Previously lived in by the owner’s adult daughter, the decision to renovate came with her move. Renovated in the 1970s, the house featured a basic addition, with a singular door to the back garden (orientated to the east) and with virtually every wall having a different patterned wallpaper. And not surprisingly, brown tiles were used extensively in the wet areas. The decision to renovate fortuitously coincided with FMD Architects ‘Cross-Stitch House’, a renovation to a similar property in the inner-city and featured in a book the owners were thumbing through.
As with the Cross-Stitch house, this home required opening up to the back garden and modulating the roof to allow light into the core. However, as with all of Dunin’s designs, this is a one-off for a couple who want to use the entire house. Rather than placing the bedrooms at the front and an open plan kitchen and living area at the rear, Dunin transformed the modest bedroom at the front into a study, with new built-in furniture. And at the rear, adjacent to the lounge, is the main bedroom, ensuite and dressing area, benefitting from the morning sunlight. As the couple no longer have their daughter living at home, a large sliding door leading from the lounge to the bedroom can be left open most of the time. “I think it’s important to be able to draw your attention through an entire site (40 metres long in this case),” says Dunin, who also included a mirror-clad outdoor shed to reflect the garden, designed by the Straw Brothers, back into the interior. And although one can see right through to the back garden from the front passage, the joinery unit framing the dining area, creates a subtle ‘veil’ in the plan.
Having a slight change in level across the site (approximately 500 millimetres) also creates a loose division between the kitchen and dining area, and the adjacent lounge. Beautifully crafted with an angular Maxiply island bench (in laminated plywood), the kitchen bench appears more of an object on the kitchen’s concrete polished floors. However, while the bespoke joinery elevates this home several notches, it’s the raked timber ceiling, extending to 4.5 metres to the north, with its diamond-shaped skylight, that draws one’s eye. “The raked ceiling is not just a response to the light. I wanted to shift the emphasis away from the fairly bland wall on the neighbour’s property (also built in the 1970s),” says Dunin, who included generous double-glazed doors and windows in the white brick extension (the latter being a contemporary response to the home’s original white timber structure).
While the original house was barely set back a metre on either side, the new brick wing is cut away from the northern boundary to allow the northern sunlight not only to be enjoyed from the living areas, but is also now wide enough for the owners to pull up chairs outside. And while the new wing is where the couple gravitates, the original home was also upgraded, including new joinery and painting, along with a second bathroom for guests.
What was a modest cottage is now a comfortable contemporary home, bridging the past and the present. And although the focus may have been fireplaces in the Victorian period, it’s now the light and garden aspect that’s celebrated. “It is quite a complex renovation that does create a ripple effect as you move through it,” adds Dunin.