Carmel and Antun Cule are the owners of Cule Constructions Ltd. When the time came to build their own new home, who better to take on the project than their own company?
How did you become involved in the project? Can you talk about the initial concept?
10 Sorrel Street is our home. We knew we wanted to use Shaun Lockyer Architects, so we commissioned him as soon as we purchased the property to design a home that would accommodate an active young family with children approaching their teenage years and which would also meet the needs of our son with special needs. The home also had to present as a modernist piece that had both open and intimate retreat spaces. Shaun expertly fused the existing 1900s Queensland workers’ cottage sitting on the property with the new extension.
The majority of the living, sleeping and bathing zones had to be on one level to accommodate our special needs son and Shaun did this by levelling out the backyard and creating a beautiful ‘L’ shaped home, which gave us plenty of green space and room for everything essential on one level.
How long did the build take?
Were there any other particular specialists that you had to work with on-site?
We worked with an iron craftsman to produce the balustrading and front entry door. The air-conditioning grilles are all custom made. We had a large four-metre by one-metre roof window custom made by a window/skylight manufacturer, which had to be craned over the house to be fitted and installed.
What was the relationship like on the build with the other stakeholders; i.e. what’s it like when you’re your own client?
Building this home was relatively stress free. Carmel is an interior designer, so she knew exactly what had to be done in terms of getting the look she wanted. She curated the furniture and the art specially for the house. And the architectural drawings were so well-drawn and detailed that execution was made simpler. We also had an extremely knowledgeable and technically-driven site supervisor for the whole build, who was always one step ahead of everyone on-site in terms of progress and execution.
What were the particular challenges on this job and how did you address them?
The major challenge was joining the cottage to the new concrete extension and making sure the two were aligned exactly. Once the old layers of the cottage were peeled back and the structure exposed, it became obvious the building was in need of restoration, so we had to tackle that first before we made the connection between old and new. This involved straightening existing walls, installing new trusses, adding additional support beams and correcting floor levels.
Now that it’s finished, what are your favourite elements of the project?
We love the huge open plan kitchen and outdoor entertaining areas. When you enter the front door, the large foyer is an introduction to the spaciousness of the house, especially as you climb the stairs and enter the open plan dining, lounge and kitchen area.
Conversely, is there anything you’re unhappy with or would like to do more work on?
Antun Cule on...
What was the best advice you received as an apprentice?
The first priority is your work – to turn up and perform well. This is your living!
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made on a job?
Using inexperienced subcontractors.
What are the funniest characters or nicknames you’ve come across with people you’ve worked with on-site?
A painter who was very accident prone and clumsy was called Spencer (from Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em)
Who are the best and worst trades to work with and why?
Depends on the trade. There are some people who are a dream to work with in any trade and some that are a nightmare.
What advice would you give them to make your life easier?
Knowledge is everything. Knowledge about product, about technique, about the building industry in general all helps.
What sort of margin do you put on new builds as opposed to renovations?
Between eight and 10 percent.
What are the biggest disputes/misunderstandings that occur with clients usually about?
Levels of expectations. Sometimes what the architect draws is not possible when building, so convincing the client that a detail needs to be reworked is hard. The more detailed the plans, the easier it is to build.
What are the secrets of a good working relationship with architects and/or clients? What advice would you give to other builders in this regard?
Open and consistent flow of communication. A builder is only as good as their subcontractors. And architectural plans are only as good as the level of detail provided.
If you weren’t a builder, what do you think you would be?
I was a painter before I became a builder, and I probably would still be a painter.
Would you advise your children (if you have any) to become builders? If not, why not?
Depends on their personality type. Building is not for everyone, as not all personality types can handle the pressure and stress of time limitations, budgets and different clients.
All 'under construction' images © Cule Constructions
This project was originally featured in issue 02