In September, Jo and Brad Roberts, their daughter Franki and their two dogs will have enjoyed three years of what has become a wonderfully windowed, sunlight-filled, stunningly renovated four-bedroom, three-bathroom home in Maryville. Before they moved in, they lived in a nearby street, which made their massive renovation project easier.
Their house is on a double block, an enviable and rare opportunity for most properties in the area. They tried for years to buy the house, dropping letters to the owner. In the end they succeeded.
"When it came on the market there were probably 300 people at the auction. We were so determined," Jo says.
The Roberts rented it out for a few years before they got to work on the house. They believe it was built in 1915, and the land was previously farming swampland with mangroves and grasses. Many of the residents would have worked in industry nearby.
When they first moved to Maryville their friends worried it was a bit rough, but now they all live here.
Brad and Jo are originally from Sydney and they've been together for 27 years. She's a hypnotherapist at Thrive Wellness Hub and he works for a Sydney-based company. They moved to Newcastle in the early 2000s a bit on a whim after coming to Tomago to visit Jo's mother at the Bay. Before they had Franki they travelled through Australia and Asia, and much of their art, decor and inspiration is from their travels.
Last year they went to Sri Lanka for a month, which inspired their indoor outdoor room with stained glass windows, plant nooks within the wall, cane furniture and fan.
They went to the city of Galle which has an old Fort and Dutch and English architecture which helped with their inspiration.
"We wanted to bring the indoors out and the outdoors in," Jo says.
It's their favourite part of the house and they spent heaps of time in the space even before the renovations were finished.
"We've kept the front end of the house, brought it back to life, the switches, the boards on the wall, the skirting, the picture rails," says Jo.
The house is long with most of the bedrooms in the front. They built a guest bedroom in the back with a separate entrance, bathroom and a kitchenette. They built the pool with an outdoor shower around the back, of which Brad's a big fan.
The back of the house is all new, starting from the stairs down into the kitchen, lounge room and indoor/outdoor area.
Brad was very particular about what they wanted, and they worked with Matt Hull from Design Pad Architecture.
"We were trying to hold onto the heritage pay tribute to the old part and create something new," he says.
They wanted high roofs on an angle to celebrate the old, big open space.
The house is full of bifold and casement windows.
"It is the brightest house, it's gorgeous in winter," Brad says.
They used lots of recycled and restored items where they could. The sandstone by the pool is from under the house. Several of the interior doors were recycled from the previous house. The bricks in the kitchen are the old chimney bricks. They bought second hand including the old blue doors to the back entrance they had shipped over from India.
One of the biggest challenges with the renovation was the bookshelf and sliding door at the back of the house, which they all agreed seemed so like it should have been an easy job. But they struggled with the sizing and working out who was going to do it.
"When you look through a front door you want to look down a space and see something; that bookshelf was supposed to be it," Brad says. "It needed to feel like a wall, the sliding door. The builder and Matt found it really hard."
After over a year of renovations now everything is (mostly) finished and they're at a point where they can enjoy the space. It's starting to feel more like a home.
"I love it. It's fun," Franki says. (Her circus sling is one of her favourite places to hang out in the house.)
"We are very lucky. We feel so blessed," Jo says.