- The renovation effort has lasted nine years.
- The median house price in Torquay is $1.36 million.
- Paula Dunstan paid $490,000 for the home in 2014.
When Paula Dunstan bought her latest project, it was the worst house in the street. Her husband had to convince her to even consider buying it.
“He pointed this house out and I said, ‘nah, no way, it’s too ugly’,” she said.
13 Aquilla Avenue, Torquay, before the renovation. Credit:Domain
However, she was soon convinced. And it didn’t hurt that she got the Torquay home for a bargain.
“As soon as I walked in, the feel of the layout had a good spacial feeling to it,” she said. “It sat on the market for a while because it was just so ugly, so we got a good price.”
Dunstan paid $490,000 for the property in 2014; the median house price in Torquay was $1.36 million as of December 2022, on Domain data.
Dunstan runs her own design business, Torqing Design, and thought renovating the property would be challenging but worthwhile. She soon got to work.
Dunstan in front of the mostly-finished home. Credit:Penny Stephens
“I thought, I’m gonna have a crack at doing this myself. So, we rented the house up the road and I sketched the changes and everything,” she said.
“It was myself, my husband and we had a builder. I project managed it.
“We took it all apart.”
That was hardly an overstatement. Much of the drab, brick facade was disassembled and repurposed. The floors were lowered and internal walls reconfigured. Nine years later, the new home is barely recognisable as what once stood at 13 Aquilla Avenue.
The old kitchen, which featured a fireplace which also opened into the living room. Credit:Domain
The fairly average-looking 1980s brick structure became a stylish modern home with what Dunstan said was a timeless street presence and well-manicured garden.
“It’s all clad in cyprus, it doesn’t change colour, it doesn’t need much maintenance,” she said. “I wanted to keep it coastal and organic-looking, too.”
Inside, exposed brick, dark timber and chipboard walls have given way to bright wallpaper. A dated kitchen has been given a fundamental makeover and the back porch extended into a terrace.
It was hard for Dunstan to pick a favourite element in the renovated home.
Dunstan in the finished kitchen. Credit:Penny Stephens
“I love the terrace out the back, we’ve never had a terrace area under the roofline but I just love it,” Dunstan said.
“I engaged a local concrete artisan to do the kitchen benches. We designed the island bench together. I wanted it to be more of a gathering space or a feature space.
“I’m pretty happy with it. In my line of work, I like all styles but I don’t usually get the opportunity to play around with what I like.”
Dunstan was particularly happy with her approach to renovating the home: keeping and reusing the existing brick was a point of pride.
“It felt good because when I started my career, I got a bit involved in volume building and I was a bit horrified by that industry,” she said. “So it feels great I saved this ugly duckling.
“We took apart the bricks and we cleaned it up. What we didn’t put back into the house we sold.
“I do believe all bricks can be beautiful.”
Dunstan is mulling selling the home after making some final improvements. Torquay agency McCarthy director Tim Carson said it could prove popular if listed.
“They’ve turned an ugly duckling into a swan, that’s for sure,” he said. “It is one of the nicer homes from the area, and they haven’t over capitalised.
“There’s not lots of ultra-modern type homes in that area. They certainly have something now that looks fantastic and is what everyone’s looking for today.”
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