How A Three-Year Renovation Revived This Enchanting 1950s Weatherboard

Graduate architect and designer Shelby Lenehan and plumber Heath Turner have spent three years renovating their 1950s home in Geelong, Victoria.

The couple moved into the post-war weatherboard in 2021, when it featured a drab 2000s kitchen renovation and mouldy walls, that overshadowed the home’s original art deco details.

But room by room, Shelby and Heath have brought the character and soul of this house back to life, with timeless timbers, luxurious stone surfaces, and warm golden hues — all achieved on a surprisingly modest budget!

Christina Karras

Roslyn is the renovated home of Shelby Ann Studio.

The once narrow kitchen of the post-war build has been carefully extended to create an open-plan area.

Sheer curtains cast soft light on the interiors.

Artedomus Zaragoza marble features on the splashback and benchtop. Brushed copper taps from ABI Interiors.

The spa-like bathroom. Venetian plaster walls.

Natural bejmat and travertine tiles bring a calming golden hue to the space.

Wardrobes feature Laminex Green Slate. Walls painted Dulux Spirulina.

The original ornate ceiling roses bring a vintage character to each room. Side table by Llh Studio.

Timber veneer wall panels line the entry.

Outside the endearing weatherboard.

The new lighting gives the house an inviting glow.

The property’s charm has been completely restored!

Christina Karras
8th of February 2024
Interior Design

Belmont, VIC/Wadawurrung Country

Designer Shelby Lenehan (of Shelby Ann Studio) only went to the inspection of this Belmont weatherboard in the hopes of doing ‘a bit of networking’ with the real estate agents who were selling the property.

‘The listing had no appeal to me, as it just showed the 2000s kitchen and bathroom, but none of the home’s character,’ Shelby says. ‘The second I walked in the door, I saw the timber veneer and curved wall in the entry. I was immediately hooked.’

Even the agent was shocked by how quickly she fell in love with the home’s potential — there were holes in the walls, the roof was leaking, there was no storage, and the garden was overgrown.

Shelby and her partner Heath Turner (a plumber) moved into the property in February 2021 and started working on the home themselves, handling the design and the trades respectively.

The brief was to bring some ‘life back into the home’, embracing its original character. They expanded the most cramped of the three bedrooms, added a second bathroom, and removed some of the existing walls, under the supportive guidance of their late friend and builder, Samuel William of local business Systematic Wall Removals.

‘When the house was in full demolition state, Samuel, Heath and myself all sat on the couch placed on a small section of floor boards that remained. Looking at the room with part of the floor missing, holes in the walls and ceiling, both boys were wondering how this would ever work — but we were already admiring the sense of space we now felt with the walls gone,’ Shelby says.

All the updates to the floorplan were made around the existing ceiling roses, which have only been enhanced by Shelby’s masterful selection of timeless pendant lighting, and warm materials.

The rich tones of the existing timber veneer panels is now reflected in the home’s hardwood timber features, stained in a walnut finish, while the golden veins of a Zaragoza marble slab from Artedomus inspired the kitchen’s redesign. And rather than seeking to replicate a specific look or trend, the interiors reference the home’s past, creating something that feels timeless and endearing.

Shelby says the biggest challenge of their DIY renovation — aside from the stress of living in a ‘construction site’ — was navigating the budget.

‘When we moved into the property, we had $50,000 to spend on renovations,’ she adds. ‘Since the beginning, we just worked on getting bits and pieces done that we can, and then saving up again before moving to the next space.’

Naturally, this initial budget grew over time (essentials like the roof replacement cost almost $20,000 alone, and $3000 went to new electrical wiring) they managed to keep costs down by adopting a high-low approach. In the bathroom, Shelby had her heart set out on luxurious touches of sandy Venetian plaster, bejmat clay and travertine tiles, so they spent less on the vanity and the bath.

‘I love the bathroom, this space is so calming. Being encapsulated by the earthy walls this space feels like you’re stepping out of the stress of renovations into a completely new space,’ she says.

The project has been three years in the making, and they still have about 12-month’s worth of work to go, with plans to tackle the ensuite, additional joinery, a new wrap-around porch and the backyard.

It’s the couple’s first renovation, and despite all the trial and error, spending every weekend juggling the renovations and their social life, Shelby says it’s also been rewarding to see what their labour of love has become.

‘It has completely transformed our home. The house was tired and lacked much of a soul, and I think we have given it that.’

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