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Comeback cottage

We were all just blown away seeing the final result, especially the amazing work of the painters and tilers. We're especially happy with the kitchen and bathroom

It was like a former TV celebrity experiencing a very public mid-life slump; cracked surfaces, blistered paint work and a generally rundown, neglected air.

For as long as anyone could remember, the modest, single-story Victorian terrace had quietly occupied a corner of Sydney TAFE's Petersham Campus, becoming more and more depressed and rundown with every year that passed and every plane that roared overhead.

But, like any former TV celebrity worth their salt, a comeback was in the cards.

The house was earmarked for a full renovation treatment, with Sydney TAFE students providing the skills, knowhow and elbow grease. The freshly-renovated building would then be put onto the rental market. An innovative way of turning the resident white elephant into a valuable, revenue-raising asset.

Dubbed "the Petersham Cottage Project", the transformation was kicked off in late March 2014 with the unveiling of a fresh new design, courtesy of four 2nd year Interior Design and Decoration students from Design Centre Enmore.

"Our concept was modelled around the word ‘reshape'," said Georgie Frew, one of the students. "We also drew inspiration from Petersham's local Portuguese community."

The design students worked alongside students of Painting & Decorating, Tiling, Photography and Marketing. This innovative and collaborative approach not only provided valuable "real life" experience for all the students involved, but mimicked a real world situation where different industry professionals work together for a common client.

Winston Stephenson, a 2nd year Cert IV in Photography & Digital Imaging student at Ultimo Campus, was given the responsibility of creating a photographic record of every stage of the cottage's transformation.

"I've covered the whole project, right from the beginning," he said. "I used this for my storytelling assessment. I was being assessed on use of available light, fill flash or flash as main. It replaces my other assessments."

The Diploma of Interior Design and Decoration students were also formally assessed on their work. "It was our major project for Semester 1," explains Nicole Vella, another of the Enmore students. "It's been incredible seeing our design concepts being brought to life over the last couple of months. We were all just blown away seeing the final result, especially the amazing work of the painters and tilers. We're especially happy with the kitchen and bathroom."

Director of Petersham College and Design Centre Enmore, Rob Cousins, explains that the initial budget for the entire project was $50,000 but this figure was incrementally extended as the project evolved. "It's also been a valuable experience for the students in regards to budgetary estimates and costing," he said.

The result? The Victorian-era structure has now been given a gleaming 21st century treatment – big, spacious, walk-through bathroom, polished timber bench tops, shiny flickmixer taps, a contemporary black and white checkerboard kitchen floor. And, most importantly, noise reducing double-glazed bedroom windows. A stylish home that can confidently hold its own in the competitive property market of Sydney's inner west.

Now that's a comeback.