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Image Credit: Revell Landscaping

Good Bones


The state of Victoria is replete with once-stunning period homes that, with the right TLC, can be transformed into a truly spectacular modern residence. Peter Lo Bartolo, the managing director of APC Build, speaks with Pamela Hale about the benefits of restoring old homes rather than rebuilding.


Owning a sturdy period dwelling presents a wonderful opportunity to transform a pre-existing home, filled with heritage and character, into a breathtaking modern abode. For homeowners undertaking a restoration, careful consideration must be given to which features of the home are worth keeping, and which should be renewed. Read on as Lo Bartolo shares his insights into the central concerns of the renovation process with Melbourne Home Design + Living.

What are the main reasons people choose to renovate a period property, rather than build a new home from scratch?

PLB: There are a number of contributing factors that seem to impact a client’s decision to renovate and extend, instead of knocking down and rebuilding. In my opinion, there are three crucial factors that are most likely to affect this decision. Firstly, homeowners will likely have an interest in preserving the character of their neighbourhood, while increasing their home’s liveability at the same time. Choosing to renovate and extend will also provide the ability to keep those charming period details of an existing home and streetscape, and update certain aspects of your home to suit your current lifestyle. Secondly, if done correctly, renovating can also be a much more affordable solution when compared to the cost of knocking down and rebuilding. It’s generally more cost effective than selling up and buying a new home, too.

The third significant reason to take this approach is if you love where you live. Many of our clients have created lasting relationships within their street, their neighbourhood, and their local community. The location of your home is just as important as the structure itself, and this weighs heavily on the decision to extend or renovate.

Is it true that demand for home renovations has increased? Why might this be?

I believe this is true, and I feel that the trend towards renovating will only increase as the housing market continues to soften. Housing affordability is a large contributor for the growth we are seeing in the renovation and additions market, and I think we are going to see continued demand in this space, particularly within municipalities that have a strong focus on planning and heritage control.

Which original features of a heritage home would you recommend preserving?

Attention to detail is the most important factor when renovating a period home. There is a lot of intricate detail that gives a period home its characteristics – think fittings and fretwork – and it is paramount that these details are preserved or refurbished with a great deal of care.

It’s also worth considering which features give your home its unique charm, and which features you really love. These details should be considered as part of the planning process in collaboration with a trusted architect or interior designer.

So that renovators know what to expect, what are the key stages involved in modernising an existing property?

Any renovation project will begin with the creation of the design. Enlisting the help of an experienced architect or interior designer is always money well spent. Starting with a good design is vital when determining the scope of the works, satisfying local council requirements, and accurately quantifying your costs.

It’s also important that you understand your costs from the outset. Customers often come to us with completed designs and have very little understanding of the cost of construction. We encourage our clients to involve their builder during the design process so that budget and design are equally considered in the early stages.

Once you’re happy with the design and budget of your project, you’ll need to get your plans submitted to council as soon as possible, as this can be quite a timeconsuming process. Often, there are town planning requirements that will need to be upheld. This is something you need to check with local council or an independent building surveyor before commencing any works.

Next, you’ll need to employ the right help. This is a specialised field, so employing the right builder or tradesperson for your renovation is very important. There can be a lot of hidden costs in renovating a home, so it is essential that your plans and specifications are highly detailed, and your builder has a wealth of experience in this type of construction.

Generally speaking, how long does it take for a full-home renovation project to be completed?

For a renovation and extension project, broadly speaking, the design process might take around six months, and the construction stage may take an average of nine months to complete.

What advice can you provide readers who are having trouble deciding what elements to keep, and which to renew?

The most popular areas to renovate are undoubtedly kitchens, bathrooms and laundries, and for good reason – these spaces tend to date more quickly. When extending a home, the most common aspects to consider including are often a new bedroom or a larger living space with an open-plan layout. Houses date and can become tired-looking, and families outgrow their way of living, so these types of additions are always beneficial.

If you’re considering changing your existing layout, be conscious of the positions of your services, such as waste pipes, water points and gas points – as it can become quite expensive to relocate them.

I also believe that today’s families want to live in shared spaces with open-plan living arrangements; in these cases, it’s worth thinking about how introducing more open spaces will better connect your family. Further, making alterations to provide these spaces with as much additional natural light as possible is always a good idea, too.

For a seamless aesthetic, what tips do you have for homeowners wanting to add an extension at the back of their old or heritage-listed property?

Keep the extension contained within the existing footprint of the home, especially when looking at the home from the front elevation. It’s a wonderful experience when you enter a period home and walk through an original corridor, only to step into an expansive modern extension with contemporary interiors.

How do storeys factor into restoration projects?

Renovating a single-storey home is a lot easier than working with multiple storeys. If you’re looking to add a second storey to your current home, it can become quite complex. There are a lot of structural complications to consider when building upon an existing residence, not to mention the difficulty your builders will face navigating through the elements while removing the existing roof.

What advice do you have for budget-conscious readers who are considering staggering their renovation in stages?

Staging renovation works is a great way to achieve your long-term goals for your home, however it’s important to be aware of how extending timeframes can impact your expenses over time. In order to be cost effective when renovating, it helps to be time conscious. It’s best to complete all elements of demolition and structure first. This will encourage a good workflow for the project, and it will allow tradespeople to be efficient in their timing and pricing.

What final advice do you have for homeowners who are looking to renovate or expand their existing home?

Renovating and extending your home is a wonderful way of preserving your family’s roots, while attaining the space and functionality you now need from your home. Choosing to renovate is without a doubt the best way of upholding the characteristics that are unique to your neighbourhood, and if done well, a renovation can significantly increase your home’s liveability.

Images courtesy of APC Build, photography Tatjana Plitt