The Hilton Fibro Cottage Renovation

I love this house. This is the former home of our friends Tim and Caity Phillips, it’s a cool renovation and a house that I like because it suits its owners down to a tee. You guys may already know Tim’s name from some of my earlier posts; he and his TJP Carpentry team put up the cladding as part of our Scyon Walls makeover, and they also recently completed our new deck. It was actually through House Nerd that I met Tim and Caity; I got Tim’s name from a House Nerd reader who recommended him as a carpenter years ago, and completely by chance we were looking for a carpenter that week – and it randomly turned out Caity already followed my blog! Now we’re lucky to call Tim and Caity friends. Little Nerd in particular worships them with the kind of awed reverence Mr Nerd and I only dream of attaining.

The first time I visited Tim and Caity’s house was when they opened up their backyard for a gig as part of Parlour Gigs, an initiative where people can host musicians to play in their homes. With their huge oak tree and deck, it was an awesome setting for live music and I fell in love with the house as a whole. I could 100 percent see why they were sad to sell it (and yes they sold it not long after we did our shoot – more on that later!)

GREEN ENVY: Plants at every corner pay homage to the home’s roots – the house was rumoured to have once been used as a plant nursery. Photos by Heather Robbins.

I feel like I have to pop in a disclaimer here, because we all know I am a terrible blogger but this is particularly embarrassing. Heather (Robbins) and I shot this home AGES ago, just before Tim and Caity put it on the market… at the end of 2017, I believe. WHAT THE. Insert monkey emoji covering his eyes. In my defense, we had a limited amount of time to shoot the house quickly before Caity and Tim styled it to sell, because I just knew a house like theirs would be snatched up quickly (and it was – it spent only two weeks on the market before the Phillips accepted an offer).

Shortly after Heather and I visited, I got pregnant and spent the next ten months throwing up as fun, unsponsored posts like this one took a backseat for a while, as pretty much all my energy went towards doing the bare minimum of sponsored posts to get me through. Obviously I have no qualms about doing sponsored content, but home tours like these (and personal ramblings) are still the stories I love to share the most. That said, they’re also the ones I tend to put the most into. Whenever a house like this crosses my path, I feel this funny sense to ‘do it justice’ and to write it as best as I can. And when the owners are my friends, or when I meet them and they turn out to be people I really like (which, if I’m honest, tends to be pretty much all of them) then I feel this even greater need to put together something I hope they’ll be proud of.

I can’t even say this is just a House Nerd thing; I was this obsessive back when I just used to write features for the paper and magazines. I’d spend WAY more time and energy on the stories of the houses I loved (and the home owners I liked) than the ones that I was indifferent to, which I could dash off and shoot through to my editor in half an hour. The downfall of the overcommitted, procrastinating perfectionist, people. Sometimes it feels like a fault; like everything I do must be my full effort or I feel dissatisfied. I don’t even think it’s about trying to do something ‘perfectly’, it is just about effort. I can’t do anything half-arsed. I must put full arse into everything. That sounded wrong and will probably bring me some unsavoury SEO. (2019 New Year’s Resolution – stop being weird. Finish what I have in my folders before enthusiastically committing myself to more and more and more like I’m still a-20-something-uni-student-with-no-kids).

Anyway – back to the story. Tim and Caity met years ago through mutual friends – Caity was best friends with the drummer of Tim’s band (“We had a real love-hate relationship in the beginning,” says Caity, but the thought seems laughable now; they are one of the best-suited couples we know) and were living in a share house in Attadale. They had just returned from four months travelling through Europe when they decided to start looking for a place of their own, feeling like it was time to have their own space.
Initially they were looking to rent before realising it would actually be cheaper to buy. “We’d originally been looking at renting,” says Tim. “But it was peak time on the rental market and we were really struggling to find anything that we liked without paying a huge amount every week- so much so that we realised it would just about be cheaper for us to buy our own place and pay a mortgage. We had a broad area we liked but kind of fell in love with Hilton and honed the search in here.” They bought their house in May 2014.

Hilton was designed under the state government’s post World War II ‘garden suburbs’ initiative, with single homes on larger blocks and wide verges, and the suburb has no shortage of timber and timber-framed cottages; one of its attractions for Tim and Caity. “As Tim is a carpenter, we loved the idea of a timber frame house that we could easily work on, along with plenty of trees and room for a dog,” says Caity.

AFTER.“Our favourite paint colour is Dulux Lexicon,” says Caity of the white they chose for both inside and outside. “We’ve used it on practically everything and love how bright and calming it is. We made a bold choice in choosing gloss black for our architraves but think it really paid off. The architraves and black door handles become such a great focus point now.” Photos by Heather Robbins.

AFTER. “The house is really small at just 120sqm but it’s on a 640sqm block so we have a lot of external living space,” says Caity. Photos by Heather Robbins.

The home they ended up buying was a 1950s fibro cottage with jarrah floorboards. A previous owner had clad the fibro exterior in cedar weatherboards, and although the house was looking worn, Tim and Caity knew it could come up a treat. Inside, every room was a different colour. “There was avocado green, lemon yellow, pink, purple and maroon,” Caity remembers. “We never really loved the look of the house but we fell in love with the feeling we got from it. After we moved in we wondered what we had got ourselves into.”

Over the next three years they painstakingly worked on and off on every room, with the older house throwing up some fun curveballs. “From the get go we had to repair things we weren’t expecting,” says Caity. “We had to gut the entire master bedroom, because the false ceiling was falling down, and then found the original ceiling above it was falling down too. We also found quite a few roof leaks in our first winter. We remember coming home one day to practically find a waterfall in our spare bedroom.”

SCYON CLADDING: A previous owner had overclad the original fibro cottage with cedar weatherboards. Tim and Caity restored some of these and painted them white, but at the front of the house they replaced the whole front with Scyon Linea cladding. Photos by Heather Robbins.

The shabby external cedar weatherboards were restored and painted white, and Tim and Caity replaced the whole front of the house with new Scyon Linea boards. The old original veranda had at one stage been turned into additional space and a bedroom, so Tim and Caity extended the front to create a new veranda with timber decking and a paneled ceiling, where Tim added skylights. For the garden they called in the help of friends, Moloney Gardens, who put in lawns and reticulation, while other friends Fozlek Electrical helped out too.

Quaint is a good way to describe this house, where walls are wonky and the old jarrah floor in the front bedroom (originally a veranda, see below) isn’t quite level. “We’re pretty sure there isn’t a single straight wall in the house!” laughs Caity. But somehow things like this just add to the home’s charm.

“Our records are currently stored in a vintage buffet unit that my dad picked up at Vinnies for $5,” says Caity. “He’s since passed away, so even though it’s practically falling apart, we can’t bring ourselves to get rid of it. He also made the shell lamp that is in our lounge room. When he passed, it was the one thing of his that I really, really wanted to have.” Photos by Heather Robbins.

Tim says the part of the renovation they were most happy with would be the kitchen. “It was an IKEA kitchen put in by the previous owners. Cream cupboards and a tiny round sink. We swapped the door fronts to gloss white, made up some matte black panels, a cupboard over the fridge and put on black handles and a bigger black sink. It completely changed the feel of the house in one weekend and at a minimal cost too.” Photos by Heather Robbins.

Being just five minutes from the beach, where they take their kelpies, Mabel and Tiger, each morning, Tim and Caity wanted to give the house a coastal-inspired ambience. “We love the beach, so we wanted that sort of carefree vibe, but still keeping it basic with a monochrome palette,” says Caity. “We used a lot of jarrah and greenery to add colour.” Another thing I love about Tim and Caity’s style is their confident use of black. I am a big believer in the adage that every interior needs a touch of black, and they’ve used it in unexpected ways like with black gloss on the doorframes, making them a feature with new doors in a VJ style.

Both work long hours (they say that recently making the decision to get a cleaner in on Fridays was the best idea they’ve had in a long time!) Caity works for MRL, Tim plays football on top of running TJP Carpentry, and Caity used to own a shop and coffee hub in Fremantle, Calypso Warehouse. So home is about relaxing (or trying to, in between demolition work and renovations). “We are both pretty busy people, so when we come home we want to be able to relax and feel like we’re on holiday,” says Caity. “We find that our house is often influenced by our travels. A trip to New York led us to select more industrial, warehouse kind of furniture while a trip to Bali led us to choose more soft furnishings and tropical plants. We pick up a lot of our little bits and pieces from vintage shops. We don’t specifically seek out these things; we just stumble upon them and feel like they fit.”


They share a similar design aesthetic (although one difference is that Tim is tidy, Caity is not!) “Our styles are pretty much the same,” says Tim. “The only real compromise we’ve had to make is that I wanted a custom-built kitchen and Caity was happy to just replace the fronts on the IKEA kitchen that was already there. We compromised by keeping the layout, using IKEA drawer and cupboard fronts and then I built some custom cabinets and put in custom-made side panels.”
“It actually worked out really well!” says Caity. “We couldn’t have been happier with the result.”

Tim’s carpentry work is at every corner – he made the plumbing part shelving in the study corner and the drawer unit in the kitchen, one of the first things he built in the house. “He’d already designed the overall look so my contribution was the white leather tab handles,” says Caity. “We then copied that exact style for our floating TV unit which completely opened up the lounge room space. There’s a hall table in the spare bedroom that Tim made as well. We always try to use recycled jarrah and other woods to minimise on costs and waste.”

She and Tim are two of the most social people I know, and entertained here often. “Entertaining is our favourite thing to do,” says Caity. “We’ve had countless parties and even hosted a live music gig. We love being surrounded by our family and friends.”

The gig they mention was the night they hosted under the Parlour Gigs banner, the first time I visited their house – and I remember then thinking their house had such a warm feel to it. They rushed through another stage of renovations for the gig, adding a small deck beneath the oak tree which worked as a stage and also an external powder room (in the space of a week!)

HILTON LOVE: “We love this area – being so close to the beach and the cafes in South Freo,” says Caity. “We spend most of our Sunday nights at the Local Hotel and love café-hopping for breakfasts on a Sunday morning. Hilton is so full of trees so it almost has a bush kind of vibe to it.” Photos by Heather Robbins.
FAVOURITE ROOM: Overlooking the spectacular oak tree, the back deck is their favourite part of the house. “Our oak tree covers almost the whole backyard so it’s really nice and cool in summer and then allows the back deck to be flooded with sun in the winter,” says Caity. “Our lounge room is so beautiful and cosy in winter too.” Photos by Heather Robbins.

And then… right as they finished renovations (and as so often happens) Tim and Caity decided to sell! They were sad at the thought of leaving as they love this house, but had gotten some good advice from a friend on the real estate market and decided to take the plunge and put it on the market. They accepted an offer within just two weeks. Then they went on a big trip to the States and South America and eloped in a hot air balloon in Vegas, as you do.

When they got home they threw a wedding party and promptly jumped into renovating their next buy – this one a quaint 1960s brick cottage. “It was owned by a little Italian nonna and papa I imagine,” says Caity. “The shower curtain rail comes up to my chin!” Suffice to say, it needs a lot of modernising. Their plan is to renovate this cottage and subdivide the big block and build on the back of it. You can follow along their progress at Caity’s Instagram I’m sure I’ll do a shoot of this house in 2020, and probably write about it in 2028. Stay tuned. Maya x



Tim and Caity Phillips and their two dogs, black and tan kelpie Tiger and red cloud kelpie Mabel


A fully renovated 1950s fibro cottage, since clad in weatherboards and Scyon


Hilton, Western Australia




Tim and Caity designed the interiors and did all the work themselves. Tim runs his own carpentry business, TJP Carpentry


Main suite with parents retreat, two minor bedrooms, open-plan kitchen, living and dining, study, workshop, bathroom, external powder room


TJP Carpentry (Tim’s business)
Scyon Walls
Fozlek Electrical
Moloney Gardens for reticulation and lawn


Heather Robbins of Heather Robbins Photography


Author: Maya Anderson

When Maya Anderson was thinking of a name for her homes and design blog, nothing seemed more fitting than House Nerd. Obsessed with everything to do with houses, renovating and interior design, Maya is a features journalist by training with a background in print and a focus on homes and real estate. She has been renovating her 1970s house since forever, loves dogs and can eat her body weight in dumplings.

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