Take a bow Reno Schooler, Kate Potter, your award-winning house is dead set amazing!!!

You don’t have to be an expert to see why this renovation by Reno School student, Kate Potter, won top prize at the Building Designers Association of Australia Awards.

Not only did it take out first place in its category, it beat out large commercial-scale projects to take overall first prize in the Greater Sydney Chapter Awards!


 This cottage may be small in size but it’s big on character and has a gorgeous story behind it…

Kate, tell us a bit more about your gold star project

My husband and I set our sights on this gorgeous little cottage in Thirroul, south of Sydney, with the intention of renovating it to live in ourselves. But, it soon became apparent that the daily commute to Sydney wasn’t going to work for us in the long-term.

Since the plans were already drawn, we decided to go ahead with the reno, with the intention of renting it out and then selling down the track.

This little cottage was steeped with history and many potential buyers were viewing it with the intention of knocking it down. One of the things that got the sale over the line for us, was our commitment to the family of the previous owner to renovate rather than rebuild. We met the daughter of the owner and she told us the story of her mother, Maisie, who raised five children in the two-bedroom cottage. She was somewhat of the matriarch of the street and we wanted to honour her by maintaining the character of the home.

The renovation involved transforming the outdated two-bedroom cottage into a functional four-bedroom home, whilst maintaining the old-world charm. And to make sure her legacy lives on, we added the new name plaque ‘Maisie’.


How did the Reno School help you?

I’d renovated before I did the Reno School course and I’ve also done other renovation courses, because one day I want to turn my love of transforming houses into a career. While I found the other courses great in terms of technical content, I never found a style that I connected with. Until I discovered the Three Birds.

The thing that made the Three Birds Reno School stand out from the rest was the focus on the importance of articulating a vision for my project. I learnt why having a vision is so important, how to create my own vision board, specific to my renovation, and the constant reminders to keep checking back to it, to remain true to my vision. 

That, and the inspiration that Bonnie, Erin and Lana give me for what you can do as a woman in this field, without being a builder or a tradie. They’ve shown it’s possible to be the visionary and the project manager to bring renovation projects to life.

 In terms of design, you’ll see lots of things in our cottage reno that are a direct influence from the Three Birds. Like the study nook, inspired by Lana’s butler’s office and the five glorious skylights. 

Whenever I need a boost of motivation and inspiration, I’ll watch a few episodes of Three Birds house reveals online or flick back through the Reno School modules. They’re so beautifully presented it’s not a chore to do so.

What have been your
biggest learnings from the Reno School?

My biggest learning has got to be how to define your vision. I’ve found that being clear in my own mind has also given me the confidence to back myself and be firm with my decisions when talking to my tradies, builder and even my building designer. 

I’m a Project Manager in the transport industry and this skill of articulating a defined vision has really helped me in my 9-5 job as well. I’ve found that being crystal-clear on the vision of a project, so that I can communicate it in a succinct manner to everyone else, really helps in the office too!

I’ve always believed that you should focus on what you’re good at and to outsource the skills you don’t have. So, I love that Three Birds validated this for me and don’t encourage DIY if that’s not your strong point. I’m definitely the ‘Erin’ of our renos – I’m the planner and the get things done girl. I’d love to be more ‘Bonnie’ in the styling department but I’m still working on that skill. For this reno, I actually worked with the super clever team of stylists at @propertystylingcorp to stage the home for the Awards. They were very happy to take on my brief to create a coastal/Byron Bay feel but to let the authentic nature of the cottage shine through. They had access to all the staging furniture we needed too, so it just made sense.


What about the exclusive Reno School Facebook group?

I’ve found this group amazingly beneficial. Of all the Facebook groups I’m in, it’s the most active and definitely the most supportive. 

I’m blown away by the amount of talent in that group. There are so many like-minded renovators sharing their amazing work and giving support to each other. I know that if I’m struggling with a design decision I can pop in and ask a quick question, that will inevitably lead to great advice. 

I was hesitant about posting about this renovation in the group at first, because we went into the reno building our dream home but it turned into a house we’re not going to live in after all. I guess I was feeling quite despondent about the whole project. Next thing, I had more than 200 likes from fellow students and so many positive comments. The validation from other students made me feel really proud about what I’ve achieved… and inspired me to want to do it all again!

Photo credit: @propertystylingcorp

Would you recommend the Reno School to wannabe renovators?

Absolutely. It’s a no brainer really, it’s great value for money. The tips from the Facebook group alone will save you money!

I love that it’s adaptable to all styles, so I don’t feel like I’m constrained to one ‘look’ for my next renovation.



The Reno School is our six-week online course and enrolments are now open for the next intake, starting 7th October 2019. You’ll find all the info (and inspo!) here….