A Little House at No. 18

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


Up the garden wall

I think that to say that by the end of 2014 we both needed a break is a bit of an understatement. Having moved into our new house (albeit just a portion of the house) we have both breathed out slowly and allowed ourselves to spend a little time settling into our new surroundings (plus having Christmas with the family, attending my brother’s wedding, having a family holiday in Port Elliot, Alice going back to work full time and Greg taking on full-time Daddy duty).

But come February we were ready to get back into it, although (necessarily) at a slower pace than the end of last year. Our strategy this year is to work from the outside in – starting with building the back wall and clearing the laneway at the back and then moving onto the verandah at the front of the house (see our next blog post for that one).

By the good grace of our neighbours, we have been able to use the laneway at the back of our property as a lay down and storage area for over two years…it’s time to give it back. One of the chief obstacles to clearing the laneway was the pallets of limestone and brick offcuts that we have collected as we built the house. Rather than move all of it on site (as we don’t really have the space!) we asked Ronnie (the stonemason) back to build us a wall.

Simple, you think, slap it up and off we go. But no, not in our house where everything has character and even the back fence becomes a work of art.

The design we came up with is an organic, flowing artifice juxtaposing the naturalness of limestone rubble and the more anthropogenic form of cut limestone blocks. It is constructed in waves and curves, both vertically and horizontally, and incorporates little windows and cut outs to peek through from one side to another.

As he was building, Ronnie took this even further, incorporating keep sakes and found objects such as a few bits of left over glass from the concrete floor, terracotta vents dug up from the old house and a bottle cap or two as a memory of good times. If I let my childhood imaginations run wild, the wall looks like the kind of place the fairies or ‘little people’ might come across and proclaim that it was built for them – a fae haven in an urbanised world.

Back in the real world, the back ‘fence’ does its job, protecting our privacy and that of our neighbours over the back. It also enabled us to reduce the amount of ‘stuff’ in the laneway to a point where we have space to move it all on site. Last week, after over two years, we were able to take the fences down and hack away the glory vine that was previously hiding our end of the laneway from the rest. We can now commence the work of planting and growing to complement the gardens that everyone at the top end of the laneway have already established; able to help reunite the two parts of the laneway and the people who live off it.