When Penny and Mat bought a dark, dated and daggy 1970s home in City Beach, they thought it might be a knockdown job – and their friends presumed they would bulldoze it and build anew, too.
But when Penny and Mat decided that instead they were going to renovate and extend to make it a home for them and their four kids under 12 – while living in the house during renovations - a lot of their friends told them straight-out they thought they were crazy.
No-one could call Penny and Mat nuts now (I don’t think!) With the help of local builder Exactus Homes, Penny and Mat have turned a house once destined for demolition into a wonderful, warm family home that combines a light, contemporary refresh with its original character and charm.
Backing onto a massive park and with a pool in the back garden, it’s now a perfect family home for the couple, their four children, Tom, 11, Sam, 9, Ben, 7, and Kate, 3, and two border collies. Just like the family who live there, there is something about this house that is laidback, unpretentious and inviting. It was a hard house to leave!
Mat and Penny met in Darwin through their mutual love of hockey (both are high-level hockey players; Mat has played on a national level). When they began their family, they knew that they wanted the same kind of outdoorsy, free-roaming, adventurous childhoods they each had. Penny grew up on a homestead in the wheatbelt on a massive 40,000 acre farm. I’m such a city kid that my mind boggles when Penny tells me it takes 45 minutes to drive from end of her family’s farm to the other. Mat grew up in a Queenslander-style home in Darwin.
“We aren’t replicating anything like that with this house, but we wanted to do our best to replicate the freedom we had growing up with the location we have chosen,” Penny tells me. “We want our kids to enjoy the outdoors, to be adventurous and creative and, where possible, limit screens. This location and house has ticked all the boxes.”
Penny and Mat bought the home for the park directly behind it. Oh, that park! The house backs onto endless lawns with huge mature trees, a playground and playing courts. It is a beautiful spot. “We loved the park the house opens onto,” says Penny. “We wanted to buy anything that backed onto the park. This was the only place that came up in our price range. I think it was going to be knocked over, then the previous owners had a change of plan and sold it instead.
“We didn’t care too much about the house itself as long as it was in a habitable condition and could fit us all in. We just wanted freedom for our kids (and dogs) to go out and play and explore in the park in a relatively safe environment. We also wanted a quiet, friendly street and close to the kids’ school. We found exactly what we were looking for.”
But the house itself was nowhere near as lovely as the park.