How Lucy + Gordy Transformed Their Retro Beach Shack (And Their Advice For Renovating)

In the latest episode of our podcast TDF Talks, we’re sharing a very special conversation, with our very own editor and founder Lucy Feagins, and her husband Gordy Johnson!

A few months ago, Lucy and Gordy revealed their renovated Blairgowrie beach house that they transformed together, from a dilapidated 1970s shack, into a dreamy coastal getaway.

In this chat, couple share how Gordy ended up re-building most of the house himself (both inside and out), Lucy’s project management approach, the inevitable budget blow-outs (!) and how they navigated working together as a married couple to create this perfectly personalised holiday home.

See the before and after images below, and listen to the full episode on Spotify or Apple Podcasts!

Christina Karras
Editorial Styling

Annie Portelli

Lucy and Gordy’s Blairgowrie beach shack. External paint colour – Dulux Tiamo. Ceramic outdoor wall lamp by We Ponder. Garden design by Jo Ferguson.

The shack dining room, featuring Dining Table by Gordy Johnson, N0. 18 Dining chairs with olive green stain from Thonet, Dampier Lantern 70 above table from Hub General Store. Custom weaving by Tais Rose Wae. Surround by Laminex Batten 300 panels painted Dulux White Polar Quarter, curtains created by Zenn Design, using Warwick Fabrics Burano Eggshell linen weave. Custom sofa by Gordon Johnson with upholstery by Zenn Design. Smooth side table by Nicole Lawrence.  Striped ‘Pepe’ side table by Sarah Ellison.

Kitchen designed and built in American Oak by Gordy Johnson, with Minokoyo splashback tiles from Academy Tiles. Surround by Laminex Batten 300 extra-wide wall panelling (left hand wall), white walls throughout all painted Dulux White Polar Quarter,  and 190mm wide oak floorboards in ‘buttermilk’ from Wood Coat Australia. Gubi pendant light from Surrounding, Scala tap by Sussex Taps, from Reece, Painting by Marina Rolfe.

Fold out queen sized bed in Bedroom 2, with Mushroom Patchwork Blanket by Curio Practice. Turned timber door handle by IN-TERIA. Towel by Baina.

Lucy and Gordy agree that the bathroom was the most expensive part of the renovation ! INAX Format Flat Oriato wall tiles, and Arterrazzo Rosaio Honed Terrazzo floor tiles all from Artedomus. Laufen Basin on custom timber base, Milli Mood Twin Rail Shower, Caroma Urbane II bath with with Scala floor mounted tap and shower/bath mixer in brushed gunmetal all from Reece. Towels from Baina.

Christina Karras
Editorial Styling

Annie Portelli

6th of October 2023

Looking at their renovated beach house, it’s fair to say that The Design Files editor Lucy Feagins and her husband, furniture designer and cabinet maker Gordon Johnson, are a bit of a dream team.

The couple bought the 1970s fibro shack on the Mornington Peninsula last year, with plans to make some ‘simple updates’, including adding a new kitchen and bathroom.

Gordy was set to take around three months off work to work (and live) on-site, while Lucy planned to manage the project from Melbourne, driving down to join Gordy and ‘camp out’ at the half-finished house on weekends. The ‘basic reno’ was supposed to be done and dusted, just in time for Christmas 2022.

Like most renovations, it didn’t go exactly to plan. It was a bit of a ‘Pandora’s box’ once Gordy started pulling the property apart, and their original vision for a simple renovation quickly evolved into much bigger, nine-month-long transformation.

Listen to the full episode on TDF Talks to hear Lucy and Gordy talk through the process, and find some of the best bits of advice from their interview below!

How they approached the project 

Gordy’s hands-on skills meant he naturally took on the practical side of the build, and Lucy handled all the admin, including managing the budget, paying people, paperwork, sourcing fixtures, finishes, and keeping the project on track.

‘We just started with massive lists of everything that needed doing. I’d write that down in a long spreadsheet and then we mapped it out over a timeline, and blocked out what tasks would be completed each week’ explains Lucy.

‘We sort worked together on [the design]… Then once I got the approval, it was full steam head’, Gordy adds.

Their advice for estimating your budget

The couple broke down the budget by listing the costs of materials per metre, and working out how many days each trade or job would take, to give them a rough budget figure.

They originally planned to spend around $80,000 on the kitchen and bathroom renovation (which ‘wasn’t too far off’ the actual costs for those elements) but that was before the project evolved into a ‘total refurb’. It eventually came in at closer to $180,000 — and that figure doesn’t include Gordy’s time (around 8 months full-time!).

Demolish with caution

‘The job itself grew, which is what really blew the budget,’ Lucy says. In hindsight, the pair said they should have known better! As soon as Gordy began demolishing, it became clear that the renovation would be bigger than originally anticipated. Every window that was removed meant the surrounding walls also had to be replaced, and once Gordy had reconfigured the kitchen, that left big holes in the floorboards.

‘Once things are gone, it’s really easy to get carried away. Just be measured and have a list of what you’re actually pulling out, because that’s where you can really extend the renovations,’ Lucy notes.

‘We pretty much replaced all the windows, took all the external cladding off, the internal cladding off, all the floorboards up, removed the old kitchen, then put in a new kitchen, built a whole new bathroom, a brick hearth, [built a] drop-down bed, a queen bed, dining table, and the list goes on,’ Gordy says.

DIY what you can to save money

One of the biggest costs of the project was the tiling in the bathroom. For this task, they used a professional tiler, because it was an extensive, fiddly job. ‘It’s the most expensive room in the house’, Lucy says. After spending so much tiling the bathroom, Gordy ended up doing the (simpler) splashback tiling in the kitchen himself.

Similarly, they had worked with landscape designer Jo Ferguson for the gardens, and originally planned to contract a landscaper to build the garden, as this was outside Gordy’s skillset. ‘The quotes were insane,’ Lucy says. ‘I think we were looking at over $100,000 for just the garden, which is just so much more than we expected it to be.’ Instead, they paid someone to come on for a week with a digger to level the garden and redistribute soil and coatings, and Gordy worked alongside him. After that, Gordy roped in a couple of friends to help build a deck, timber path and fencing, and eventually, the front garden came t0gether in around 4 weeks, at a cost of around $20,000.

Find joy in the process

Lucy and Gordy’s hard work, shared passion for design, and personal time they invested in the home is part of what makes it so special. Gordy says while working together as a couple ‘had its moments’, one of the most rewarding parts of the project was collaborating closely on a shared vision.

‘If we had all the money in the world and could just get a designer and a builder to build this for us and move in, I don’t think that would be as rewarding as doing it ourselves, and having a million conversations about it,’ Lucy adds. ‘A lot of the joy really is about the process, not just the outcome’.

Listen to the full episode with Lucy and Gordy below, or find TDF Talks on Spotify and Apple Podcasts!

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