Re-building a life post bushfires

Nic and Susan Alexander never intended to build their own home. But when bushfires destroyed their Dargan property in December 2019, they had no choice but to start from scratch. “When you lose everything, it’s not something you get over,” says Susan. “We were devastated.”

Friends, Jon and Sarah Dunstan had built a beautiful house nearby and when Susan discovered it was a Paal home, all four spent New Year’s Eve studying designs on the company website. And not long after, Susan and Nic contacted Michael Christie. “Michael was just awesome,” says Susan. “He gave us a lot of advice.”

The couple didn’t intend to build the Derwent, but when Michael showed them how it looked with cladding, they knew it was the one. And after making several modifications such as adding a cathedral ceiling in the main living area and a walk-in wardrobe and ensuite for their teenage daughter, everything slowly came together.

The layout is similar to their original home, however now it has the advantage of a teenage retreat where their daughter can hang out with friends. They also upgraded by adding solar panels, underfloor heating and a three-car garage next to the house. “We’ve made the improvements we were always going to do,” says Susan. “I love the garage, to be able to drive in whether it’s hot, rainy or snowing is such an improvement on what we had.”

While the couple project managed the build, they engaged a builder, Ray Collier who had experience with Paal homes and was recommend by Michael. “Ray did it all,” says Susan. “We didn’t have to worry, because when you’re in that state of trauma, it’s hard to process and do things.”

Having lost their furniture, the couple sourced everything second-hand, except for one couch, as they wanted to re-create a similar warm and eclectic feel. “We had a lot of antiques and handmade items,” says Susan. “So, we didn’t want to fill up the home with new stuff because it’s not us.”

Overall, Nic and Susan were very happy with Paal and the final result. The six-acre property itself has a long way to go, but inside feels like home. “We never wanted to build a home and I will never do it again,” says Susan. “But choosing Paal was a good thing and Michael was great.”