This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

The Barn

Architecture

We know you’re used to seeing a great variety of Australian Homes here every week, but we must admit, it’s not often we have the opportunity to shoot a new home designed by an architect.

This month, in the lead up to the 2015 National Architecture Awards, we’ve partnered with The Australian Institute of Architects to source and showcase a handful of the cleverest architecturally designed homes we think are worth sharing! These are real homes, designed by some of the best and brightest residential architects and small practices working in Australia right now.

We’re kicking off this mini-series with a very special and seriously small (!) heritage renovation project in Hobart. It belongs to young architects Alex Nielsen and Liz Walsh.

5th October, 2015

‘The Barn’ – this cleverly converted sandstone barn in Hobart, Tasmania is a cosy residence for young architects Alex Nielsen and Liz Walsh. Above – the exterior of the property , with crisp new windows that provide a distinct contrast to the rough original sandstone walls.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Dining area. The new windows sit comfortably within the existing openings in the thick sandstone walls. Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Kitchen – the simple black kitchen is carved out of the joinery wall, the tile shape and pattern reference the original cobbled brick floor of the barn. Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

The front door to Liz and Alex’s home is the the original stable door, housed within a new steel frame for strength and security. Liz and Alex love the age-old marks and scratchings in the timber! Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

The large pivot door opens onto Liz and Alex’s small private courtyard, also elongating the interior space and letting light in. Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

In stark contrast to the rough sandstone wall texture, the staircase entry is clean and crisp, appearing to hover within the existing fabric of the space. Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Dining / living area. Heavily textured original sandstone walls, timber posts and joists are contrasted with smooth, new timbers used on the floor and internal walls.  Pared back furnishings create a feeling of space within the small footprint.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

The exterior of the property, with original stable door, and new windows.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Mezzanine bedroom, simply furnished so as not to compete with the rich texture of the original sandstone walls and timber roof detailing. Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

The built in wardrobe in the mezzanine bedroom follows the slope of the existing roof line, articulating the volume of the space. Also seen here, a new skylight cut into the pitched roof, letting natural light stream into the bedroom. Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Study – showcasing the striking texture and repetition of the existing shingled roof.  In order to retain this beautiful shingled roof detail internally, Liz and Alex effectively built a new roof outside the original roof, with insulation in-between. Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Living room. Textured original sandstone wall, original exposed floor joists overhead (looking up into void), mid century danish chair and Moroccan ottoman. Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Ground level floor plan. Illustration – Annie Portelli.

Mezzanine level floor plan. Illustration – Annie Portelli.

Lucy Feagins
Monday 5th October 2015

This very special and seriously small (!) heritage renovation project in Hobart belongs to young architects Alex Nielsen and Liz Walsh, who met whilst studying Environmental Design and Architecture at the University of Tasmania. Both talented young designers, they have each gone on to work at respected architectural firms in Hobart – Liz is at Cumulus Studio, Alex at Circa Morris Nunn Architects.

Liz and Alex purchased the building they affectionately call ‘The Barn’ in their first year of practising architecture after graduating. The pair had just returned from time spent living and studying in Europe and Morocco, and were inspired by ‘vernacular architecture’ – that is, architecture using local materials, and techniques that have been passed on from generation to generation.

‘Cities like Copenhagen and Krakow also challenged our notions of home within the city’ says Liz. ‘We loved the pedestrian nature of these cities, and the luxury of being car free. Travel has significantly informed the way we practise.’

Upon their return to Hobart, Liz and Alex rented a house on the same street as a tiny, run down old barn, and would walk past it everyday. ‘We fell in love with the simplicity, raw spatial quality, and its rough and ready texture’ says Liz. ‘We were amazed by the condition of this almost 200 year old building. We started casually making a case to put in an offer, unsure of everything but our desire own this little outbuilding.’ They eventually purchased the barn in mid 2012, and commenced their redevelopment of it in early 2013.

The Barn was in surprisingly good structural condition, considering it was constructed around 1829! Also, amazingly the space had never been converted, its last occupants had been horses. Due to its heritage value, as a condition of their permit, Liz and Alex we were required to keep one of the original horse stalls as it was originally located and constructed. This central narrow stall space became the obvious location for the bathroom, and provided the opportunity to bring functional services (ie modern plumbing!) to the centre of the building.

‘We purchased the barn largely because of its heritage, therefore it wasn’t so much the heritage impeding our design, but rather ensuring our decisions to alter the existing fabric were not only considered, but enhanced the spatial quality and exposed existing fabric’ says Liz. ‘It takes a lot of design hubris to cut into a 200 year old sandstone wall, we questioned our design motives a lot because the fabric we were working with was so rare.’

Aside from working within heritage considerations, Liz and Alex’s other great challenge was of the more contemporary kind. Finance!

‘Functionally, our brief for the project was largely reflective of our financial arrangement with our lending institution’ says Liz. In order to obtain the finance required, the home had to have two ‘bedroom’ zones, one bathroom, and ample functional storage. ‘Whilst we saw the Barn as a rare opportunity, the bank saw only risk’ Liz explains matter of factly. ‘Therefore our brief became about exploring and understanding how a 2 bedroom house could possibly fit into 62sqms stable!’

The main building works were completed by the end of 2013, at which point Alex and Liz moved into a partly finished home, sleeping on the living room floor while Alex and his Dad finished the mezzanine floor! More recently, the mezzanine bedroom, study and joinery were completed.

This unique restoration project has been a passion project and a coming of age for these two talented young architects (both still under 30!). ‘The barn has given us the confidence to discuss, explore and develop spaces that respond conceptually and uniquely to both brief and context’ says Liz. It’s also been a new and joyful experience to actually live in one of their own designs!

Liz and Alex are thrilled that The Barn is nominated for two Australian Institute of Architects award this year, in both the heritage and small projects categories. ‘We’re very excited, because it is the first and only project we have completed together, and it is our home’ Liz says. ‘The nominations are a great example of what can come if you take a risk, we feel so lucky we had the confidence in each other to take that risk. The response has been great, Alex’s mum was very excited we featured in the local newspaper!!’

Liz and Alex’s Hobart home is shortlisted for an Australian Institute of Architects award this year. To celebrate this and other clever and achievable architecturally designed homes across Australia, the Institute is launching an Instagram campaign this week! Share your pics of your dream home with #whereidliketolive, follow @whereidliketo on Instagram or visit whereidliketo.com.au for inspiration and info.

View Comments

Similar Stories

Architecture

Wilston Garden House

A classic Queenslander is cleverly updated by Brisbane architectural firm Vokes and Peters.

Travel

Tasmania’s Derwent Valley with Rodney Dunn

The farm-to-table cooking school chef takes us on a tour of Lachlan and nearby New Norfolk, in the state's south-east.
Rodney Dunn

Architecture

Westgarth House

A beautiful family home in Melbourne’s inner North, designed by local architecture firm Kennedy Nolan.

This Week

Creative People

Landscape Studio Ayus Botanical On Creating Calming + Enduring Gardens

The husband-and-wife team of Ayus Botanical share the thoughtful processes behind their lush residential and commercial projects!
Christina Karras
  10 hours ago

Creative People

Artist and Yindjibarndi Elder Wendy Hubert On Mapping Country + Culture

Our new columnist Jirra Lulla Harvey talks to respected Yindjibarndi Elder, artist, Cultural Custodian and linguist, Wendy Hubert about Coun...
Jirra Lulla Harvey

Stays

A Dreamy Getaway With Panoramic Views In The Heart Of Hobart

Edwardian architecture meets a Japanese-style extension at this peaceful Tasmanian retreat, complete with spectacular views of the city, riv...
Christina Karras

Gardens

A Cottagecore Folly Buried At The Bottom Of A Grand Garden

Cameron Kimber’s pocket-sized patch contains a folly and a sweet guest cottage mirroring his stately home in the Southern Highlands.

Architecture

A Timeless Renovation Incorporating Three Eras Of Design History

The Autumn House by Studio Bright unites a Victorian terrace with its 1980s renovation by architect Mick Jörgensen, in one contemporary des...
2:04

Inside Look

Behind The Scenes At The NGV’s Epic New Picasso Exhibition

Exhibition designer Allie Mactier takes us through one of the National Gallery of Victoria's biggest exhibitions ever.

Interiors

A Mediterranean-Inspired Holiday Home Right On The Water’s Edge

CLO Studios styled the interior of this new Noosa home (dubbed Sky Garden) with earthy tones and pieces by local artists.

Architecture

A Compact + Colourful Extension Of A Fun Family Home

Foomann Architects replaced this Melbourne home's dated extension with a personality-filled renovation, behind a vibrant pink door!
Christina Karras
  18 hours ago

News

Bruce Munro's Spectacular Light Installations Are Coming To Heide

See a showcase of light and colour when the acclaimed English-Australian artist takes over Heide Museum of Modern Art and its gardens!
Sponsored

A Day In The Life

A Day In The Life Of Costume + Production Designer, Catherine Martin

The four-time Oscar winning designer shares insights from her career working alongside husband Baz Luhrmann, and how she helped bring 'Elvis...
Christina Karras

Interiors

The 2022 Australian Interior Design Awards Winners!

From Troye Sivan's divine Flack Studio residence to a converted warehouse abode, the industry’s best designers and projects have been reve...
Christina Karras

Homes

A Creative Couple’s Loft-Style Pad, With Brooklyn Vibes!

Designer Phi Do and his husband Yaniv Brayer give us a tour through their warehouse-style Richmond townhouse.

Interiors

A Green New Addition For An Ageing Edwardian Home

Brave New Eco revitalises an existing Brunswick home for multiple generations with a new extension, natural material palette and clever use

Interiors

Two Sleek + Stylish Side-By-Side Homes On One Block!

This dual-occupancy build by Boutique Developments proves developments don't have to be generic, with each unit offering up its own contrast...
Christina Karras

Studio Visit

Kelly Thompson’s Playful Preston Showroom Clashes Colour In The Best Way

The clever creative behind online store, Makers’ Mrkt, gives us an inside look at her fun Preston stockroom-turned-store!
Christina Karras

Similar Stories

Architecture

Wilston Garden House

A classic Queenslander is cleverly updated by Brisbane architectural firm Vokes and Peters.

Travel

Tasmania’s Derwent Valley with Rodney Dunn

The farm-to-table cooking school chef takes us on a tour of Lachlan and nearby New Norfolk, in the state's south-east.
Rodney Dunn

Architecture

Westgarth House

A beautiful family home in Melbourne’s inner North, designed by local architecture firm Kennedy Nolan.

The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net