Their old miners’ cottage was “unlivable” when Rachel Hannan and Rimmon Martin first bought it.
Paint was peeling off the walls, its interior was lined with masonite and old horsehair plaster, and it needed restumping.
Ten years later it’s barely recognisable.
It’s now a comfortable family home.
Mr Martin and Ms Hannan will let the public into their home for Bendigo’s first Open House weekend later this month.
The event will see buildings which boast some of Bendigo’s finest architecture open their doors.
The miners’ cottage is a bit different from the rest of the houses on display though. It’s still a work in progress.
Both architects Ms Hannan and Mr Martin have gradually shaped the house and garden to suit their needs.
The original two bedrooms still stand, but the bathroom has been moved and the kitchen remodeled.
The inside of the home originally had little connection to the back garden which sloped down from the house. Now the double height living area overlooks the area, with large windows capturing the northern sun.
Ms Hannan and Mr Martin plan to add another bedroom and a multi-use space in the next few years, which will complete the home they set out to achieve.
They’re working on the garden now to create a space which blends natural-style landscaping with an area for kids to play.
In style the house is very different from the cottage Mr Hannan and Ms Martin bought. The renovations are modern and open plan.
It’s been clad with the same material it was originally, but rotated 90 degrees and charred black with a Japanese treatment.
But, its proportions are still recognisable as that of the late nineteenth century miners’ cottages which abound in Bendigo.
“It was important that the new extension was sympathetic to what was there, but it’s very much a modern interpretation of that,” Mr Hannan said.
“We spent two years to three years living in the house and actually understanding: where is the sun in the morning, where is the sun in the afternoon, and what’s really nice to look at in the area.
“Being there meant we had a really good understanding of what would and wouldn’t work on the site.”
It was important that the new extension was sympathetic to what was there, but it’s very much a modern interpretation of that.Rimmon Martin
Ms Hannan and Mr Martin haven’t been able to find out much about the history of their home.
An 1895 rates notice is the first trace they can find of it. Since then its residents have left almost no record of themselves.
This isn’t surprising, according to Mr Martin, it was working class people who lived in the cottages.
“They were the most basic form of housing, and when you look at the front of the house… there was very minimal ornamentation of the veranda or anything,” Mr Martin said.
Despite its sorry state, when they bought it the cottage had a few things going for it.
Its location was close to town, allowing Mr Martin and Ms Hannan to walk to work, and it faced north.
It also hadn’t been renovated even remotely recently, which meant Ms Hannan and Mr Martin could realise their ambitions, without feeling as though they were wasting perfectly good work.
“It was almost a blank canvas for us,” Ms Hannan said.
“It still had that older feel to it, it’s still got those little quirks with none of the walls being at 90 degrees to each other.
By Bendigo standards the site they have is small. Neither inside or out have they created “lavish” spaces, but instead designed what space they have to work hard.
They believe the design is an example of just how functional smaller spaces can be, even for families.
“I guess the feeling for some people in Bendigo that a 400 square metre block is tiny, and you can’t raise children there,” Ms Hannan said.
“Making sure that the landscape works with the site and what we put there has become more important.
“The landscape is probably halfway done and the kids are having a ball so far.”
More information at: openhousemelbourne.org/bendigo
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