From shell to sensational

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When Maggie Dwyer first laid eyes on the derelict administration building at Warrnambool’s old woollen mill, she knew her house hunting days were over.

Ms Dwyer looked beyond the building’s decrepit state, its graffiti and birds’ nests, to the potential underneath.

“As soon as I saw the ruin I knew it was the one,” she said. 

“It had good bones.”

Ms Dwyer had been searching for a new home for about two years when she spotted the old office building while on a tour of The Mill estate, built on the site of the city’s former woollen mill. 

While she was told the building was beyond saving, Ms Dwyer thought otherwise and bought it from The Mill estate developer Ron Paterson.

It was a seven-month labour of love to transform the building from derelict shell to unique home.

“It was in a terrible state,” Ms Dwyer said.

“Every single window was smashed. There were birds’ nests everywhere and kids had got in and it had been vandalised.”

At the forefront of Ms Dwyer’s mind was retaining as many of the original features as possible.

Luckily, designer Chris Steel, Owenbuild’s Chris Owen and the team of local tradespeople were on the same page.

The Mill estate developer Ron Paterson, former Warrnambool Woollen Mill CEO Don Jenkins and Magie Dwyer in the converted administration building.

The Mill estate developer Ron Paterson, former Warrnambool Woollen Mill CEO Don Jenkins and Magie Dwyer in the converted administration building.

“The boys had plenty of ideas about what we could save,” Ms Dwyer said.

The project was finished in 2015, and from the road it looks like any other home in the woollen mill estate.

The new section at the front features two bedrooms, bathroom and garage. Through an old fire door, the original building is revealed, transformed into an open-plan kitchen, living, dining and office space. 

In this section, the history is evident from every angle — soaring ceilings, exposed beams and pipes, original floorboards and remnants of the original wallpaper.

Second-hand bricks have been used inside and out, and the very rear of the building is the masterpiece – the mill offices’ restored facade.

As well as the mammoth recycling job, the home’s green credentials include a water tank for the garden and triple insulation.

The property has solar hot water and Ms Dwyer has also signed on with energy company Powershop, which gives the option to use only green power by using the excess solar power that homes and businesses are feeding back into the grid.

After calling the building home for a couple of years now, Ms Dwyer describes the lifestyle as “lovely”.

These days, photographs are the only reminders that the comfortable home was once just a run-down shell.

“It was a total wreck,” she said. “It’s been a great journey.”

Ms Dwyer’s home, at 6 Milloo Place, Warrnambool is open from 10am-4pm on Sunday as part of Sustainable House Day.

Other homes open to the public for Sustainable House Day are: 

  • Mill House 2, 13 Jedburgh Way, Warrnambool.
  • Hydronic Cottage, 8 Henna Street, Warrnambool.
  • Tiny House, 66 Atkinsons Lane, Illowa.
  • Cudgee Earthship, Lot 6 Hallowells Road, Cudgee.

Entry is by gold coin donation.

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