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This week, Ashley and Cass head to photographer Scott Leggo’s Griffith home to explore Canberra’s love of renovating classic ex-govie houses.
Canberrans have an undeniable obsession with ex-govie houses. I guess it’s part of our heritage—most of us have either lived in one, have friends in one or have at least been to a party in one.
Ranging from those in their untouched conditions to those that have been extended and redesigned to an inch of their original life, there are thousands of ex-govies sprinkled throughout our older suburbs.
So why do they represent to us? And how do you nail the balance between the ‘then’ and ‘now‘ when doing an ex-govie refurb? Well, let’s meet photographer Scott Leggo and find out.
Cass and I found Scott’s place in Griffith way before we even checked the number on the letterbox. The light blue house proudly stood out on the street as if showing off its new render and paint job.
The simple façade of the 1960s home is nicely complemented with clean lines of its garden beds, a few strategically placed white pots and an expansive front lawn framing the entry path to the front door.
Scott was waiting for us on the porch with his wife Pip and their toddler Holly. If the government was looking for picture-perfect moments to promote their real estate, this would have been it.
Scott and Pip purchased the property in its untouched condition about three years ago. Despite the overgrown garden, mouldy bathroom and dark insides, they could see potential for a home they would love.
It must be a little like a dog owner who can see a loving dog underneath a shaggy dirty mess that really needs a groom. You’re probably wondering why I went with a dog analogy? Well, my dog Peppie the Cavoodle just came up for a pat then licked my foot and I got distracted from writing this. Okay, back to the story.
Scott and Pip did a lot of cosmetic work inside the home, adding new carpets and blinds, and of course, popping on a new coat of paint.
The biggest internal changes included renovating the bathroom, refurbing the large detached laundry and removing an old fireplace to make more room in the living area.
Externally, they set up a large studio/guest bedroom space behind the garage, removed tonnes of ceiling tiles to place a Colourbond roof, built an enclosed garage and cleared the garden to give plenty of lawn for Holly to play on.
Speaking of Holly, Scott and Pip were really content with their family-of-three life in the three-bedroom place. They had a home they could work from, have visitors stay, and a lovely garden for Holly to chase birds in.
However, baby number two came into the picture and all of a sudden, their living requirements changed.
Scott and Pip considered extending, but then they realised it would be forcing the property well beyond its original intent. Scott, who is a celebrated landscape photographer, knows all about balance and composition, so if he says the home would not suit the frame of the property, then we better listen to him.
In fact, you’ve probably noticed from Cass’ pics that there are many lovely prints on the walls (mostly his) and that the décor in the home is simple, ordered and beautifully balanced.
That’s what you get when you have the photographer and the Scott Leggo Gallery Manager living under the same roof.
Sooner rather than later, Scott and Pip will have to move and set up a picture-perfect moment on the front porch of a new home.
For now, though, they will continue to enjoy a home that has defined a milestone in their life, which they’ve adapted to their style without losing its traditional character. Come to think of it, these are probably the two reasons why ex-govie homes play such an important role in our Canberran psyche.
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Photography: Cass Atkinson