Ballarat at home: Eureka Street Primary School earns top marks

COOL is the usual reaction from Viv McLoughlin's children's friends when they arrive on the doorstep.

Ms McLoughlin lives with her family in the former Eureka Street Primary School.

After having renovated a few smaller properties, Ms McLoughlin and her husband were looking for a bigger project.

"We wanted to find a big warehouse and make it into our home," she said.

"The idea appealed to us because we could work with big open spaces.

"When the school came on the market it wasn't what we originally had planned, but it had those big spaces we wanted to work with."

With two young children at the time, they were looking for a place where they could set up their family, always with the intention of having four children.

There was no sewerage, gas or power when they first took on the property.

"My husband stayed here and I moved in with my mum in Ararat," Ms McLoughlin said.

It was never going to be a two-year project or even something they would complete within five years.

"We've just done it bit by bit as we've been able to with time and money."

Their latest project was the outdoor area, installing a pool and paved courtyard. They are currently tackling the paintwork.

They are yet to finalise plans for the front section of the house which is still set up as a glassed reception area.

The school closed in the mid '90s, when several schools from the area merged to create Canadian Lead Primary School.

"There was a lot of asphalt outside and paintings on the brickwork which we've covered with foliage."

The area they have converted into the kitchen and dining area was originally the gymnasium.

"When we bought the school there was gym equipment hanging from the ceiling and Life Be In It posters all over the walls."

A friend found a door a Tasmania, which was believed to be from a school, that is now in the old teacher's toilet.

"It's a bit funny we think. It says Reading Room."

They have left many features of the school, including bag hooks which they use as coat hooks, and the original sinks and mirrors in the teachers' toilet.

There is a red light above what they have converted into the main bathroom. They understand this room was used as a dark room, but in the original plans it was the principal's office.

They searched archives to find the original plan of the building which was built in 1854.

One of the central rooms, now used as a living room, was originally a courtyard so there are downpipes inside.

"When pulling out the blackboards, we found a few bits and pieces, including an old rod," Ms McLoughlin said.

"The bluestone steps have worn down with all the kids that would have walked across them.

"There were lots of tennis balls in the down pipes."

The front section had been renovated only five years before the school was sold, so the family moved into that area .

They worked quickly to create a bathroom and kitchen to make the house liveable.

"We worked hard to get the necessities up and running," she said.

"Before the kitchen was finished we were cooking on a barbecue and using an electric fry pan."

She said when they first bought the school, it didn't impress everyone.

"Our parents cried when we bought it but now they appreciate the space," she said.

"We wanted big spaces that we could work with and make our own so we could do split levels and make it how we liked it.

"It was always going to be a long-term renovation we've just done bits and pieces staying within our means.

"The location is great, the kids can walk into town and we have a great space."

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