Finance Property My home: A slow reno pays off over time

My home: A slow reno pays off over time

Jenny Pemberton-Webb at home. Source: Jason Edwards.
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Renovating is a serious passion for Jenny Pemberton-Webb.

The homewares designer lives in a stunning 1940’s weatherboard house in Dandenong, in Melbourne’s south-east, with her young family. Since buying the property in 1997, Pemberton-Webb has slowly renovated much of the house, room by room.

“We’ve made many improvements including opening up the back of the house with double doors and adding a four by eight metre deep decking to maximise the beauty of the garden, a brand new bespoke kitchen, additional bathroom and laundry renovation,” she said.

“We’ve also done a lot of functional items such as re-roofing, rewiring and restumping and inclusion of creature comforts like ducted heating and evaporative cooling.”

The backyard shed where the original owners made toys for Myer. Source: Jason Edwards.
The backyard shed where the original owners made toys for Myer. Source: Jason Edwards.

The war-era home features original details – a hardwood timber frame, floorboards, high ceilings, two open-fireplaces and timber sash windows. Best of all, the house sits on a true 1940s-style block of land.

“We are fortunate to be on an old quarter acre block, so despite our suburban setting it still feels a little bit country with a generous back yard space,” Pemberton-Webb says.

The large backyard connects the house to a large corrugated iron barn, which Pemberton-Webb now uses as her design headquarters for her homewares label Ivy & Lil. Previously part of a plant nursery, the pitch-roofed barn was originally built in the 1930s.

“Bathed in northerly light, the barn has the original rough cut timber floor and French doors opening to the garden,” she said.

“It too has evolved slowly and been the subject of a loving restoration by my husband Mark to create an inspirational and functional workspace.”

Despite being more than 70 years old, the house still has great adaptability for future renovations. Pemberton-Webb says its weatherboard construction on stumps is a real advantage when it comes to making modifications.

The Pemberton-Webbs are only the third family to own the house with each family leaving its personal touch.

“It’s wonderful to have a house that has a story and a colourful past,” Pemberton-Webb said.

“As well as being a nursery that sent bulbs via rail to subscribers all over Australia and employed dozens of local children, the original family, the Smiths, made wooden toys in the barn, which they sold to Myer.

“One of those toys, a red wooden truck, takes pride of place in my studio.”

The family’s favourite room is the beautiful dining room, with its ceiling rose and generous space, along with the newly renovated kitchen.

“We love the dining room and kitchen, which is where we laugh with friends, debate life, make plans for the future, eat and celebrate – it’s truly the heart of the home,” Pemberton-Webb said.

“We completely gutted and redesigned the kitchen a few years ago and we love the way it works and meets our needs.

“We designed in a fantastic opaque frameless window that doubles as a splash back and lets the light pour in.  The cabinetry is a little bit country and industrial without fussy details or highlights, and everything has a place!”

Renovations will roll on at the Dandenong home with the original 1940s bathroom due for the next revamp.

After much debate we are retaining the original feature window to retain authenticity and are adding a generous shower and supersized bespoke vanity,” she said.

“If anyone needs a 10 tonne cast iron bath and sink let me know!”