Most home renovations result in a great story or two, however for Trilby and Shaun Langdon, anecdotes about their Bendigo renovation went way beyond dinner party banter, to international media coverage. Trilby grew up living next to the modest weatherboard house, which was built in the 1930s, renovated in the 1980s and treated to a further upgrade in the 1990s.
The Langdons bought the property in 2010 when they were living in India, giving them a welcome home base (Trilby's parents still live next door). Trilby would often return home for a month at a time with their two small children, renting the house out as short term furnished accommodation in between visits. When the family returned to Australia and moved into the house six years ago, Trilby says it was literally falling down around them.
Treated to a major renovation, all the plaster had to be removed from the original four front rooms, also stripping back layers of wallpaper and pages of the Bendigo Advertiser from the 1930s. The house was reinsulated, restumped and replastered, with heritage-inspired textures used in the new section of the house. Materials were reused where possible, including red bricks reclaimed from the old Bendigo Hospital.
The Langdons moved back into the house in March 2020, a date now stamped in history as the start of the pandemic. Avoiding the risk of having to rent elsewhere during the first lockdown, the family moved back in at the end of that month, while the plumbing was sealed and tiles continued to be laid around them.
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The renovation was led by Trilby's brother-in-law, master builder Murray Berrill. "He did all the herringbone paving, a lot of the painting, and is really a bit of an artist in that respect," says Trilby. "His heritage work in particular is really good." The house is built into a hill, with the renovation split across three levels and plenty of storage in the middle section.
Murray saw one of the staircases as a source of opportunity, otherwise dead space that could be used to store the couple's collection of light reds, rosé and white wine (having spent 25 years in the international hospitality industry, Trilby says Shaun has always loved his wine).
"We were talking about where we could put a wine cellar underneath the stairs, but with access from under the house," says Trilby. "It was then Murray said he had a great idea of putting drawers on the outside."
Trilby describes Murray as "a very deliberate builder, who works with the house as things unfold". Case in point, he concocted a clever idea of utilising the space underneath the Tasmanian Oak stairs, creating a series of drawers that can hold up to 156 wine bottles.
Proud of the end result, Murray posted a series of photos on his construction Facebook page (Murray Berrill Constructions), which promptly went gangbusters. Shared more than one thousand times, it generated interest far and wide, shown everywhere from Channel 10 news to multiple international websites.
"It was a bit of a shock when it went viral in the middle of COVID," says Murray. "The reaction was largely positive, most people were amazed." While some were keen to replicate the design in their own flights of stairs, Murray had to point out that the generous width of this staircase was instrumental in making it possible, creating room for a wall in the middle of the stairs to help provide strength.
"People have made comments that it's dangerous and you'd trip over it," says Trilby, "but it's like anything, when you open a cupboard you close it."
Trilby says other wine connoisseurs have commented about temperature control being an issue, but she says it maintains a cool and constant temperature. "People also were concerned about vibrations, but it's on a slab and is really solid," she says. "And it's quaffable stuff, we're not holding $10,000 bottles where there's going to be an issue if they're disturbed slightly. We love it."