How ac­tor Penny McNamee rein­vented her place

A dif­fer­ent drama kept this ac­tor busy away from the set, writes Jen­nifer Veer­huis

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - Home - - FRONT PAGE - jen­nifer.veer­huis@news.com.au Pictures Bob Barker More Penny has doc­u­mented the ren­o­va­tion on her blog dar­lingstreet.com.au

In the year be­fore she took on the role of Dr Tori Mor­gan on Chan­nel 7’s Home And Away, Penny McNamee was deal­ing with a com­pletely dif­fer­ent drama.

She had de­cided to over­see the ren­o­va­tion of her home in Rozelle in the in­ner west, on top of look­ing af­ter her new­born baby.

To an out­sider, it might have seemed a crazy plan but it wasn’t the first time Penny had ren­o­vated this prop­erty.

Round one

Penny says the home was a de­ceased es­tate and ba­si­cally un­liv­able when she pur­chased it with her hus­band Matt Tooker in 2010.

They moved in and started ren­o­vat­ing it to make it suit­able to rent out.

“We bought it as a ‘fixer up­per’, which was prob­a­bly an am­bi­tious term for our home at the time,” she says. “It was built in 1920 and it was a tiny two-bed­room semi.

“It was lit­er­ally just cov­ered in grime and cock­roaches and it was fairly re­volt­ing.”

Penny says she and Matt spent three or four days just clean­ing the house so that they could move into it and then another few weeks paint­ing ev­ery sur­face.

Over a nine-month pe­riod they in­stalled new floors in the bath­room and kitchen, pulled up the bricks that cov­ered the en­tire back­yard and up­dated the 1970s kitchen, paint­ing the cab­i­nets and splash­back tiles and chang­ing the han­dles to chrome.

Op­por­tu­ni­ties over­seas beck­oned so Penny and Matt left Aus­tralia for New York for four years, and in that time Penny picked up guest roles in US TV dra­mas Ele­men­tary, Blue Bloods and Po­lit­i­cal An­i­mals.

Home­ward bound

Miss­ing Aus­tralia and their small cot­tage in Rozelle, they re­turned in time for the birth of their baby Jack.

Liv­ing with Penny’s par­ents, they also or­gan­ised for the sec­ond, and full-scale ren­o­va­tion at their home, call­ing in builder Maarten Noot of San Remo Con­struc­tion.

“The first six months of Jack’s life, he would go in the Baby Bjorn I would be walk­ing around the con­struc­tion site, talk­ing to the builder,” Penny ex­plains.

“I would be driv­ing around, look­ing at tiles, pick­ing up tap­ware, con­stantly in the car car­ry­ing a new­born with me.

“Look­ing back I can’t be­lieve I did it but at the time you just get on with it.”

Sec­ond phase

As part of the ren­o­va­tion, they re­tained the front of the house and re­moved the back, in­clud­ing a 1970s fi­bro lean-to.

“We built a whole back liv­ing area, up­stairs we built the par­ents’ re­treat, an en­suite, a walk-in robe and a bal­cony,” Penny says.

“So we turned it into a two-storey, three­bed­room, two-bath­room house from a twobed­room, one-bath­room home.”

They widened the back of the house from 4m to 6m, push­ing it to the bound­ary.

“We put in big bi-fold doors at the back be­cause we’ve got a north-fac­ing back­yard so the sun streams in,” Penny says.

“We also put some big sky­lights in the liv­ing room down­stairs and we built a deck off the back, so it all just flows through.

“If you open the front door and the back door, it’s just free flow­ing all the way through and you get a beau­ti­ful breeze.”

Want­ing some­thing that would be in keep­ing with the age of the home, they se­lected a French pro­vin­cial-style kitchen.

“It’s not a re­ally ul­tra-mod­ern kitchen,” Penny says. “We still have old-fash­ioned chrome tapes, a big porce­lain farm­house sink and even the pro­file of the doors is pro­vin­cial style rather than just a flat mod­ern look.”

In the bath­rooms, they chose tim­ber tops for the van­i­ties and sub­way tiles to evoke an ear­lier time.

How­ever, they did opt for a slightly more mod­ern touch for the bed­room up­stairs, with more con­tem­po­rary light­ing and a grey car­pet.

Plan­ning spa­ces

Penny says the kitchen took a lot of plan­ning, but she be­lieves she got it right in the end.

“We put the bin right next to the sink and the dish­washer right next to the cut­lery drawer,” she says.

“I wanted the sink to be on the is­land so when we were wash­ing up we could still talk to peo­ple in the liv­ing room.

“The idea was to make sure ev­ery­thing was thought through in a prac­ti­cal sense, not just aes­thet­i­cally.”

Old homes, new tricks

As with many ren­o­va­tion projects on old homes, there were some as­pects they hadn’t bar­gained on —one of which turned out to be quite costly.

“One of the sur­prises was when the builders went to sand our orig­i­nal floor­boards in the hall­way and the front bed­rooms, they dis­cov­ered there wasn’t enough groove left, so

they couldn’t sand them apart,” Penny says.

“Also, the floors were springy and when they pulled up the old floor­boards they found that un­der­neath all the bear­ers and joists were rot­ted.

“We re­ally loved the old orig­i­nal floor­boards so that was re­ally dis­ap­point­ing.”

Plough­ing ahead, the old boards were torn up and new bear­ers and joists were laid, along with new blue gum hard­wood tim­ber floors.

“They look beau­ti­ful and feel a lot more solid than the old ones,” Penny says.

“Even though I was re­ally dis­ap­pointed we couldn’t keep the old boards, I was so thrilled with the end re­sult.”

Bricks work

One as­pect of the home that stands out is orig­i­nal brick­work where the old house orig­i­nally ended. Now it sig­nals the end of the old house and the start of the new work sit­ting in the mid­dle of the house at the end of the hall­way.

Af­ter their builder pulled off the tim­ber door frame, he sand­blasted the orig­i­nal brick­work. The re­sults were so charm­ing, they de­cided to leave it ex­posed.

“We also kept the stone step un­der­neath it which was the orig­i­nal back step of the house,” Penny says. “It just brings that old an­tique feel into the home.

“Even next to our stair­case we have one layer of bricks which is the orig­i­nal brick­work of the home and for the sec­ond storey we’ve got new bricks above it.

“We just kept the orig­i­nal bricks and the new bricks above them so you can see the line where the new part of the home starts and the old part fin­ishes, but I like that be­cause I feel like it tells the story of the house.”

In a nut­shell

The kitchen was de­signed to be prac­ti­cal as well as vis­ually ap­peal­ing.

The orig­i­nal back door­way is now a fea­ture in the mid­dle of the house.

Bi-fold doors and sky­lights cap­ture the

north­ern sun.

The new kitchen over­look­ing the liv­ing space of­fers all the mod­ern con­ve­niences while still fit­ting in with the age of the house.

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