Tuesday 23 October 2018

The National Trust visit

Just a short post to say that on the weekend we were privileged that Coutts Sailors' Home was included in the National Trust Tour of Newcastle.

I had been contacted some months ago (before being shortlisted for the Heritage Awards as it happens) about being involved and sharing our home and our story with interested National Trust members.

Always willing to share and encourage we agreed, and it has now happened.

We were not expecting quite as many people as actually attended (hundreds!), but were delighted with the interest and the feedback that we received.

A big thank you to the organisers for their work on the day supervising, directing traffic and ensuring safety..and a big thank you to all those who visited, for their interest, their conversation and their appreciation for the efforts we made to 'take it back to as original as possible'.

They were in general a discerning bunch and noticed the details that we had taken special care over - the cedar skirting boards and architraves, all milled to match originals and secured in place in the traditional way, the staircase balustrading and the verandah iron columns replicating the originals based on photographic evidence, the cornices with embellishments in the entry and hallways, period features like the lighting, mirrors, clock and other furnishings...to name a few.

Perhaps in a few years time we will 'do it all again' and by then we will no longer be saying there's still work to do!

A postscript.

Happy to discuss more details, introduce suitable heritage craft tradespeople and provide a pdf of the 'booklet' about Coutts and its renovation...just comment and I'll get back to you.

Saturday 5 May 2018

Are we there yet?

The answer, well it depends what you think the destination is!

Our home has been the front page feature in the local Domain magazine of the Newcastle Herald, and is on line at: https://www.theherald.com.au/story/5160455/new-life-breathed-into-historic-home/

We have also been featured on the Hunter hunter web site at: https://www.hunterhunter.com.au/newcastle/at-home-coutts-sailors-home


A little while ago, we received this notification:

You have made the National Trust
Heritage Awards Shortlist

(See the shortlist at  https://www.nationaltrust.org.au/heritage-awards-2018-shortlist/)

The National Trust have a Newcastle destination tour in October and have selected our home to be visited, to share the history and the rollercoaster renovation story.

             So in many respects I suppose you would have to say we have arrived.            

We have a wonderful home of which we are very proud, and passers by continue to admire, congratulate and thank us for saving this magnificent piece of historic architecture and returning it to Newcastle.

The garden is starting to mature and the roses bloom continuously. They are very settled and comfortable in this sunny, sandy, salty environment - as are we when we can be there.

There are a few loose ends that we still need to fix and there are two more stories to tell.

So every now and again pop back to this site, though it will be some while before everything will be resolved and I am able to put pen to paper.

As expected, we did not win the award, being up against Councils with funding to employ teams of architects and other professionals!
We were honoured and pleased that our endeavours to ensure the authenticity and the quality of our renovation were recognised in being shortlisted in what was considered an outstanding year.

Wednesday 29 November 2017

Ever closer

Bond Street is a bit of a backwater...but last weekend was just a little different with a really quite exciting event-the FINALE of the V8 Supercars...and our house is inside the track.

Consequently there was a great deal of foot traffic past the front door over the weekend, and now MANY MANY more people have expressed their appreciation for what we have done, and the authenticity and attention to detail of the restoration.

There is still some work to do outside...the lavender is about to go in along the front of the verandah, (it is still in pots) and there's some cleaning up to do, but a little more progress has been made.

The verandah is now looking stunning. The aim was to pave with something that would look authentic - as if it had been there sine the 1890s. Goal achieved thanks to sandstone pavers from Amber Tiles at Kotara (and paving by Selwyn).

 Just take a look...

The next instalment of the blog should see the lavender planted, the clean up completed and maybe even the gate thresholds done, but probably not in time for the Christmas visitors!

Sunday 5 November 2017

What a difference a week makes.

What a busy week!

Starting at the weekend...

  • Rake and remove rubble (of which there was LOTS)

  • Level (well sort of) both sides of the drive.
  • Purchase and place rough lawn edges.

the west side

...and the east,

taken from the upper storey of the verandah.

...all completed with many intervals in between as people walking past stopped to chat about the house, its history and what an amazing transformation there has been to the house!

  • Then cover the scoria with tarps in readiness for the arrival of the lawn base.

  • Next day receive and spread lawn base with help from neighbour Mik


The lawn base had to be just about cleared in one day because the lawn turf was arriving the next morning...and Mik came back to help!

A garden starts to take shape!

And then... after more research and garden centre trips, lots of hole digging, planting, fertilising, mulching and hand watering...

A bit of a cheat photo because the paving at this stage was still a way from completion, but what a difference a week makes!!! 

Almost all done, including the sprinkler system in time for us to leave for an extended period away and miss the results of our labour - except that is for a few photos from those experiencing the sights and smells first hand.


But wait, there's more

You didn't really think it was finished did you?

It nearly is, until we start repairing damage - but that's a whole other story.

This story, about our restoration of Coutts Sailors House really is almost complete.

While originally the surface of the verandah (at ground level) was probably concrete, and that is what we had after having to replace the verandah slab; we had to admit it looked just a little unfinished, a little rough and ready, and not up to the stature of the house.

So there was much deliberation...At one time we had thought we might replace the tesselated tiles that were there when we purchased the place, but research and consultation led us to believe that they were not original - more likely added when the Home became Sister Kenny's Polio Hospital (as part of NSW Health).

So we rescued the few uncrazed tiles for use in the project as a hearth in the dining room around the 'coal' fire, and as a back doorstep, and went back to research and investigation mode.

Our learned colleagues suggested that the original surface would most likely have been sandstone pavers, so in concurrence, that is what we selected; though not in nice even squares! Instead the solid sandstone pavers come in bullnose (for the edge) and then in three sizes for the inner portion...a bit of a jigsaw puzzle.

We had to wait for the stone, so in the meantime we got to work on the (postage stamp size) garden...the pictures show a tidied area - and with scoria driveway! More on the garden in later posts.

The jigsaw puzzle was expertly done by the stonemason Selwyn Robinson. The effect, we think, is stunning, and most people seem to agree.

The beginnings looked like this:

from the truck onto the block -

the first of several pallets of sandstonestone.

...note the scoria driveway!
...and apologies for the garbage bin!

 Then the bullnose edges went down
(around the edge...where else?)

and then the jigsaw puzzle began in earnest!


still a way to go.
but you get the idea. 

The idea was that the paving would look as if it was meant to be there as part of this (as new) 
heritage property.

Thursday 28 September 2017

Final stages???

The scoria is spread, and painting starts - a stark white base coat...

and Andrew Teer returns with our specially crafted house number...

The painting continues - three more coats matching the house colour...the number included so it is clear in relief. Then the letterbox face is added.

All simple, effective, classy - like the rest of the house (if not the owners)...

We are mighty pleased, and ready to get our hands dirty with some landscaping...

Mik has already planted some ivy to grow up the side of his house, so that eventually our eastern side will be green, now we do our bit:

A weekend of extra levelling and rubble removal, then Monday deliveries of lawn underlay and turf then lots of hard yakka (and help from neighbour Mik ) and by the end of Monday we had lawn.

The rest of the week; good soil, cow manure and more hard yakka - and in go the roses along the front fence and the Bacopa along the entry way, followed by a weekend of mulching and lots of watering...

The next weekend and there's a bit more planting...Plum surprise along the border with number 18, 

and a sprinkler system to boot.

Friday 15 September 2017

Getting there!

Andrew Teer finally had a clear run and finished the wall and columns. He is a real craftsman and his work is legendary...and receiving many many compliments from passers by.

Then along came the man to drill holes in his wonderful work...a necessity for the fencing...

Following closely behind were Snow Contractors - the structural steel specialists to fit the fencing:

First craning the pieces in,

then fine tuning to fit!

(and the pathway scoria was delivered during the process too - it's all happening)

Then finally the gates...

Then at last, the security fencing is taken away from the front of the house and we can see the building in all its spleandour (even if the front still looks rather like a building site)!

 We're not sure exactly how long this building had been hidden behind security fencing, but we have evidence that says at least 15 years, and others are of the opinion that it is 20 years or more!!

The postman is pleased he now has easy access to a REAL postbox, even though our post is redirected so he doesn't have too much work to do...

Now for next steps - 
House number, painting and gardening!