When first home buyer and building designer Janik Dalecki bought a dumpy little Maylands cottage, his friends thought he had lost the plot. “The house ticked all my boxes and I instantly saw what potential it had,” he says. “But family and friends thought I was crazy and said things like, 'it’s a bowl-over'!”
But Janik, who runs his own business Dalecki Design, was undeterred. He’d been searching for a first house to buy for ages and it felt like it was taking forever (been there, dude). “At the time I was actually looking at Victoria Park as I wanted to be close to the city, cafe strips, a train line and wanted something I could either renovate or add to,” he says. “Vic Park seemed to tick all these, and the area has so much character which I absolutely love. Along with this was the fact I grew up around that area so I knew it quite well and felt comfortable there.”
But when it came to the kind of house Janik wanted, Vic Park property prices weren’t so kind to his budget and so, like many of us first home buyers, he widened his search area. “I stumbled across this pocket in Maylands that I really liked,” he says. “By chance this property came up, which I fell in love with as soon as I drove by it.” It was a small 1940s two bedroom cottage, and Janik was in his early 20s when he bought it in 2012.
While Janik says he tried very hard to buy a first home with his head not his heart, he admits it didn’t quite go according to plan! “I wouldn’t say I was looking for a character home but I definitely was drawn to the older character areas and the homes in these areas,” he tells me. “Some properties I looked at were not character homes but every time I stumbled across a little character gem my heart did stop for a second! I tried to avoid falling for a house as I didn’t want to become emotionally attached and let it become an emotional purchase, as I was on a pretty tight budget to be able to afford the property and then begin renovating. Easier said than done! After seeing this one I was in love haha.”
He was possibly the only one. “A shack, a den, a rundown cottage - these are just some of the PG-rated descriptions friends and family would use to describe it,” he laughs. “I was a little more positive as all I could see when I looked at it was all the possibilities and how gorgeous it could look when renovated.”
Sticking with his gut instinct, Janik began renovating straight after he moved in and now has a truly awesome house with a feel that matches his friendly personality.
What I like so much about this house is that it’s cool and styled, but isn’t pretentious or precious. I’m not surprised when I learn it’s become a favourite house for his friends to hang out at. “I love having friends over for dinner,” says Janik. “It is such a relaxed place to entertain with the great connection between the kitchen and the dining room. Even on more casual occasions I can comfortably have friends over in the lounge room and I can be in the kitchen and still be part of the conversation and entertaining.”
My favourite feature in Janik’s home is the wall of built-in cabinetry in the open-plan living extension. Janik says the entire design of the kitchen, dining and living revolved around having a huge bookshelf. “Originally it started off in the dining room, but being space conscious decided to move it into the living room and use it as the TV/media cabinet also,” he says.
In an age when so many of the houses we see on Instagram and in media start to look so same-same and devoid of any display of the personality and interests of its occupants, I love that Janik’s wall of shelving is refreshingly personal; a feature that reveals a lot about the person who lives there. If you hadn’t met Janik, you could look at the wall and feel like you kind of know this guy; taking clues from the MarioKart game waiting in the Nintendo 64, the pack of Cards of Humanity and the bottle of Chivas Regal, the robot collection or the assortment of tiny cacti growing in plastic dinosaurs. “I think overall the house has a fun, bright, young feel to it, which very much reflects the kind of person I am,” admits Janik.
Janik describes the house pre-renovation as a rabbit warren. “The floor plan was confusing and there was room after room with copious amount of wasted space and areas you just couldn’t finish well,” he says. “The inside was dark and gloomy which was a combination of the small rooms, the colour palette and the fact that the house didn’t take full advantage of the north-facing rear.”
The main objective was to open the house up to create not only a more user friendly layout but a lighter and brighter feel throughout. Other objectives included adding more storage, particularly in the existing two bedrooms which had none, adding a third bedroom/study, a second bathroom, bring the outside laundry inside house and then creating a backyard that could be used for entertaining.
The extensive work took place in two stages over the next three years, with time snatched away from work whenever possible. Janik says he is indebted to his dad John Dalecki, who runs construction business DMS. “I owner-built the home with my dad’s help and a lot of it,” he tells me. “Together we did everything from the demolition, the paving, installing the timber floorboards, Gyprocking walls and ceiling, installing the cornice, fitting new windows, new roof sheeting, gutters, downpipes - really 90 percent of the work was done by him and myself.”
The biggest challenge, he says, finding enough time to work on the house around work and other commitments. And the old house decided to throw up some other fun challenges, too.
“Oh gosh, where to start,” says Janik. “The best one would have to be when we removed the back old rear laundry and toilet addition. In doing this part of the bathroom ceiling was exposed and by part I mean very little at all, as this bathroom was the next room that was going to be coming down, but we had to wait till the new bathrooms were built and working first.
"Anyway we had a freak downpour of rain one night and I remember hearing this creak and then my dog’s little footsteps as he was slipping about trying to grip on the floorboards and make a getaway, followed by a massive crash and bang - yep the bathroom ceiling had come down. The little portion of exposed ceiling had gotten some water in it which soaked up the ceiling insulation and then the weight pulled the ceiling down. After the mess was cleaned it was actually quite nice as there was now a kind of rustic skylight which stayed operational while the new bathrooms were finished!”
Janik is an award-winning building designer who’s been in the profession for more than ten years, so I ask him to share his top renovating tip with other house nerds. “Don’t start any work until you have a solid plan of all the work you want to do,” he advises. “Have a clear picture of what you want - the amount and type of rooms, function of the rooms - and the end result. Too many times before have I seen people start renovating then decide they wish to add something on or renovate something else in the house but are left working around what they have already done. It’s easier to start with as clear a palette as you can.” Maya x
Looking for a designer? Janik offers building, interior and spatial design and can do everything from pre design phase all the way through to completion. Contact him through Dalecki Design or on 0410 100 096. He can be found on Instagram at @dalecki_design.
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Dalecki Design building designer Janik Dalecki and Mister, his “super-energetic, food-obsessed Beagle”
A fully renovated 1940s character cottage with a modern open-plan living
Front and back verandas, open-plan kitchen, living and dining, three bedrooms, concrete benchtops, jarrah floors, high ceilings
Janik is a building designer who runs his own business Dalecki Design. He oversaw the renovation and extension owner-builder and did the interiors. You can follow Janik on Instagram @dalecki_design or contact him at [email protected] or on 0410 100 096.
Janik owner-built the renovation and extension with his dad John Dalecki, who runs construction company DMS. You can contact John on 0416 040 157 or at [email protected]
Architecture and interior photographer Dion Robeson of Dion Photography. You can follow Dion on Instagram at @dionrobeson