Lara Knight – 1 February, 2019
Coco Love Sheils posted house photos in Junk Map Chat a couple of years ago and the place stuck in my head as a vibrant, low-waste counter to Australia’s flood of display homes. It didn’t import a ridiculous amount of ‘on trend’ materials and fittings. It didn’t require a huge mortgage. And it offered family and visitors a fun space to spend time in.
Home relocation doesn’t have the publicity machine of big building companies but in many states it’s a viable option. I asked Coco how things came together.
Your home is recycled from the ground up. Where did you find the original house?
The house was on the internet. It was stored in Tyabb (about 30km away) in a paddock but had originally come from Mordialloc. I had gone to primary school in the same street as the house’s original location and would’ve walked past it as a child.
When the house was removed it had been purchased by someone but then they passed away. Due to probate and establishing who now owned it, the house languished in the paddock in Tyabb for a few years before everything was sorted and we purchased it from a builder/house relocator.
The house was transported in two halves one day after the other. The transporters took care of logistics and the permit to move it. They had to look at access in our street, power and phone lines, turning circle onto the property etc. We have a narrow street and the house was brought through a reserve and empty house block next to us. We live in a tourist destination that is super busy at holiday times so the house was moved in winter with less traffic concerns.
Would you do anything differently next time?
We probably wouldn’t live in a shed and have 2 more babies but that shop is shut anyway. It was tough doing it part time and trying to work in paid employment but that’s the only way we could do it.
What repurposing projects are you especially proud of?
Mike’s first effort was building a frame for a rotten leadlight I was desperate to have as a kitchen window. An old machine base is now our dining table, and an old pub door is our hallway door between bedrooms and living room. A fun one is our spa clad in corrugated iron to look like a water tank.
Every room in your house and Airbnb studio vibrates with colour, pattern and eye catching vintage. How did you fall into this bowerbird style of decorating?
My mum was a single mother with 5 kids in the 70s. She had an amazing eye and determination and would turn roadside finds into beautiful pieces. Our home was always so stylish you would never have known we were poor.
How do you manage a constant collector’s eye for treasure. Do you put pieces back on the secondhand market when you tire of them?
I have an aversion to buying new unless it’s something supercool or not mass produced. I go to the op shops minimum once a week. I try to look at things as what they can be not necessarily what they were intended for. Throughout my life I’ve gone in and out of being a vintage trader but these days I onsell stuff that no longer suits me or I upgrade to a better piece. Stuff gets passed around within my family and I have a shed with stuff I can’t part with but can’t throw out. Every so often I have a move around and something goes in and something goes out.
I have a styling job coming up to style the VIP tent for a blues festival so I have a pile of stuff put aside for that to fit the vision for the tent. I op shop with different eyes on depending on what project or look I’m working on.
We bought a bus for an art studio and I had a particular look in mind for that so had those eyes on until I found everything. It’s funny, years ago I bought these 1975 bark cloth curtains featuring comic book covers of Batman, Wonder Woman etc. I ended up loaning them to a friend. She recently returned them after 20+ years of storage in Broome. They will now feature in the bus!
I wish Instagram was around when we were doing the house so everyone could’ve followed that process. I’m photographing everything with the bus. I really want people to think about alternatives to building or using new products.