Skip to content

Paddington house renovation - client case study

by Christian Case on

In 2019, our team completed a substantial raise and renovation of a beautiful old Queenslander in Paddington, Brisbane, for our clients, Sean and Franki. The following article summarises our recent ‘Building with Bluebird’ podcast with Sean. He shared his experiences of the renovation process, from engaging the architect to working with our team and the finished product.

The property search

Paddington was the area where Sean and Franki wanted to find their next family home. There has always been more renovation than brand-new build opportunities in the area unless you demolished and rebuilt. So from the beginning, they knew they were on a quest to find a property with renovation potential.

The property find

They found the site quite rare for Paddington, a reasonably flat 800 sqm block. It featured an old two-storey Queenslander that was well-proportioned and had the potential to make it into their dream home. The house was not a legal height on the lower level, so they decided to raise the house and extend the existing floor to ensure sufficient space for themselves and their three children.

Engaging the architect

Sean and Franki engaged their friend, Matt Kennedy, from Archie, an emerging architect in Brisbane, to design their home. They showed him the property before settling on the purchase to determine whether the renovation was worthwhile. He advised them not to rush the reno, to live in the house for at least a year, and live and experience all four seasons to understand what it is capable of and the possibilities. 

The design process    

It took about a year to finalise the plans and drawings as they wanted to take time to consider everything and get it right before commencing the build. During this process, they simplified some of the inclusions and had to compromise to ensure they kept the most important things they needed and stayed within the budget. Sean also attended expos and took on as much information as possible about design considerations to ensure they made the right decision before building things such as the pool, wine cellar etc. 

The building quote  

After the design process, the plans were put onto the quantity surveyor to do a notional cost analysis, after which they had to reconsider some of their choices to reduce costs. Once that was finalised, Matt introduced Sean and Franki to our Bluebird Design + Build team as we worked on previous projects together.

We provided a detailed quote and specifications list based on the plans, but it took a bit of back and forth with Sean and Franki to make the build more efficient and to fit within their budget. We guided them through the process so they fully understood the cost breakdown. After our recommendations, they had to make some compromises, and we agreed on a quote that they were confident working with. 

The build process

Once the building contract was signed, Sean and Franki had to move the family out before our team commenced the build as we had to raise the house. This was a pre-Covid construction, so the planned timeline was about 12 months which we met, even with a few variations and additional items added along the way. 

The family relocated up the street and often visited the site to check out the build process, meet our team, and see how we work. They liked being involved in the building process and were interested in how things worked onsite. They were excited to create something purpose-built for them and get the chance to see it evolve through different build stages. 

Managing the build

We usually manage the build, but the architect managed the onsite construction for this project. This included managing documentation and communication between our team, Sean, and Franki. As well as project delivery, accountability, monitoring, and quality assurance. Having Sean and Franki actively involved in the project from the start made things run smoothly, as they also cross-checked everything. 

The variations

During the build, our team discovered some termite damage in one of the beams in the bathroom, so we had to go back to Sean and Franki to make variations to deal with this damage. Also, the engineers had left a few points where planting gardens wasn’t viable due to excess concrete. So our team had to jackhammer the concrete to remove it. 

Another situation involved the construction of a lockup storage shed underneath the pool deck. After the footings and peering were completed, it became apparent that the shed was not high enough for people to stand upright. Sean and Franki agreed with our recommendation to remove additional concrete to extend the height.

This highlights the importance of involving the client throughout the process and being willing to change plans when necessary. It's not just about how things look but also if they are practical and liveable. Ultimately, it's all about maintaining a flexible mindset and preparing for the unexpected.


When building a home, there are always things you wish you knew before starting the process. Sean advises homeowners going through a similar process to pay attention to the plans and be actively interested in the team doing the work. By doing so, they were able to come away from the experience with no regrets. Long-term planning is also essential, considering things like electrical plans, solar power, and provisions for future technological changes.

After living in the new home, Sean mentioned that one of the design features they particularly like is the large open void in the centre of the house, which lets in a lot of light and ventilation and creates a sense of volume. The goal was to create an open, welcoming and meeting place, which they feel they have accomplished. 

Click here to view the photography of the finished project.

Bluebird Design + Build are Brisbane’s luxury custom home design and build specialists who work with you every step to design and build a home that looks excellent, matches your budget and meets your family's needs. Find out more about our team here or book a discovery call to see how we can help.