A Little House at No. 18

The ins and outs and inbetweens of building a new house in Little Howard St, Fremantle

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Making Shapes

The ideas have all been there somewhere, and for quite some time.   As we were designing the house, little “features” crept into the building. I think this is the main thing that sets owner builder projects from any other.  (Let’s face it, I have never seen a boring owner builder project).   Things like using the red brick as skirting (instead of timber boards),  a red brick header course at the tops of the walls,  the arched kitchen window, the laundry “pot plant” shelf  and the rubble fire place.   Some of these appeared on the plans as a result of the architect’s creative input; others have begun to appear as a result of our “personal touch” approach. (I think we must be getting our revenge on all the cream walled and white ceilinged “cookie cutter” houses that we have seen or endured in our lives.)  Whatever the case, we are well beyond the ground works now and each week, new shapes appear, our ideas come alive and the house takes on a different shape almost every day.  Yet as the house is taking shape it seems to be surpassing our expectations.

One example of this is a particular set of steel doors, where it was decided that we wanted a bit of decorative detail.    Wayne, who we have employed to make all the thermally broken steel window and door frames also does a fair bit of “steel art” so we gave him a very short design brief.  1) More “detail” lower on the door and below eye level.  2) Something that blends with the feel of the house and that he has never been seen before.   Wayne’s creation well satisfied us.  Alice called it very “Tim Burton” when she first saw his creation.  In turn, Wayne has now been introduced to the wonderful, dark and mystical world of “Tim Burton”.

It was a very off the cuff comment and for that matter, an off the cuff action we made in 2010, when we purchased different colours of paint and decided to paint the inside of the old house. The comments went a little bit like. “We don’t really care which colours we use, we are only going to knock the house down”…   and ….” The painted coloured bricks all rearranged into red brick walls would look good”. Little did we realize at the time such a comment would result in a very popular comment from visitors to the site about all the different coloured bricks.   Our neighbour, Charlotte even commented on one of the bricks in the new pantry that has a poem written on it.  This poem was written by her in September 2012 when the old house was still standing.

Nick the stone mason calls it cookies and cream.  The beautiful combination of the pale white local Fremantle limestone and the colonially influenced red clay wire cut bricks of yesteryear.  The two materials are from such opposite end of the spectrum yet lend themselves to each other so well. Seeing these materials together is one thing. To see the details and shapes appear out of them is a pleasure.

We are really enjoying the rewards of having skilled trades people that are willing and happy to think beyond the boundaries of a standard Perth house build.  Yes, we are building something that most would consider to be different, but in the context of our community and surrounding streetscape we do not necessarily think this to be so.  We may be the catalyst as owner builders but in the end we are not the complete set of hands building it.  It’s so nice that we have found people that can understand our visions.