Rather than upsizing their small family home, this couple has made it work extra hard, squeezing a workspace, a film studio and plenty of play within its walls
Meet + greet
Julie Stuart, 35 (blogger), Matthew Stuart, 36 (design engineer), Harvey, 5, and Piper, 3.
Julie’s tips for living in a small home
- Add plants in a variety of sizes – potted and hanging. They draw the eye, add depth to a room and can help hide things such as electric cables.
- Choose furniture with slender silhouettes (my desk), which are lightweight or light-coloured on the base (my dining table). Steer away from chunky pieces.
- Use wall space as much as possible for hanging items and adding shelves.
Best lessons learned? Julie: If you or your family are handy on the tools, make the most of it. But make sure any ‘finishing’ jobs that will be obvious are done by the professionals (eg plastering or tiling).
What would you never do again? Agree to have the splashback put in after the rest of the kitchen was done. The promised install “next month” took four years to happen!
DIY disasters? It wasn’t a pretty sight when we took off the masking tape around our entire living area and ripped off a whole lot of paint. It’s definitely worth investing in good painter’s tape.
What’s one thing you would change about your home if you could? Replace our ugly black window frames with white joinery and double glazing.
Most memorable experience in your home? The many gatherings we’ve had with friends and family in our open-plan living area.
One of Julie’s Clever Poppy projects was transforming her MDF drawers using sticky-back vinyl – Vinyl Home’s ‘Whitewood’ on the front and ‘Santana Oak Lime’ on the top and sides.
Total cost: $104. “I’ve had the drawers for two years and they still look as great as the day I did them.” A hairdryer will help you mould the vinyl over the corners.
How much have you spent on your home? About $50K overall.
What areas did you save on? Splurge on? We saved on soft furnishings, art and preloved furniture. We splurged on benchtops, flooring, feature wallpaper and linen bedding.
Do you tend to buy high-end homeware or seek out a bargain? I try to buy pieces that feel classic and will last; my bargains are likely to be from an op-shop.
Best advice when it comes to spending money on a home? Choose well, buy once, make it last. Trust your gut on what you love and don’t worry about what’s ‘trendy’ right now.
How did you keep track of costs for the reno? We made a budget and tracked our spending.
See more of the Birkdale home’s interior style below
Photography by: The Virtue.