I de­signed and built MY OWN FARM­HOUSE

On a mis­sion to make, paint and re­cy­cle any­thing they could, Mel­bour­ni­ans Ali­cia and Ian cre­ated a stun­ning home on a bud­get.

Homes+ (Australia) - - READERS’ HOMES -


to­wards liv­ing in the coun­try, even though I grew up in Mel­bourne’s north-east sub­urbs. My hus­band, Ian, who I met when we were 16, felt the same. His fam­ily are dairy farm­ers up in Shep­par­ton, so he was used to the idea but, for me, coun­try life was more of a dream. How­ever, with a view to mak­ing money, we bought our first house in sub­ur­ban Mel­bourne.

Three years later, af­ter sev­eral mis­car­riages, we de­cided to make our dream of life in the coun­try a re­al­ity sooner rather than later. We spent about two years look­ing for the right piece of land and were lucky enough to find this eight-hectare block just out­side of Mel­bourne be­fore it went onto the mar­ket. There was noth­ing on the land at all – it had been used to farm cat­tle. So we sold our city home and moved in with my par­ents.


Al­though I trained in psy­chol­ogy and ac­count­ing, I’d al­ways liked de­sign­ing houses and had al­ready drawn up two floor plans be­fore we found this land. But in or­der to build ei­ther of my de­signs, I had to do a lot of re­search on kit homes. I al­ways thought kit homes would be granny flats or re­ally ugly houses, but I re­searched about 15 providers in Aus­tralia and Amer­ica un­til I found Kit­ome (www.kit­ome.com.au). They were the only ones who would cus­tom-build to my de­sign.

So I down­loaded floor­plan soft­ware and looked through dis­play homes to get ideas. I wanted it to look ex­pen­sive (even though it wasn’t ex­pen­sive to build) and I wanted a big homestead, so I mea­sured out every room by foot to see if it was big enough. I know every mea­sure­ment in the house off by heart! I even picked the de­grees the gables would slope down at on the ve­ran­dah so they’d fit into the land­scape. Then I gave the kit home com­pany all my plans and my in­spi­ra­tion for how our home was go­ing to look.

I soon re­alised the only way to build the house and save money was to be­come an owner-builder. So we com­pleted that course, and I lodged the build­ing ap­pli­ca­tions and per­mits, which took three months to process.

When we started the build we were both work­ing full-time, and we were also un­der­go­ing IVF. On day one of the dig I was 12 weeks preg­nant with our daugh­ter Bon­nie! Be­ing an elec­tri­cian Ian could do all the wiring, which was great for our bud­get, while I was pro­ject man­ager – for each trade I got five quotes, sub­con­tracted them and had them booked in back to back. And every night af­ter work we were on site with the tradies. Then when I was seven months preg­nant we built and in­stalled the Ikea kitchen and laun­dry our­selves, to save money.


We man­aged to turn the house over in four months – a house this size would usu­ally take a lot longer – and moved in a cou­ple of months be­fore I was due to give birth. Then we painted the out­side of the house with friends and fam­ily. But that was a lit­tle too much – I be­came ill and spent a week in hospi­tal be­fore the birth. Dec­o­rat­ing the in­te­ri­ors didn’t re­ally start un­til I’d re­turned to work when Bon­nie was seven months old and had saved some funds. And it’s a con­tin­ual process!


I’d say my style is ‘farm­house, with an eclec­tic spin’, but it is based mainly on bud­get. I’ll get ideas and in­spi­ra­tion from win­dow shop­ping, then chal­lenge my­self to find it cheaper or make it. For ex­am­ple, we gave our bed­room a lovely tra­di­tional homestead feel by in­stalling wooden pan­els from Bun­nings around the whole room.

When I have a vi­sion I’ll visit my favourite clear­ance stores, eBay or Gumtree to find items I can work with. I also like find­ing free pieces on the side of the road – it’s be­come a bit of a hobby – and friends and fam­ily let me know when they spot stuff. Then I’ll use gift vouch­ers to buy decor items from dis­count stores and make them fit in.


Coun­try life can be hard and at times iso­lat­ing. One night in the mid­dle of win­ter Bon­nie stopped breath­ing. She was 11 days old. It took 55 min­utes for the am­bu­lance to ar­rive – af­ter that Ian and I learned CPR.

We did con­sider mov­ing but in the end build­ing this house gave me a ca­reer change and en­abled me to spend more time with Bon­nie. I used to be an ac­coun­tant, but I’m now a pro­ject man­ager for a build­ing com­pany, and I’m also help­ing rel­a­tives build their houses. Af­ter Bon­nie was born, I said I didn’t want to sit be­hind a desk for the rest of my life. De­sign­ing and build­ing houses is my pas­sion.”

“My dec­o­rat­ing style is farm­house, with an eclec­tic spin, but it is based mainly on bud­get.”

Ali­cia painted the house ex­te­rior in the same colour as the in­te­rior. Room for a crowd The cov­ered ve­ran­dah is per­fect for large fam­ily gath­er­ings, which are com­mon at Ali­cia’s home.

Look of wood

Floor­ing through­out the house is a lam­i­nate, bought from a hard­ware store. Vin­tagestyle enamel cooker.

Old be­comes new

The $40 ta­ble from a char­ity store was sanded back, its top var­nished and legs painted.

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