The renovating bug is a sneaky thing, isn’t it? Once you’ve been bitten by it (or the home building bug, which I hear is as equally infectious) it’s never long after you throw down your paintbrush one day and swear, “That’s it! I’m done! I’m not doing any more renovations,” that bug raises its little head again.
About a year and a half ago, Mr Nerd and I decided we were done with renovating this place (or so we thought). We’d just had a baby (our first), we’d renovated through the pregnancy, survived the newborn stage, and now, with a little man in tow, we were still wrapping up some cosmetic renos to the Crap Shack (the last bits to the windows, the new floors, repainting the inside, etc).
We both got to a point where we were like, “Ok, once we do the floors, we’re done. No more renovating.” We mutually agreed not to do anything more. We had a baby, we were tired. The house felt good, or good enough. We were done.
This post was first published on my original blog format here on July 17, 2017.
But renovating is such a bug, isn’t it? Are you ever TRULY finished? I don’t think so. And it wasn’t long before Mr Nerd and I started to get some of our pre-baby energy back.
I don’t know what it’s like for most first-time mums, but I find that it’s taken me almost two years to get back to what feels like my pre-pregnancy energy levels.
And then we just started feeling good, and that little renovating bug came back, and soon enough we were chatting AGAIN about what we should do next to our house to make it better. Change the garage? Do the living room? Fix up the outside? Build a deck?
Well, now the next – and probably the biggest change yet – to the Crap Shack has officially been set in motion, and we are so excited. We’re going to completely redesign and renovate the exterior of the house and clad it in Scyon Walls cladding! It is going to look like a different house by the time it’s finished! (It will definitely be due for a formal house name change by then).
Here’s what happened. One morning a few months ago, I was calling Nala to get into the car to take her for a run along the river. I remember looking at our house, thinking it was now a bit of a shame that the outside of the house now detracted from the now-finished interior. “What could we possibly do to improve the elevation?” I thought. “Maybe it’s time for a new paint job? Or a new coat of render?”
I don’t want to get all hippy on you guys and freak some of you out, but don’t you love it when you think of something and you decide you’re going to do something to change it… and then, as they say, the universe provides? Literally less than ONE HOUR later there was an email in my inbox asking if I would be interested in teaming up with Scyon Walls to give our house a makeover. I kid you not. Scyon Walls wanted to chat about the possibility of doing a collaboration together.
I was SO excited. (I ran really, really fast on that run that morning, counting Scyon-clad houses as we went, poor Nala huffing by my side).
I’ve been a big fan of Scyon Walls for years. If you’re thinking, “Scyon Walls?” and scratching your head in confusion, rest assured that if you live in Australia, you would have definitely seen these products used on houses all over the country. Here are a few examples (they have many different kinds).
Scyon Walls are made in Australia and New Zealand. The product is fibre cement cladding – designed and engineered to work with steel frame and timber home construction. Scyon are the leader when it comes to wall cladding and I’m confident when I say that in most suburbs in Australia you can drive down the street and there’ll probably be at least one – if not numerous – houses that feature Scyon cladding.
I find a lot of people think of cladding and they instantly think cladding is always timber. Not today’s cladding. Scyon products are made of cement composite, making them much, much hardier than the timber cladding of yesteryear which would often become prone to warping, rot, structural issues and termite damage. (Scyon is resistant to fire, termites and moisture damage and doesn’t warp).
Back during the big Perth building boom, when I was trotting off to review new houses and renovations for The West and magazines usually twice a day, I remember the first Scyon products launching back in 2006. They very quickly became the market leader and for good reason. They’re made in Australia and New Zealand, they look sensational, they’re available in different styles (from the weatherboard-look Linea, to vertical Axon, horizontal Stria and paneled Matrix), and you can paint them ANY colour you want! But most importantly, they’re perfectly suited for the Australian climate and hardy enough to withstand a lifetime under our harsh sun and for use in houses in our beautiful – but often unforgiving and windswept – coastal towns. It seemed like the perfect rescue remedy to resurrect the exterior of the Crap Shack.
Speaking of, let’s take a tour! Today is the FIRST time I’m ever going to show the full outside of the Crap Shack ever on this blog. Let’s have a look. We’ll get to discussing its more, uh, undesirable attributes a little later. For now, enjoy.
So. What to do, exactly, to the elevation of the Crap Shack to revamp it with cladding? I just didn’t know. The elevation of our 1970s project house has always been very uninspiring to me. Traditional houses, Federation homes, weatherboard cottages, 1960s modernist houses… those are the kinds of houses where I can look at one while I’m out on a walk and instantly I’ll be like, “Ooh! If that were my house, I’d paint the window frames white, the weatherboard grey and the trim Surfmist and do a brick path up to the veranda and knock out that funny half-wall.”
But 1970s and 80s project houses – ones that have less traditional lines, often few (or no) architecturally interesting features, and that tend to lend themselves better to more contemporary or modern renovations, rather than traditional ones? I get stuck. I wouldn’t have a clue how I would redesign or improve one in a way that would do it justice. I often thought it was funny that the house I ended up buying was so different to the cottages and traditional homes I had generally always felt so comfortable with.
Anyway – the point is, I didn’t feel confident that I could design a new façade that would showcase our house at its best and actually add value to it. With the exception of the nice new double-glazed windows we put in two years ago, and the garden beds, which Little Nerd and I have spent many hours planting up and fertilising to help make them lush and green, our house’s elevation doesn’t really have any redeeming features.
I also wanted a design that showed who we are now. We’re not design or architecture experts – but we love beautiful homes and knew the Crap Shack could lend itself nicely to a contemporary upgrade. We wanted to personalise the façade of our house, make it unique and give it some serious street appeal.
GETTING PROFESSIONAL DESIGN ADVICE
So after talking it over with our contact Craig Oatway, the WA State Manager of Scyon Walls, we decided to call in the professional services of a fantastic designer – Janik Dalecki of Dalecki Design. I already knew Janik, liked him and knew of his work, and knew he had done a lot of projects using Scyon cladding. (I met him when I wrote about how he renovated his own 1940s weatherboard cottage, below – replacing the old boards with Scyon, actually! – an awesome project for which he actually won a BDAWA award).
We were stoked Janik was happy to come on board and was game enough to redesign the façade of our house. “I’m warning you though,” I told him before his visit, “it’s called the Crap Shack for a reason,” but he wasn’t deterred. ”
A little “history” for you guys. Our humble house was actually originally built as a display project home back in 1978 (same as its neighbours) and oddly enough is the model upon which many Perth ’70s and ’80s homes were based!
Janik even says the very plain elevation of our house could actually work in its favour for a redesign. “In fact, a huge benefit is the very simple existing façade of the house,” he says. “It is essentially a blank canvas, giving us a fair amount of freedom with the overall design form. Being so simple we have so many less restrictions and it gives us the opportunity to create a really funky design.”
WHY YOU SHOULDN’T ALWAYS RENDER!
The main issue we had was probably updating the render. The original house, like a lot of Perth 70s houses, was built of dark red brick. Here’s a snap of the brick that is still original.
When we bought the house, we were 24, crazy, and didn’t really have much clue what we were doing, and we decided to render the whole house (well almost the whole house, seeing as we kind of gave up) using render as well as a DIY render product with the paint colour already in it. I remember we applied it to the wall and we were like “Woahh… ok that’s a lot more yellow than we were expecting.” We churned ahead anyway. The gentle cream house I was imagining became yellow. I do like yellow. I just don’t think it was the right choice for this old girl.
That said… the dodgy render did at least brighten what was a dark and dismal looking dark-red brick home. The yellow render actually made the INSIDE of the house appear lighter and brighter, which was appreciated.
But five years on? Our rough, yellow DIY render looked dated. While okay-looking from a long way off, up-close it wasn’t nice to look at OR touch. If you accidentally whacked an elbow or knuckle on its prickly surface while gardening, expect blood. And in some areas it became stained by our bore water.
When we recently had the house professionally revalued, we noticed on the report that a lot of things we’d renovated in the house were now working in its favour – the kitchen, the renovated bathrooms and laundry, the new double-glazed windows, and we’d added a lot of value to the house since we bought it, which was cool. But one of the major things letting the house down (gently yet bluntly noted by the property valuer) was the exterior and the render. And, it must be said, an attractive elevation is one of the major things that adds value to a house. And if selling, a nice elevation is a thing a lot of prospective buyers want.
THE DESIGN BRIEF STAGE
Janik asked Mr Nerd and I to give him a design brief, answering his questions. He also asked us to collate some images along the kinds of design looks that we liked and that we thought might work. I put together a Pinterest board for him (Pinterest is SO good for design stuff like this. So easy. If you’re not using it already, it is amazing for creating moodboards and finding ideas. You can follow me on Pinterest here). Here’s a peek at what I shot through to Janik.
Janik suggested we give him some ideas for the look we wanted and right from the start, we were like, “I wonder if we could do something contemporary with black?”
We love modern exteriors that feature really dark shades, like black, navy, charcoal. It can look so striking and another thing is that plants look amazing against black cladding, especially more sculptural varieties like aloe vera or century plants. (And clearly we have a lot of plants! When it comes to our home’s exterior, our plants and trees are one of its few saving graces!)
But could we make black work here? I didn’t know. While we both love the look of black cladding, especially teamed with something warm-toned, whether timber, recycled brick or stone, we knew that if Janik came here and was adamant that idea wouldn’t suit, we would trust in his judgment.
I think that building designers and architects tend to know what will suit a house and what won’t, and obviously we’re not modern home designers, and we didn’t want to do something to the house that would look jarringly out of place or not suit its context.
So while we shared what we liked with Janik, we also told him to go with his gut. I often think when you approach a project like that with a creative person who you know does good work (and you really don’t have a clue!) you need to trust that they’ll figure out the best solution to a problem. I mean, tell them what you like, anything you really DON’T like, or want, and make them aware of any potential issues, but if trust that they’ll do something good, the result almost always ends up being great.
THE FIRST DESIGN MEETING – AND JANIK AND CRAIG’S THOUGHTS
So, on Thursday Mr Nerd and I had a meeting here with Janik here and also Scyon Walls expert Craig Oatway, Scyon Walls state sales manager. It was a fun meeting. A bit of a giggle at the house’s expense and throwing around some ideas about what could be done.
So what do you think of the house? I ask Janik and Craig. Isn’t it just enchanting?
“The poor old “Crap Shack” is a charming home set in against some amazing gardens; with simple materials and textures I’ve no doubt Janik’s design will be able to modernise the entire building without detracting from the retro styling the family have applied so well internally,” says Craig.
“Balancing the warmth of timber with the strength and clean lines of the Scyon products in dark colours is something we’ve discussed already. I’d even bet that Nala will be more receptive to requests for her to get back in the house once it’s all finished!”
Like the property valuer who came out here six months ago, Janik agrees that the existing render was not the best beautifier or solution for eliminating the original ’70s brown-red face brick.
“Internally the house is beautiful, but externally it is a classic case of a very tired old home in addition to a few badly built add-ons over the years, combined with some quick-fix solutions in an attempt to try and modernise the house, such as rendering the façade,” he says. “I feel a lot of people jump straight to rendering a home as a solution to fix it. I am actually not a huge fan of full render facades as it creates a very flat elevation. When these older-style homes are covered in full render facades, it can be quite obvious that it was used as a quick fix without much aesthetic benefit at all, unless paired with other materials.”
Janik says despite the fact that our render covers the dated ’70s brick, to him it lessens the appeal of the house. “Although the existing face brick was not appealing, it was true to the era of the home,” he says. “Render does have its place and can work really well, but I personally think it needs to be paired with other materials. Perth has gone through a real render boom and in doing so a lot of these older houses are rendered over in one colour, leaving a very flat and boring elevation.”
AN EXTERIOR WITH MIXED MATERIALS
The aim for us was to achieve a Mixed Materials look, using not just cladding but some other surface or material to create interest and something that would really suit the house, says Craig.
“Maya’s house is a classic example of an older home that needs some love on the outside,” he says. “We are seeing this scenario across Australia as older housing stock from the ’70s and ’80s are being bought by first home owners who are keen to update the home, but they might not have the biggest budget. Painting or rendering brickwork often seems like the only option but cladding different materials over the top can be cost-effective and produce staggering changes to your home.” Farewell, bin patio!
So that’s where we are at now – Janik putting together the redesign, us eagerly awaiting his ideas! I’ll keep you posted on our progress! Have you ever used Scyon Walls cladding? What do you think about black houses? Maya x
Find out more about Scyon Walls at their website, or head to their Instagram @scyonwalls and Pinterest pages for more inspiration!
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