Living and Renovating in Perth

Blessed with pristine beaches, abundant sunshine and plenty of property just ripe for renovation, Perth is a place many renovators are happy to call home.

Corridor leading to open-plan living area and lined with bi-fold windows overlooking into courtyard
ARTICLE Persephone Nicholas IMAGES Philip Stejskal Architecture, Robert Frith, Bo Wong

On the sunny side

Australia’s fourth largest city, Perth, is famous for its laidback lifestyle, unspoilt beaches and as a gateway to the mines, vineyards and visitor attractions of Western Australia. Originally known as Boorloo and home to the Noongar people, Perth was first discovered by Europeans in the early 17th century. However, it remained virtually undisturbed until Captain James Stirling arrived in 1829 and declared the area: ‘as beautiful as anything of this kind.’ On August 12 that year, a tree was felled to mark the foundation of the City of Perth.
Previously narrow Perth home, renovated to maximise space with open-plan dinning, living and outdoor area
Fast-forward almost 200 years and there’s a huge mix of architectural styles here including Colonial Georgian (Georgian style adapted to suit the local climate e.g. with verandahs), Regency, Art Deco, Tudor Revival, Spanish Mission, Federation and Arts and Crafts. There are also many homes built since the Second World War, providing a good supply of solid properties on reasonable-sized blocks of land that are now ripe for renovation.

The importance of prudence

The slowing of the resources boom has reduced the rate of population growth and so eased demand for homes here. Prices have fallen as a consequence. So if you’re thinking of buying a property to renovate, there should be plenty of choice at prices that are now lower than at the height of the resources boom. However, it’s important to be aware that prices may continue to fall and to ensure you understand the dynamics of the local property market before committing to a purchase.
Glass bi-fold doors separating contemporary 1950s living room and grassy courtyard
Certainly, in times like these, it’s vital to choose your property wisely and be extra cautious if you’re planning to renovate and resell relatively quickly. For example, you may want to steer clear of homes in apartment blocks, as there is currently a glut of these for sale and an oversupply of rental properties too. As always, selecting a property in a good location, with easy access to amenities, is a wise long-term strategy.
Architect Paul Burnham advises renovators to reflect on what’s good about their property as well as what they want to improve – and to avoid being too swayed by current trends. ‘If a building has good bones, if the fundamentals are good and transformable… then there’s no problem in completely transforming [the property] into something completely contemporary,’ he says.
Natural ventilation and light flooding into modern living area with gas fireplace, black furnishing and white desk

Be weather wise

Perth typically enjoys more sunny days each year than any other Australian capital. Its winters are mild and its summers are hot, but the Fremantle Doctor, a reliable afternoon sea breeze, brings welcome relief from the intensity of the sun. Understanding the weather patterns is essential for successful renovating and should be considered from the outset of the project, according to Burnham. ‘Sensible orientation combined with sun and wind tracking can provide shade in summer, greater sun penetration in the cooler months and make the most of natural ventilation,’ he says.
Window walls opening out into outdoor courtyard, successfully merging, inside, living area and outside home spaces
Burnham also counsels renovators to do more research in order to keep costs down. ‘It’s easy to spend a lot of money; it’s much harder to spend less and be effective.’ He advises renovators working with architects and designers to ask what the typical square metre rate is for getting their work built before committing to a project.
Good advice for renovators would be to work closely with a local renovation consultants, like Diana May from Refresh Renovations, and find out more about how following a six step process can help you achieve a better result.

Resources for renovators

The State Government determines local building regulations, but local government is responsible for administering them and ensuring compliance with Australia’s Building Code, relevant town planning requirements and local building laws. For more information, you can visit the City of Perth’s website for more information on these requirements and laws. Architect Philip Stejskal says the advice of duty planners at local councils is invaluable for professionals and the public – and recommends booking a face-to-face meeting for maximum benefit.
HouzzPinterest and the Refresh Renovations projects are excellent sources of design inspiration. Burnham also recommends The Australian Institute of Architecture’s architectural product news.
Master bedroom with classic lines, cherry wood floors and an art deco feature window above light wood queen bed

The essence of sustainability

Creating a truly sustainable home is about maximising the successful and workable lifespan of a building, according to Burnham. He recommends renovators pay attention to factors including passive solar design, future adaptability and classic design (he calls it ‘stylistic timelessness’) in order to achieve a truly sustainable property.

Amazing space

Stejskal believes creative thinking is best employed in coming up with ideas for better use of space, rather than simply inventing new trends. For example, he says it is possible to create a feeling of spaciousness in homes that aren’t particularly large. ‘You can double up on the use of certain rooms, for example, by making bedrooms quite small but fitting them with large sliding doors so that they open up and merge with adjacent rooms to create a large and generous space for daytime activities.’
Glazing in contemporary open-plan living area with grey floor panelling and black furnishings overlooking courtyard
Stejskal also suggests minimising corridors and carving out extra living space in those that are essential by introducing a feature window plus desk or daybed. He highlights the importance of successfully merging inside and outside space too. ‘The house and garden should be planned at the same time. A small home can be made to feel much larger by incorporating strategically positioned glazing in areas that overlook a courtyard or garden.’
In a property market where prospects are uncertain, Stejskal says renovating has much to recommend it. ‘By renovating and retaining the existing fabric of a property, you acknowledge the energy and resources that have already gone into the house. I believe that by renovating you participate in a fundamental form of sustainability which is often overlooked … and you have the opportunity to create a rich layering of new beside old. Clever renovations have the ability to restore relevance to an outmoded structure, whilst retaining the good and meaningful. They can also help families maintain their links within the community.' 

Need help figuring out where to start your next home renovation? Refresh Renovations has put together a handy checklist to make this process seamless.

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This article by Persephone Nicholas featured in Issue 018 of Renovate Magazine. Renovate is an easy to use resource providing fresh inspiration and motivation at every turn of the page, for ardent renovators seeking to integrate the latest products and technology into their homes.

Get in touch with Refresh to discuss your home renovation project

If you would like to discuss renovating in Perth, or anywhere in Australia or New Zealand - please use the enquiry form on this page to provide us with your contact details. We will get in touch with you at a time that suits you to discuss your project. If you would like to provide us with more information about your project, we have a more comprehensive enquiry form on our "Get in touch" page too.
*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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