The upside of downsizing
While one couple’s path to a perfectly sized home had its fair share of twists and turns, their award-winning abode was definitely worth the journey.
In 2017 when downsizers Diane and Graham put their large inner-city unit on Newcastle’s King Street on the market, they hadn’t expected it to sell so quickly and found themselves in a tricky position: in need of a home just before Christmas. And while they were happy to rent, they couldn’t find anything on the market and made a quick decision to buy a small unit on Wharf Road. However, not long after, they realised that one downsize doesn’t fit all and their new home was definitely the wrong side of cosy. “I literally hated it,” says Diane, “It was claustrophobic and way too small.”
Unclear what to do next, Diane’s son Alex Blunt (owner of Arix Building) persuaded the couple to cut their losses and build a brand-new home.
“Alex kept saying, ‘you’re always going to find something that you don’t like’,” recalls Diane, “’But that if we start from scratch, everything will be just the way we want it, everything will be nice and new and clean and nothing should go wrong for the next 20 years.”
Diane admits she was the more reluctant party. “While it was Graham’s first build, I’d done it three times before and kept thinking to myself: it always costs more than you think and there is so much work involved. However, in the end, the chance to design a home that was just perfect for us was too tempting to resist.”
Luck was on their side when they discovered a 450sqm block on a new development in Warners Bay. “We didn’t want anything over 500sqm so it fit the bill perfectly,” says Diane. The couple liked the idea of moving out of town, which they felt had become “too busy” for them. “I pick up the grandchildren in Adamstown four to five days a week and it was taking longer and longer to get there and back,” remarks Diane. “I can get there so much quicker from here, which is really refreshing.”
With the freedom to design a house that worked perfectly for them – not too big and not too small – Diane and Graham have a beautiful three-bedroom home that has two bathrooms, a separate powder room, a double garage and a spacious open plan living area that connects seamlessly to two outdoor entertaining spaces.
A new build also allowed them to include special features that would take them into the future. “We’re both in our seventies,” Diane explains, “so we needed a home that was going to be age-friendly. We wanted a single level home with low maintenance features, such as easy to clean surfaces and wide hallways that could accommodate a wheelchair… just in case.”
“We also wanted high ceilings and lots of light and made sure we added skylights in any potentially dark areas. Ventilation was important as well and we wanted to be as green as possible. So we added 6.4 KW of solar panels on the roof with provisions to install batteries later on. We were keen to be kind to the planet, but also because we don’t like paying utility bills,” Diane adds smiling.
To minimise the use of airconditioning during the winter months, underfloor heating radiates throughout the home via the solar mounted system.
The result is a home that, while not very large, “gives an illusion of space you don’t have,” as Diane puts it. Clean lines, a smart floor plan, plenty of built-in storage and sliding glass doors in the main living area create a sense of space way beyond the actual 185 sqm of indoor living space.
The devil’s in the details
While the couple did have some hold-ups before they could build Diane says it was a blessing in disguise. “It gave me plenty of time to carefully think through the floorplan, the finishes and the colour scheme.
“I had regrets with other builds in the past, and I was really agonizing over a lot of details.” They were able to start the build in August 2019 and Diane was keen to move in before Christmas – giving builder Alex and the team from Arix less than five months to complete the build.
Read more in the Autumn issue of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.
Story by Cornelia Schulze, photography by Murray McKean