reno: emma potter, fremantle

by - June 30, 2015

It’s a position many young couples find themselves in when they start a family — suddenly the home they felt so comfortable in seems small, cramped and confined. But looking for a suitable home when you have young children isn’t exactly the easiest proposition.

For Emma Potter and husband Martyn the search for a new home to raise their two children in didn’t extend any further than the street where they were already living.

“We just felt as though we had outgrown the house we were living in,” says Emma. “But we couldn’t find anywhere that compared to it in terms of location and price.

“Then the house two doors down became available which was perfect in terms of location but the style of the home just wasn’t what I wanted. Everything was brown and olive green, the floors were tiled with orange sandstone with a slate look and there was a jarrah bar and jarrah doors and benches — all beautiful materials, but together they were dated and absorbed the limited light that could get in.”

While the list of negatives was long, there were also a number of pluses, the first being that the home sat on a 938sq m block. “We have active kids and we just wanted a bit of space for them to run around and have friends and neighbours over,” Emma says. “We also loved the idea of having a pool and all of this was possible in this home.”

Becoming frustrated by a lack of available properties, the couple decided to put an offer in on the house to “see what happened”. It was accepted and it was then that reality sunk in that the couple were about to embark on a major renovation that would see the 1970s Italian-style mansion transformed into a modern family home.

It’s all in the details

Deciding to completely renovate a home means months of hard work, budget watching and decision making. Not only did Emma and Martyn decide to live on site during the renovation (with two young children too), they also chose to take on a lot of the work themselves to save money.

“It was like being on a reality renovation show,” laughs Emma. “But we wanted to be in full control of the project and this seemed like the best way to ensure we had everything we wanted and didn’t pay too much.”

The couple engaged an architect to help with the floorplan but from there on in, they ran their own show, with Emma taking on all the interior design and Martyn tackling the role of project manager.

“We were both working and the kids were little — it was a crazy time,” she says. “Living in the house with it happening around us was the toughest part. But we are both hands-on people so we loved having full control over the project, and day-to-day input on the design and build.”

The renovation added an extra 64sq m to the original 206sq m home. A studio at the back of the site provides an additional 40sq m of living space, with two extra bedrooms and an extra bathroom.

The couple incorporated an ensuite and walk-in robe to the extended main bedroom and restructured the floorplan, almost entirely, to make way for a spacious and functional scullery, which gives the space a cafe feel.

Adding a bedroom and enclosing the front veranda to create a shared playroom was a stroke of genius for Emma and Martyn because not only does it give the kids their own private retreat it also connects their bedrooms and encourages inter-sibling play.

Designer finishes

When it came to the interior styling of her own home, Emma says she wanted something that would reflect their lives as a relaxed and active family.

“We wanted a warm and comfortable family home that was stylish and would stand the test of time,” she says. “That’s why we incorporated lots of raw materials like wood and recycled brick because all of these materials get better with age. Being in marketing and design, I love interesting features but they don’t always have to be expensive. The peg board in our laundry was bought from Bunnings. It’s one of the cheapest features in the home and is a favourite for its practicality and look.”

She also says she learned when to fight for a feature and when to let it go. “Some of the things I really didn’t want have ended up becoming my favourite things,” she says. “Like the brick pillar that protrudes into the lounge. It adds so much character and interest. My advice for other future renovators — don’t get too caught up on perfection, as it doesn’t change how you feel in the space. And you don’t need to spend a lot of money often. My favourite features are certainly not the most expensive ones.”

First published in Home, The Daily Telegraph 6 June 2015
Pictures: Heather Robbins, Red Images Photography

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