Serial renovator Vanessa Goulmy took inspiration from the resourceful Depression era for the renovation of her inner-Brisbane Queenslander.

There’s a tangible country vibe in Vanessa Goulmy’s home, which is unexpected given it’s a stone’s throw from inner-city Brisbane. It might have something to do with the fact that there’s a barn in the backyard (more on that later). Or it might be her collection of carefully curated vintage finds that lends a homely warmth as you amble from room to room. Fretwork archways beckon you to pass through, to pad further along the old hoop pine flooring that’s felt a thousand footsteps before. It’s easy to see that every detail of this renovation has been pondered, planned and pondered some more before being carried out.

“When we purchased the house it was liveable but small, with just two bedrooms and one bathroom,” Vanessa says. “The workers’ cottage had been roughly built-in downstairs and needed a full renovation. As was often done to create more room in these small houses, the front verandah had been enclosed sometime in the 1980s. Being a modest workers’ cottage, there were very few grand features in the house, it was built for function rather than elegance. Fortunately, though, the ubiquitous timber arch separating the lounge and dining areas had survived.”

Vanessa and her builder husband, Stephen, are expert renovators, having transformed 13 houses together during their 23-year marriage, so they weren’t intimated by the journey that lay before them. “We were able to determine that the house is an asymmetrical bungalow built sometime between 1920 and 1935,” she says. “This was a popular style for the period. I purchased a great book, printed locally by the Brisbane History Group, about restoring Queenslanders with lots of detail about early-20th-century building styles.”

That book became a renovation bible, as the couple set about turning their little workers’ cottage into a three-bedroom and two-and-a-half bathroom home perfectly in tune with its era, and fit for their family of two growing boys, two dogs and four chooks.

“Everything downstairs is new, but we used old doors and handles sourced from demolition yards and reclaimed hoop pine flooring, which is around 100 years old. It was a good match for the original floor,” Vanessa says. ‘‘Bricks for the fireplace, paving and retaining walls were sourced from Sydney and are between 60 and 100 years old. The island bench came from an antique store here in Brisbane and is a late-1800s Dutch shop counter. We replaced the top,  which was unusable, with zinc. Zinc is a product that has been used for countertops for centuries and I love its earthy, organic feel and the way it ages.”

The full story was originally published in the May 2016  issue of Australian Country. Subscribe to the magazine here.

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Words Tamara Simoneau
Photography Anastasia Kariofyllidis