Geneva Van­derzeil of stylish DIY web­site A Pair & A Spare teams up with her de­signer part­ner to re­vive a Bris­bane fixer-up­per


With a baby on the way, the clock was tick­ing for this Bris­bane cou­ple to raise, ex­pand and make over a di­lap­i­dated in­ner-city worker’s cottage

She’s the founder of the pop­u­lar how-to web­site A Pair & A Spare, while he’s a suc­cess­ful in­te­rior de­signer. But de­spite their store of in­dus­try ex­pe­ri­ence, Geneva Van­derzeil and her part­ner Ben­jamin McCarthy had ev­ery rea­son to feel daunted about the “mas­sive” ren­o­va­tion of their irst home as a cou­ple.

Snap­ping up a tiny but charm­ing 19th-cen­tury worker’s cottage in Bris­bane’s in­ner sub­urbs, they were un­der no il­lu­sion about the fact that they had taken on a se­ri­ous ixer-up­per. “It might have looked cute and quaint – but in re­al­ity, walls were fall­ing down, there were gi­ant holes in the loor and the ve­ran­dah at the back was col­laps­ing,” says Geneva. “We wanted to take it from this ram­shackle cottage to a space we could live, work and have a fam­ily in – all the while, of course, stay­ing true to the lo­cal char­ac­ter and the things that we loved about it. It was a de inite bal­anc­ing act.”

Over the course of just seven months, Geneva and Ben – who at the time were ex­pect­ing their irst child, a daugh­ter named Frankie, now two months old – worked on the project, rais­ing the struc­ture to ac­com­mo­date an un­der-storey of liv­ing and work space. The orig­i­nal res­i­dence was re­stored and ex­tended to house a new kitchen and bath­rooms, along with sun- illed liv­ing and sleep­ing quar­ters.

While pay­ing homage to the home’s her­itage fea­tures, the pair in­fused it with light, space and soft colour. “I wanted the house to have per­son­al­ity with­out be­ing too over­pow­er­ing,” says Geneva.

exterior Early in the reno process, the old house was raised us­ing jack-like poles with sta­bil­is­ing blocks placed un­der­neath, be­fore re-stump­ing work took place.

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