Lara Knight – 05 February, 2020
Pat and Ruby are renovating their first home in Mount Evelyn, Victoria. On weekends and holidays they’re turning a 70’s cabin, once red weatherboards and green trim windows, into a bespoke modern home.
Ruby is an avid op-shopper and tip scavenger, and always drives slow when hard rubbish is on. Pat is the crafty one who takes the projects they find and turns them into beautiful pieces. They re-use and up-cycle (as much as possible) in their renovation because they believe it creates the best type of home.
You’re renovating and upcycling as you go. What is your overall plan for this property?
Our overall plan for the house is to finish the renovations! That’s our biggest goal. We’ve given ourselves a year to finish it up and the deadline is fast approaching. But after that we’ll most likely enjoy living in it till we find another house that needs some love and has potential. Although, all the little hidden gems and curated pieces in this house will be hard to part with.
A designer and a builder sounds like an ideal combination. How difficult is it to juggle renovating alongside your other jobs?
Well, I am an art director in advertising and Pat is a full time carpenter for Frank Victoria, a company that works closely with architects to curate bespoke homes. We both bring different creative aspects to the build. I am very deadline driven, organised and constantly thinking of different ways to enhance our spaces. Pat brings precision, skills and his creativity to tackle jobs differently.
It’s extremely hard not being able to work on our house full time and only getting two days to do as much as possible. Two days just aren’t enough to really get into the swing of things, so it is really challenging. But we try to take days off around long weekends so we can have four-day stretches to get as much done as possible. We just got back from a month off over Christmas where we laid our timber floors upstairs. That was a HUGE job because we got seconds timber from GraysOnline. Some of the boards were water damaged, some were completely bowed, and others just had huge chunks out of them. But we made it work and the floors are looking amazing!
The exterior is zincalume & Corten with a beautiful, handmade door. Walk us through the door project.
Our house was a partially renovated deceased estate and a lot of materials were left there to finish the house with. The original plan was for the whole house to be clad in Corten but it would have looked like a metal bunker. We added the zincalume for texture and the contrast it would have with the orange of the Corten. We’re thinking of using the rest of the Corten for either our kitchen cupboards or garden walls. Nothing will go to waste.
Our door is the pride and joy of the house. Pat rescued blackbutt timber from one of the jobs he was working on (it was either going into the skip or being used as firewood) and it is such a beautiful timber we couldn’t let that happen. So, he decided to bring it home to use on selected projects, which ended up being the door.
The handle is made from a BBQ plate. Yep, you heard right! We didn’t want to have to buy steel for our handle so we were wondering what we could use. We were driving home when everyone had their hard rubbish out and there were lots of BBQs. I looked at Pat and screeched, “BBQ plate!” And that was it. Driving around to find one proved a little more difficult than we thought. We designed a template from a piece of wood, with much discussion on the shape and size. Pat then welded it together, sanded it and then we painted it matt black. The grill sits on the back of the handle so when you go to open it there is a nice texture on your hands. It’s hard to think when looking at it that snags were probably cooked on it! Because it is so beautiful now.
Where else do you plan to use recycled materials?
We plan to use the rest of the timber from our floors as the cabinets in the bathrooms. We also visit a local guy who cuts slabs out of trees from arborists, which we will possibly make into the vanity tops and the cantilevered desk downstairs.
We’re planning to make a chook shed out of the leftover tin from around the house, making sure we limit the amount of waste.
We’re also huge up-cyclers. One of the projects I just finished was a 70’s brown fireplace that was given to us by a friend who was going to throw it out. The brown was quite ugly so I sanded it all back, removed the paint sprays it had on it, painted it black and then polished up the brass. It now looks very stylish and we can’t wait to use it in winter.
We frequently visit the tip where Pat recently found a tile cutter that we are yet to use (bathrooms are next on the renovation list). We’ve been collecting random tiles from there as well: we found some with flowering gums, absolute gems! I’ve also found some very groovy cups.
Also, we always keep our eyes out when hard rubbish is out. Last year I collected a cane chair set. The year before that I found our coffee table, a great little mid-century inspired piece. I find it crazy that people could throw out such beautiful things when they just need some love.
You’re documenting your build on Instagram and styling new corners and finds as they appear. Does celebrating the wins help in a long renovation?
I’m always styling. Pat constantly reminds me it’s still a renovation site even though I’m always fussing over the placement of things. Sometimes I just want it to be finished so we can live in it. I’ve become a master of disguising the renovation side of the house though. If you look closely enough in each photo you can see that the house is clearly not finished.
But sometimes we embrace and celebrate the wins. When we finished the stairs (finally connecting the 2 storeys together and it was a big win!) we invited all our close friends over for a dinner. Using the framing, because we’d finished that too, I hung ivy and jasmine all over the wall, and moved tables and chairs to make one long table. We had an amazing dinner by candlelight and fairy lights (because we still had no power downstairs). It was really beautiful, and everyone enjoyed it. We’re planning to have a celebration when we’re finished too!
What comes next?
Anything is possible in this environment. But we will continue to finish our renovations while keeping waste minimal and re-cycling, up-cycling and re-using materials where we can.
We will live in it after we finish so we can enjoy all our hard work. But in reality, it’s way too big for two people (and two cats) so we will most likely start looking for another project because we’ve got the renovating/building bug in our veins. We’d love to build a house from scratch and get some recycled leadlight windows. I also really want a salmon pink bathroom set!
There’s so much that goes to waste in the world and we’d love to be able to build a sustainable house that we could live in comfortably built from found and recycled materials.
Where can people see more of your work?
Our journey is documented on Instagram @patandruby. We do lots of stories about our projects including gardening, which is a huge passion of ours. We love sharing our process with people and taking them along the highs and lows of renovating.