Grand Designs Australia

Northcote Vinegar Factory - Expert Tips

Discover tips from the experts behind the Northcote Vinegar Factory from episode 10, season 6 of Grand Designs Australia.

Architect Adrian Light loves the patina of old things. His partner Liz Murdoch is the polar opposite.
Despite this, they’ve agreed to invest their life savings into a crumbling historical relic in a gritty urban laneway in the hipster suburb of Northcote in Melbourne, to realise Adrian’s dream of building a one-off, show-stopping home for his family.

The trouble is Adrian and Liz have spent most of their cash purchasing the 100 year old vinegar factory and have very little left to transform it into something habitable, let alone something Adrian’s hygiene-loving  partner, will consider living in.            

Despite zero experience in the building trade, Adrian decides to take up the tools in a bid to keep costs down.

Breathing new life into this building will not only take unforeseen dollars but relentless grunt work, much of it underground, thanks to a subterranean basement containing the original 22 concrete vinegar vats.

Although Liz is more repulsed by these vestiges of the past, Adrian’s determined to celebrate them and carve a new floor plan – including a state of the art architectural studio.

Squeezed between two neighbours, the party walls are the first thing to get Adrian into strife as one disintegrates and the other demands serious repair.  Then there’s the matter of the rusty old roof, 12metres high with scant visible support.  Occupied by possums and leaking like a sieve, it creates a wet, miserable site for months on end as Adrian struggles to build four new levels to finally reach its peak and replace it.

Besides the yeasty old vats, the factory has many other foibles  - horse urine channels, rotting vinegar barrels, diseased ironwork and structural beams that bend like bananas , which all send Adrian into paroxysms of preservation. Liz on the other hand is more intent on self-preservation as the timeline and rental budget balloon and the family are threatened with eviction from their rental digs.

As Liz’s patience wears thin, Adrian throws himself into the project even deeper, calling on untapped physical reserves to finish the job. The problem is, he’s not qualified and his rookie’s enthusiasm lands him in deep trouble.

Finally, 12 months past their predicted finish date, Liz and Adrian are forced  to consider the unthinkable – moving into a half finished building that is more Gothic horror than family home.


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