? Under-budgeting!

Biggest Cost? My tessellated tiles.  They are Winklemans Tessellated tiles from Olde English Tiles.  Waay over budget and cost $10K just to lay, but they are my splurge item… they really marry the old with the new areas and are a real feature.  I absolutely love them!

And finally…how would you describe your reno in one word? Classic.

Thank you Monica for sharing your gorgeous Californian Bungalow renovation with us. Love how you celebrated the Art Deco features, restoration those beautiful lead-light windows, and your tiles are just stunning!!

Do you have have great renovation experience you would love to share with us (or even a not so great Real Reno story?). We would love to hear from you! Drop us a line here and let us know all about it.  

Don’t forget to also join our community Facebook group to chat with other local Sydney Renovating Mums.

For more reno goodness with local tips and experiences click here.

Leave a Reply

  1. aussiebushgirl

    I’d love to see the original layout of Monica’s extension, plus the finished layout. We live in an 1875 weatherboard cottage that has a badly designed back extension attached, complete with a bathroom at the far end that was built into the end section of the existing bullnose verandah. This makes the roof line different from that of the extension’s, with a lower ceiling. The plan is to raise the ceiling in the bathroom so that it is incorporated under the extension’s roof line and not the verandah’s.

    Our initial thought was to open up the entire extension which is currently a kitchen (with an old fireplace nook, and an external chimney on the side of the house – we have no idea what to do with this nook as it is badly positioned in a corner of the kitchen!) down the other end (opp end to the bathroom), by removing the walls between the kitchen, back passageway and the ‘dining room’ that lies alongside and with access to the bathroom. The extension runs the length of house at the back. Like Monica, we initially also thought about bumping out the back walls to give us more room, but have rethought this plan and now want to work with what we’ve got. Instead we want to concentrate on windows and light as the extension is south-facing. The height of the extension is lower than the ceiling height inside the original part of the house. Adding a back deck with french doors opening onto it will give us more space to chill out during the warmer months. The house is on stumps, and there are currently three steps down to the garden at the back, less at the front.

    Ideally we would like to somehow include a walk-in pantry in the kitchen (not a butler’s one!), renovate both kitchen & bathroom, and bring the laundry in from it’s current position in the very old ‘wash house’ outside. Unlike Monica, we plan to go with a more deconstructed (unfitted) kitchen, and retain but improve the only bathroom in the house. Short of sacrificing and dividing a bedroom opposite the lounge room to turn it into a bathroom with a dedicated room alongside for storage and cupboard space, it makes (budget) sense to work with the floor plan we already have in the extension, and keep the bathroom where it is.

    If Monica or any of your readers are reading this and have some thoughts about how to revamp this space on a low budget, I’d welcome hearing from them. What I’m really chasing is layout plans and ideas, including how to navigate around (or remove) that old fire nook and chimney! I’m all about preserving and repurposing where possible, so I’d be looking at re-using the chimney bricks to create an outdoor pizza oven perhaps.

    All help and tips gratefully accepted!

    1. Marissa Listing Owner

      Hi Aussiebushgirl, sounds like you have some fabulous reno plans! Pop on over and join our facebook group, and we’ll be able to help you with ideas and inspiration on your layout to meet your budget.
      You can join here https://www.facebook.com/groups/RenovatingMumsSydney/ Monica is also in the group as well as our expert trades so you can tap into their experience there x Marissa

  2. Kellie King

    I’m also renovating our Cal Bung so I understand the desire to make the renovations harmonious without doing a poor imitation is strong and difficult to achieve. You’ve done so well! I’d love to see your floor plan!

    1. Marissa Listing Owner

      Thank you Kellie for your lovely feedback on Monica’s reno. I’ll see if I can track down a floor plan for you 🙂 If you are a member of our group you are more than welcome to pop up your floorplan for advice and inspo from the community and experts x Marissa (you can join here https://www.facebook.com/groups/RenovatingMumsSydney/)