Randwick Bungalow upgrade

When Nick and Talia Sinclair first met GWAs Georgina Wilson to discuss plans for their Randwick bungalow, Nick threw down a challenge: he wanted a putting green in the backyard.

“I have always been a very keen golfer – it’s what I do to relax and switch off – and I was intrigued by the idea of having a small patch in our new backyard, where I could roll a few putts after work or on the weekend, he says. “But to be honest, I didn’t really think it would be feasible or discreet enough for Talia, until we started talking with Georgina and she showed us how easily and attractively it could be included; that’s when the idea really took hold.”

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After a stint in New York, the two lawyers had decided to return to Sydney in 2016 and, once back, began house hunting for their dream family home in Coogee, Randwick, Clovelly and Bronte. This wasn’t an easy task. The growing family (a two-year old daughter, with a son on the way) knew they wanted to live in the Eastern suburbs, but it was slim pickings. Every place they looked at just wasn’t suitable.

“They all seemed to have some sort of problem,” Georgina recalls. “Whether it was lack of sunlight, unusable bedrooms or no laundry, there was always something wrong about each house.”

When they did find a house which ticked most of their boxes, it was sold before they could even inspect it. So Georgina sat the couple down and gave them a reality check.

“I told Nick and Talia to focus solely on location,” she says. “I said ‘Buy somewhere you want to be and we’ll design something functional, something beautiful that becomes your dream home.’ The trouble with these parts of the Eastern suburbs is that you’ve got very little to choose from. It’s a fabulous place to live and raise a family, but you’re dealing with some pretty basic housing built en masse in the ‘40s.

“They’re generally either completely dilapidated or have had some pretty dodgy renovations done over the years,” Georgina explains, “and most of them need a lot of work to reach modern living expectations.”

Eventually, the Sinclairs found their gem: a crumbling, old bungalow in Randwick. But, importantly, in a lovely street and with incredible potential to become Nick and Talia’s dream home.

And so the planning process began, with a brief extending beyond Nick’s putting green fantasy. The couple wanted a home that could handle the young family’s busy lifestyle and so storage was key. They wanted a haven, a place where calm would reign, despite the comings and goings of its inhabitants and where kids and adults could each escape to their own areas. A flowing ‘indoors to outdoors’ feel to expand the playing area to the green space outside and not clutter the living areas inside with the endless paraphernalia children produce. And, while the functionality needed a serious upgrade to reflect modern-day living, the look and feel shouldn’t venture too far from the building’s original charm.

Now well and truly settled, Nick and Talia’s home is a constant hive of activity. They have a live-in au pair to help with their children, often have international visitors staying and enjoy hosting social gatherings for family and friends. And rather than feeling the home is straining under the pressure, it seems instead to shine.

“I love the way it so beautifully accommodates such a full and varied family life,” says Georgina.

The serene mood is set even as you walk through the front door. Refreshingly, there is nothing to distract young minds, nor trip over, thanks to the oversized (and extremely subtle) vestibule housing all manner of household items. Shoes, bags, prams and sporting equipment are all neatly stored away, out of sight and away from prying hands. It was this never-ending need for storage within a family’s home that prompted GWA to devote the entire existing roof space to this purpose, a feature Nick and Talia particularly love.

“I dare say it was a feat of architectural triumph,” says Nick. “GWA came up with this fantastic idea to line and ventilate our whole roof area which has increased our storage capacity ten-fold. Not only is it a colossal amount of room, it’s not your traditional damp, musty storage room where the dank air seems to ruin everything. I actually can’t imagine ever needing any more space than we now have.”

Australians returning from overseas often come back to Sydney with a new appreciation for the temperate climate which lends itself to the outdoors lifestyle many of us enjoy. The Sinclairs are no different, which is why the outside area featured highly on their list of requirements.

The rear garden is shaded by lush, green trees, providing a pleasantly cool sanctuary to play, entertain and relax. A hot water outdoor shower was even installed for post-surf rinsing and, thanks to some pretty awesome creativity and design, so was the putting green.

For most of the year, the Sinclairs make use of the outdoor area, whether day-to-day or on special occasions. And because the indoors flow effortlessly to the outdoors, with full line of sight from the kitchen and living area, the kids have a certain level of freedom to be outside on their own. Naturally, the younger family members have their own ideas on using the space.

“We are often treated to impromptu concerts on our elevated grassy area – or what we’ve come to know as the ‘amphitheatre’,” Nick explains, “and, of course, the putting green is a feature in itself, fun for us and a draw card for visitors of all ages.”

While it’s hard to predict exactly what the family will need down the track, the couple anticipates their home will continue to accommodate their lifestyle as the children grow and change. In fact, Nick and Talia are already slightly ahead of the game, enjoying somewhat of a parent’s retreat upstairs. The wonderfully secluded master bedroom looks out to a canopy of greenery, almost creating the feeling of being in a tree house. The room’s large window makes the most of the view outside, reinforcing the quiet cosiness that comes from being up high.

In keeping with the period charm of the house, the Sinclairs opted to re-work the tessellated tiles and other features so familiar in Federation homes.

“It was important to us to stay true to the style of the house,” says Nick. “While it desperately needed an overhaul in terms of liveability, there’s no way we wanted to sacrifice the overall look of the home. GWA did a stellar job of melding the two so that we’ve ended up with this amazingly functional, on-trend home which has not just retained its original beauty and charm, but actually highlighted it.

“Time after time, GWA brought edgy, yet realistic designs to the table, giving us a huge amount of confidence in the whole process,” Nick concludes. “The experience has exceeded expectations for us in every way – we’ve created our dream house in the suburb we wanted and with the lifestyle we’d imagined for our family.”

guide to home renovation

We have put together a guide on what to expect at each step of the home renovation process, how long each stage will take and how you can work with an architect to create your dream home.


  1. Be polite, positive and proactive.

    Don’t be too greedy with your proposals. Ideally your aim should be to improve the amenity and value of your own property and the community. Big isn’t necessarily better.

  2. Show your neighbours drawings before submitting them to council.

    Architectural drawings tend to be more simple, more ambiguous (and less threatening) at this stage. This is a good chance to listen to your neighbours concerns and hopefully allay them before any misunderstandings or resentments take root.

  3. Put up a fence at the beginning of the job (and don’t take it down until the work is 100 per cent complete)

    Of all the things that’s guaranteed to needle your neighbours most during the renovation process is the messiness of it all. The dust and the debris of the building process is the single biggest element that will stretch friendships in your street.
    The other reason for building a fence is that seeing the messiness – even if it doesn’t have a direct impact on your neighbours property, it can have a negative psychological impact. What they don’t see won’t concern them *

  4. Dilapidation reports are your best insurance.

    If you live in close proximity to others, a dilapidation report ensures you have a “before” record of the state of neighbouring premises (inside and out). If you don’t have a report, you may find your building works being blamed for every old crack that already existed in an adjoining building.

  5. Work things out between yourselves.

    Once things are reported to council, you can guarantee that other consultants will be called in to mediate and confer and things can get costly (and nasty).

* Early in my career I designed a terrace house renovation and made the mistake of taking down the fence that was screening the building works too early. Once the fence came down the neighbours had a full view of the services that were going in on the roof – fireplace flue, rangehood exhaust, airconditioning. After living next door to a long, drawn out project the neighbours were cranky. And now, given an unobstructed view to all this stuff that was being installed right near their boundary, they took pictures and sent them straight to council. This led to a a certifier being called in and a complaint had to be assessed by health and safety auditors. Ultimately it was confirmed that the services were allowable but not before everyone had wasted a lot of time and money. The lesson? If the fence had stayed up and the relationship with the neighbour had been more positive it probably wouldn’t have happened.