A Geelong Mum’s Passion for Restoring Run-Down Homes


A GEELONG West woman’s mission is to preserve Australian history through renovating neglected homes.

Emma Everitt, mother of three and disability support worker, is currently working on a run-down house she purchased at the end of last year, built circa 1860. It’s her third project in six years, and this is her first heritage-listed house.

Ms Everitt said it was love at first sight, that she was attracted to the charm of the building and the history that came with it. 

“I was drawn to the history of the house, straight up. I had a look through it and just fell in love with how pretty it was,” Ms Everitt said.

“I’m just really passionate about saving houses – too many houses get bulldozed and big, new houses get built. I love houses that have soul, and my secret little mission is to save as many houses as I can.”

It took only one week for Ms Everitt to purchase the house after discovering its listing.

“I organised a meeting with the Planning Department and they filled me in on its history and what they recommend to do with the house. By that Friday night, at the deadline of 5 o’clock, I bought it. It was really fast,” she said.

The house is of local significance and typical of its period, listed on the Victorian Heritage Database with information on its heritage status and physical description.

The property has heritage overlays which are aspects of a planning scheme using the framework in the Victoria Planning Provisions, to ensure the protection of a site with heritage value.

Emma is proud to own her first heritage property. Image: Lionel Baker

With a flair for interior design and gardening, Ms Everitt said she has loved being able to collaborate with the Planning Department in order to revive the dilapidated piece of Aussie history.

“With the Planning Department, they just like you to be working along side them; if they know that you are in the mindset of conserving history then they’re really easy to work with,” she said.

A City of Greater Geelong Planning spokeswoman said it is suggested people with a heritage property have a pre-application meeting where they sit down with a planning officer and a heritage consultant to discuss their proposal.

“They need to bring along a concept plan of their proposal and they’re generally advised when drawing up the concept plan, they should maintain the streetscape and follow the building footprint,” she said.

The pre-application is a popular method for heritage property owners to receive proper feedback on their concepts before submission to council, though there are other avenues that can be taken.

“They either do the work themselves – get the plans drawn up and submit them to council and then it goes through the process of assessment. Council may have issues with what they’re proposing so they then have to go backwards and forwards to their draftsman to get something that is mutually acceptable,” she said.

“Or, they can get a planning consultant to work on their behalf who does the consulting with council until there’s something that meets the requirements of the heritage overlays and what the client wants.”

The home’s cosy interior. Image: Lionel Baker

Juggling two jobs and three teenagers, Ms Everitt doesn’t do all the work on her own, grateful for her partner’s background knowledge and expertise. She said she loves being able to work with a team of people who are skilled at their craft.

“I’ve got a team set up with an electrician, builder and plumber – my core guys that I use. Depending on each house, there’s other tradies that get called in. I really love having people to work closely with and coordinate. It’s the logistics of it all that I quite enjoy,” she said.

“I like being busy and I love the challenge of it – challenging my brain to come up with solutions because it’s such a small house.

“Though, the same thing that I love is also the most challenging, because it’s being able to communicate with people. Having a clear understanding of what my expectations are so the tradies know what that is as well is a huge thing – communication is key.”

Ms Everitt said she won’t be doing much to this run-down home, rather giving it the attention it needs to preserve its history. She has already removed the cast iron verandah addition to the front of the house, which was a recommendation to enhance the building’s integrity.

“Inside, there’s really not much I’ll change just preserve what’s here. Every little part that was added to the house is part of its history,” she said.

“It’s nice for the environment too because I’m not into knocking things down just to be thrown away and then rebuilt with new materials –  the quality is lost then, and the soul of the house starts to disappear when you do too much to it.”

Ms Everitt said this time around she doesn’t think she will be able to sell her charming cottage once she has finished with it.

“I do really love this little house, and always in the past it’s been quite easy for me to buy, renovate and sell because I haven’t really gotten attached to them. You don’t get attached to real estate emotionally – but this one’s just got something about it … so I’d quite like to stay.”



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