Million dollar Queenslander rescue a labour of love for couple
Rotted out stumps, asbestos, termites and even the discovery of an underground spring couldn’t change Sean and Megan Neagle’s love for a charming 1901 Queenslander they rescued.
They were caught up in the romance of the grand home from a bygone era, and hellbent on changing the fortune of the crumbling property they’d eyed from down the road for years.
”We would often go past and talk about how much potential the property had,” they said of the sprawling Qualtrough Street home in Brisbane inner-city suburb Woolloongabba.
“It was a 1901 Queenslander that we thought was grand and beautiful, but just needed a lot of love to bring it back to its former glory,” Mr Neagle told The Sunday-Mail.
Project Budget: $1m
Renovation Time: 11 months
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They weren’t going in blind — Megan’s background was project management and architecture while Sean was an electrician.
“We knew we had the skills and contacts to be able to make it happen. The chance to have an old Queenslander, design and build your own family home especially fit for you, in an area you love was too hard to pass up.”
The property was so bad, it might have been simpler to have it demolished.
“The house wasn’t in a good way. It was written up as Brisbane’s worst house and with the state the house was in, it would have been easy enough to have an engineer deem it structurally unsound and have it demolished. But that isn’t why we bought it. We loved the vulnerability of it, the love it needed, but most importantly, we loved the opportunity.”
“It had everything … asbestos, lead paint, borers, rotted out or missing stumps, parts of the roof missing, termites, and an underground spring. We think all of these risks went in our favour when it came to buying the property, as most other people were scared off at the thought.”
He said the extent of the damage was the unknown fact, and “we also hit terrible timing with rain and civil issues that resulted in abortive works and costs”.
“Lots of times the reaction was, ‘well we just have to make a decision quickly and get on with it’. We never thought of stopping, because we knew that we wanted to live here long term, we always knew it would be worth it in the end.”.
He said the fact that it was to be their forever home helped.
“We probably would have had a different view if we were doing it to sell straight away. That is not to say that we didn’t loose a lot of sleep over it. When your builder falls through the floorboards because of borer damage and the like, you are generally a bit on edge.”
Builder Santo Cavallaro of S M Maintenance Services was “awesome”, Mr Neagle said — “old school and with attention to detail” — with the other main trades coming from Greer Plumbing, Style Electrical and Mahara Roofing.
They kept the front facade as it was, with great care taken to ensure that parts that did need replacing were updated in a way that aligned with the original home. At the back an open plan was followed.
“Every pane of glass is new, every window except one is new, but we also tried to reuse where we could. All of the French doors were reused, as was the front door and some of the internal doors. Everything we had to replace was then replaced with custom made, solid materials, like for like. That was important to us. We want it to stand for another 100 plus years.”
The property is now home to the couple and their children Flynn, 3, and Teddy, 1, with the massive 809sq m double block containing the stunningly restored 1901 Queenslander, with French Oak flooring throughout, parking for six cars though the space could take 10 comfortably.
Features like its north-south orientation and natural ventilation were boosted, as were “beautiful details” like ceiling roses, fretted breezeways, VJ walls and ceilings.
Nothing was done without research first and the project has ended up costing them a million dollars in total. The project was complete in 11 months — a short period considering the amount of work that needed to be done.
“Thankfully with our ability to design, project manage and procure our sub contractors we were able to save money on those elements. This was definitely more than we had expected, the extent of the issues were unknown, which was definitely the hardest part when it came to budgeting.
“It was also hard convincing our bank manager, they didn’t always see our vision when looking at derelict pieces of timber. That said, we would do it all again to get the result we got.”
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