Though Tonita Coppard and her family had always lived in old Queenslander
-style homes, over time she noticed that her young family’s needs and tastes were changing. “I longed for more of an open plan and found myself ogling at the ‘modern classics’ in every furniture magazine I could find,” she says. An experienced hairdresser of 30 years, Coppard says she prefers to work with an existing structure to improve — much like hairdressing. “I’d see homes that I’d either walk or drive by and know exactly what was wrong with them and what could be done to make them look better.”
When it came to creating the right home for their family in Australia, Coppard and her partner were sure they didn’t want to expose themselves to the “torture” of building and would rather renovate when the right house came along. Which it did, in 2004: an unspoiled 1960s house with a flat roof.
Houzz at a Glance
Who lives here:
Tonita Coppard and Adrian McKay, and sons Will, 17, and Ned, 14
Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia
Four bedrooms, three bathrooms
After the family moved in, people would ask how they liked living in a 1960s house. “We’d often admit it was ugly, but we also loved it. It just felt like a home,” Coppard says.
Despite the half-wood, half-linoleum floors and partially knocked-out walls throughout the six years it took to complete their renovations, both Coppard and McKay agreed the home had a great feel. Coppard also recalls feeling that things were progressing in the right direction and that they had time to visualize the new spaces they were creating. (More on the pictured stair risers in a minute.)
The house was originally built by a retired farmer who wanted a low-maintenance home. “It even came with stainless steel gutters,” Coppard says. When they first went to look at it, they knew it was right for them — even with its plush carpet, flocked wallpaper, pelmets and sand pink toilets and bath. The rooms were also a great size, with generous amounts of light and built-in closets, which is something other Queenslander homes lacked. There was even the bonus of a large storage space below the house that could become a workshop or office.
The transformation of the exterior alone is impressive and shows off Coppard’s eye for design and color. The striking home now stands out on a street of mostly renovated wood homes.
The home feels somewhat like a well-curated gallery space, with hanging artwork, collected treasures and other odds and ends adorning the walls and corners.
The stair facings, which have been covered with old book spines and rulers, are a particularly creative feature. Coppard had a large collection of older hardcover books, encyclopedias and rulers, which she had planned to use to cover a wall. When she found she didn’t have enough to complete a wall, she decided to use them on the stairs instead.
Natural light streams into the home and is felt from the entry and staircase at the front of the home, which also offers a leafy street view.
Coppard describes her decorating style as eclectic, noting: “I think this might be the case whenever someone is restricted to a budget — which most people would find they are.” She feels that this style allows her to be more creative with her ideas and how and where she spends her money.
Because the family set out to live in the home before deciding on a final floor plan, they were able to get to know the spaces. They did still manage to pull up carpets and linoleum and remove the wallpaper and curtains. “I remember when the boys were small, I’d turn the clocks forward so that I could fast track them to bed at night, so that I could settle into a night of removing wallpaper,” Coppard says, laughing.
Previously, the lighting in the living room was quite nondescript. She’d always loved a New Zealand light designer by the name of David Trubridge. “This light [the floor lamp at right] was definitely a splurge; it cost us [$1,850] 10 years ago,” Coppard says. “It gives a sense of grounding to the room, and ties in the dark tonal values of the floors with the textures of the room.”
There’s something interesting to take in on every wall in the home, whether it’s a picturesque view or a creative wall hanging. These vintage wooden trays were originally used for a letterpress. Coppard transformed them into assembled artworks, which are reminiscent of the creations of artist Joseph Cornell. They each feature Scrabble tiles, old photographs, seashells and actual printing blocks from her father’s old menswear business, Coppard Menswear. In a stroke of luck, she was able to purchase the blocks from a Brisbane store called Grand Ideas where her friend worked. “My girlfriend called me the day the stamps came in. He used them to print his business cards,” Coppard says.
The warmer months are a favorite time of year for the Coppard family. They often open up the bi-fold doors and louver windows at the front to get a lovely cross breeze. “When we sit in our [living room] and look out at the view, we are always amazed that we are as high up as we are,” Coppard says. “I feel like we are surrounded by so many trees. The house is full of light, sun and the sound of birds.”
Coppard truly enjoys looking at a space to figure out what it needs and says she relies on what feels right to the eye. She felt the living room needed a strong feature somewhere to help balance the black Le Corbusier lounge they originally had. This black chair pictured is a Mies Van de Rohe.
She added a large, black, mixed-media canvas, which she created herself, to the opposite wall (directly facing the bi-fold windows) and then added soft furnishings to tie in the mix of colors.
This black and white diptych artwork provides a little nod to the adjacent wall with the large black canvas and also adds an extra texture to the stone feature wall.
One of the biggest disappointments for Coppard during the renovation was the bi-fold windows at the front of the living room. “When they arrived, we noticed they were powder coated, when all of the other doors and windows were aluminium,” Coppard recalls. “This was something that the company had quoted for but forgot to bring to our attention. It was too late and would have been too expensive to simply replace.”
A major feature of the original home that gave it that true 1960s feel was that most of the rooms (including the living and dining rooms) had doors you could close off in winter. All these doors were removed, and the openings to each space were heightened and widened.
The dining room is easily defined without being completely enclosed. The stone feature wall can be enjoyed from both sides.
Coppard says that the laundry room was as big as the kitchen. Since doing laundry wasn’t going to be a big part of the couple’s life, this was simply a waste of space. They decided right away that this space would be added to the kitchen.
They knocked out the walls between, which also removed the hallway to the back door, allowing them to get a better feel and view of this new space. The laundry is now discreetly located in the cabinets along the opposite wall, which faces the kitchen.
For the kitchen, they hired the services of RW Joiners
, who Coppard found to be particularly good. “One of my pet hates was the common desire to include an enormous oven,” she says. “It’s the first thing you see when you walk into a lot of new kitchens. My oven was definitely going to be hidden!”
Coppard came up with the idea of a sliding door to conceal the oven, and the cabinetmakers solved the mechanism and proportional problems. The door is also helpful when entertaining, since the cooking mess can be shut away behind the closed door. Neat and practical.
For the kitchen surfaces, the cabinetmakers introduced her to a product called Marblo
. It is a resin that can withstand quite a bit of heat, but not heat straight from the oven. It also is very durable if scratched, as it can be buffed simply with cloth, plus it has no seams. It comes in an array of colors and even patterns. Lights were added under the counter to illuminate it beautifully at night, which is great when entertaining.
The back wall of the kitchen and original laundry is now open and leads to the backyard.
Opening up the back wall that divided the kitchen from the backyard brought more light and air into the home. And the couple also gained a new space for dining and entertaining. They get the perks of outdoor living without the hassle of traveling and setting up.
The pair wanted a large deck that was part of the house so there wouldn’t be a big threshold to step over.
Because it wasn’t the kind of deck that typically would extend from a home, it was really important to find the right builder, Coppard says. They needed someone that could understand their vision, know how to solve a few design problems and get the job done. They found the right man for the job: local builder Ross Bielefeld.
The backyard is very low maintenance and adaptable to the needs of this family. It’s also private and well-shaded in the afternoon, and it provides the perfect space for a cricket pitch for sons Will and Ned.
This family of four have always treated their home as a place to enjoy and “live” in. “We never treated it with kid gloves,” Coppard says. “Shoes stay on, our kids entertain their friends with food in hands and run from the backyard through the house and into their rooms.… Our house is definitely a home.”
Ned and Will’s bedrooms are located at the back of the home and take in views of the green backyard.
Coppard painted the house herself over many days off and weekends. The built-in closets in the kids’ bedrooms were originally a soft shade of pink, and the pair managed to keep the original doors and sections, giving them a lift with a fresh coat of paint and some different drawer and cabinet handles. The handle on Ned’s closet door is actually a vintage car hood ornament.
Will’s bedroom is also eclectically styled with old, found and new items — making for a character-filled room that’s in keeping with the friendly atmosphere of the entire home.
When renovating, the big ticket items are always going to be the kitchen and bathrooms. Coppard found that she could spend money on just a few features and then use various budget items to achieve a successful look that’s in keeping with the “splurge” items. The wall-hung toilet and fully mirrored wall were the two splurge items in the main bathroom.
With two home renovations now under her belt, Coppard has recently partnered with a friend to buy, renovate and sell houses.
The master bedroom is located at the front of the home on the second floor and is complete with its own adjoining bathroom and veranda.
A gorgeous array of textures are seen in this room, with the checkered wooden feature wall behind the couple’s bed. Vintage suitcases are piled high to form a creative bedside table, and the pendant lamps provide a warm glow against the rich, dark wall.
Looking back on the renovation of her home, Coppard says one of the couple’s biggest design struggles was figuring out how to get the things they wanted while staying within their budget. Kitchen backsplashes, quality countertops and ovens are all expensive items in the kitchen.
“In hindsight, I think it would have been cheaper to have the builder quote on all of the projects at the one time instead of job by job,” she says. “But this was also something we couldn’t afford to do at the time. It’s nice I think that our house is like a canvas that can continue to evolve or change with new ideas and looks.”
via My Houzz: A 1960s Home Filled With Light and Personality