Renovate or Rebuild Recap, Episode 3: Carl and Kerensa

It’s Team NSW’s turn to show us what they’ve got in episode 3 of Renovate or Rebuild.

Going head-to-head are Team Renovate, Andy and Deb and Team Rebuild, Norm and Jess.

Andy and Deb make a formidable duo. The comedy king and styling queen have a wealth of experience and plenty of flair. They will go to any lengths to reinvent the past and renovate all the way.

Norm and Jess are legendary Blockheads from 2018 and now radio superstars. With a soft spot for heavy machinery, they will jump at any chance to knock down and rebuild.

And while these teams battle it out for renovation supremacy, it might be the perfect moment for you to explore sustainable living options. Interested in harnessing the power of solar energy for your home? Get FREE solar quotes from Energy Matters, the experts in solar solutions. Because sometimes, the best transformations happen not just within the walls of your home but in the way you power it too.

A modest 60s home nestled among mansions

In this episode we head to the south-eastern Sydney suburb of Malabar, 15kms from the CBD. Here we meet Carl, Kerensa, and their two active kids.

The young family moved to Malabar just under 5 years ago. Previously living on a busy main road in Randwick, they were not only looking for a new house but a new lifestyle offering peace and tranquillity.

Malabar delivers this in spades, with a picturesque 200 metre sandy beach framed with sandstone rocks and cliffs, calm swimming conditions, rock pools, and relatively few visitors. One of Sydney’s best kept secrets, Malabar is a top choice for young children and families.

“Driving around the corner you feel like you’re coming into a peaceful coastal town”, said Kerensa.

Like most suburbs in Sydney, the price of a great lifestyle doesn’t come cheap – the median house price range is $2.5M.

While the young family adore their coastal lifestyle, their home, on the other hand, isn’t really working for them.

Footsteps from the beach and nestled among stately mansions you’ll find Carl and Kerensa’s modest single-storey property. The home was built in the mid-1960s when the area was transitioning from rural to residential. Although the family have performed a number of small cosmetic upgrades and added a new kitchen, the walls are closing in on them.

The house is remarkably cramped, with Kerensa saying they have to walk in sideways when they go into the bathroom. Adding to the claustrophobic feeling is the lack of natural sunlight towards the front of the house, especially in the small living room. On the back end of the house, they have the opposite problem, with so much sunlight streaming in that it’s unbearably hot during summer unless they close the blinds and crank the air conditioner.

The inefficiency of the home doesn’t end there. In winter, the house is cold. Gaps in the floorboards and bricks, coupled with poor insulation and thin windows means that the family spend a small fortune on heating.

Carl and Kerensa’s design brief

The family is at a crossroads – they need more space and they know the house really doesn’t take advantage of its incredible beachfront location. They question is, should they renovate or rebuild?

The block itself is long and narrow. They are restricted on the sides with neighbours, so would have to build up to achieve a larger footprint and see the full horizon of the ocean instead of just a snapshot.

In terms of design, they want a mid-century modern beach house, infused with colour and textures of wood, stone, and brass. If there was any feature from the existing property they would like to retain, it would be the classic breeze blocks at the front of the property.

As much as they like the existing property, Carl and Kerensa don’t feel there is much worth retaining and are leaning towards a rebuild.

Brief Summary:

  • More interior space
  • Take better advantage of views
  • Able to use all spaces, all year around
  • Efficient, comfortable, and healthy home
  • Budget $1-1.2M

Team Renovate: Andy and Deb

As our Team Renovate duo, Andy and Deb approached Carl and Kerensa’s home they were immediately drawn to the breeze block design. While they liked the ‘cute’ exterior, they couldn’t ignore how small and dark the entrance and lounge room is. They also decided the wall running through the front of the house needs to go.

Moving to the back of the house, they were wowed by the money-shot ocean views, and knew they needed to plan the renovation to maximise them. It wasn’t long, however, before they felt the impact of the sun through the windows. “You’d absolutely fry in summer”, exclaimed Andy.

Knowing they’d have a tough job on their hands, Andy and Deb still agreed that the house showed great potential for a renovation.

Team Rebuild: Norm and Jess

“Is this it?”

It was clear from the get-go that Norm and Jess weren’t fans of Carl and Kerena’s beachfront abode. Not even the breeze blocks could impress, with Norm commenting that they looked a bit dated.

Heading inside, their impression of the house only worsened. They joked that the lounge room was so small and dark that you could develop photos in there. Like Team Renovate, they could tell that the back of the house would get uncomfortably hot during summer.

The house reminded Jess of her old teeth – the dentist said they had no hope, so she got new ones! To them, the solution is obvious – knock it down and build a beautiful sustainable home. “You could make a fortune having a flash house in this area”, Jess added.

Design Consultations

Assisting both teams with their designs is Todd Small, a talented architect at award-winning Architectural Designer Arkhaus.

Team Renovate were left flabbergasted after their consultation with Todd, who told them in no uncertain terms that, from a practicality and cost perspective, the house should be knocked down.

“It isn’t cheaper to renovate”, said Todd. He explained that, given the logistics of a major renovation, particularly getting things in and out of the site, it would be cheaper to rebuild. Not only that, but a rebuild would leave the owners with a healthier, more practical product designed for 21st century living.

Although the news was both ‘brutal’ and ‘soul-crushing’ for Andy and Deb, they reassured us that they aren’t ‘Team Give Up’ and they don’t mind a challenge.

Norm and Jess were clearly thrilled to have Todd in their corner for a rebuild. When discussing the issue of climate control, Todd shared that one of the advantages of a rebuild is that you can implement a ‘passive design’ which employs sensible measures and philosophies that allows a building to cool itself.

Designs: Ideas and Inspirations

While the teams left Todd to work on their designs, they visited some incredible properties for inspiration and ideas.

Norm and Jess took Carl and Kerensa to visit a luxurious Penthouse in Bellevue Hill, Sydney. The gorgeous property was a hit with the couple. They loved the feeling of space that was achieved through lofty ceilings and big, open uPVC double-glazed windows. The innovative windows not only looked great but provided excellent thermal insulation.

Meanwhile, Andy and Deb visited a stunning family home in Wollongong for some ideas on how to insulate and scale Carl and Kerensa’s existing home on a budget. The property owners had recently wrapped their existing home in prefabricated bondor panels that not only provide insulation year around but also expedited construction to only 7 days.

Next, Roshan Ramnarain from Energy Matters took Andy and Deb to visit a property in Elizabeth Hills, Sydney. Here, Chris Johnston from All Star Energy Solutions demonstrated how the property owners have dramatically reduced their quarterly energy bills from $1050 to only $100. How? By installing a 10kW solar PV system and retrofitting LED lighting. Not only does the solar system save them money but it also adds resale value to their home.

Back in Malabar, Norm and Jess were shocked after seeing Carl and Kerensa’s outrageously high energy bills. Knowing that reducing these bills could help offset the cost of the rebuild, they used Energy Matter’s solar and battery storage calculator to determine not only the size of a solar and battery storage system for Carl and Kerensa, but also their estimated weekly and annual savings.

Finally, Andy and Deb checked out an innovative house by Tempo Living for some useful tips on building on a narrow site.

Final Designs

Due to COVID restrictions, this episode’s design reveals and judging were held via video conference.

Team Renovate design highlights

  • Three storey design, adding square metres to the floorplan while maximising the views and coastal breezes
  • Reconfigured existing rear workshop and storage area at back of home to allow for new laundry and storeroom
  • Existing side walls retained, minimising the amount of materials leaving the site
  • New internal walls added to create impressive 4brm home that utilises every bit of available space
  • New double lockup garage utilising the front yard
  • Large rooftop garden on top of double garage, doubling usable outdoor space
  • New top floor addition with open plan living, dining and kitchen
  • Prefabricated construction bondor panels for insulated but economical build
  • Two large sets of sliding glass doors allow air to flow through the home, creating stunning light filled living area that accommodates every season
  • Modern facade with textural mix of recycled bricks, timber cladding, natural timber battens and energy efficient windows
  • Breeze blocks on rooftop garden reimagine one of family favourite features on existing home
  • Clean interior aesthetic with blonde timber flooring, natural grey stone bathrooms, and white painted brick walls
  • 7 star energy rating

Total estimated cost: $801,000

Team Rebuild design highlights

  • Excavated the site, carving out space for a large, brand-new 3 storey design
  • Generous double-garage with plenty of storage and practical internal access to house above
  • Self-contained lower level with laundry, powder room with shower, and value-adding kitchen
  • Internal stairs leading to light-filled entry foyer with street access
  • Sliding cavity door providing separation to the middle ‘sleeping zone’ floor of the home
  • Light filled ‘solar chimney’ stairwell uses rising warm air to drive cool breezes through the home
  • Open plan top floor with large kitchen, walk-in pantry, rumpus room, living rooms, and built-in study desk
  • Top floor deck with outdoor dining, relaxation and a built-in BBQ area
  • Striking front façade with curved timber screen contrasting the straight lines of external finishes in a sculptural way
  • Blonde timber tones repeated in garage and front door adding natural timber continuity to streetscape
  • Interior juxtaposing the exterior with timber-lined ceilings and polished concrete floors
  • Energy rating of 7.2 stars

Total estimated cost $1,216,000


The two different solutions were judged by an expert panel on style, sustainability, and cost. The judges are real estate expert, Nick Papas, building and property expert, Natalee Bowen and interior designer, James Treble. Each judge will give a final score out of 10.

Ultimately the decision will come down to Carl and Kerensa — will they renovate or rebuild? Their decision will add an additional two points to the final tally.

Team Renovate:

Nick: Likes the space it offers and how they captured the natural light. Recommends moving the rumpus room. Thinks the unique design could achieve a mid to high $4M price point. Score: 8.5/10

Natalee: Loved use of recycled bricks and breeze blocks for the facade and how it pays homage to the original house. Score: 8.5/10

James: Thought upstairs area was fantastic, with the airflow from front to back, massive deck and rooftop garden with the breeze blocks. Thought the cost was amazing. Score: 9/10

Total Score: 26/30

Team Rebuild:

Nick: Thinks the incredible design will be more attractive to a buyer looking to invest in the Malabar area. Estimates resale value of early to mid $5M. Score: 10/10

Natalee: Thinks they hit the ball out of the park – absolutely loved the facade and the cleverly designed, beautiful curved screen. Score: 9.5/10

James: said while they achieved 270 square metres, it came at a high price of $1.2M. Scored lower based purely on price. Score: 8/10

Total Score: 27.5/30

Final decision: Renovate or Rebuild?

With Team Rebuild leading by 1.5 marks, only Carl and Kerensa’s final decision can keep them from victory.

Carl and Kerensa start by saying that both are really good designs, ticking a lot of the boxes in their brief. They’ve really had to weigh up the different factors including the budget, the floor space and how they’re going to use the house when they live in it.

Kerensa noted the extra 70 square metres of the rebuild, and how the self-contained downstairs area might come in handy when family visit.

Is that worth the extra $400,000 over the renovation?

Apparently yes! Carl and Kerensa have chosen Team Rebuild’s design, much to Norm and Jess’ delight.

Again another great result and another family with an answer to that age-old question – renovate or rebuild?

Get rooftop solar panels in Melbourne. Energy Matters has a nationwide network of trusted local solar installers in Melbourne that you can access today that can provide you with up to 3 Free Solar Quotes. Complete our quick quiz and switch to solar in Melbourne today.

Get a quick solar quote, or contact us today toll free on 1800 EMATTERS or email our friendly team for expert, obligation-free advice!

Other Energy Matters news services: