In early 2014, Mickey Wolf and Steve Boyle, and their four kids moved into a quaint Victorian Gothic cottage in the inner-Brisbane suburb of Paddington. They were attracted to the area for its proximity to the city, café culture and leafy landscape. Built in the late 19th century, the cottage was two bedrooms and one bathroom and quite run down, but the six of them squeezed in…just!
Their cosy living quarters saw them spending a lot of time in their large backyard. The kids would roll down the steep, grassy slope, tumbling to a stop under the canopy of a huge Poinciana tree and Karri Pine of which they all grew fond. A year passed, allowing the family time to settle in. Then, with Mickey studying architecture and keen to experiment, and Steve running his own professional building business, SBUILT, the time was ripe for renovating.
The couple wanted to celebrate the trees, build in an environmentally conscious way, and ensure the house clearly linked to the past. They decided to leave the existing cottage intact – including the front façade and roof of rusty terracotta corrugated sheets that the kids had fallen in love with – and simply extended. From the street, the house looks deceptively as though nothing has changed. Steve and Mickey added another bedroom for their eldest son (who had previously shared with his siblings), and a retreat-like master bedroom with ensuite and dressing room.
They then built underneath, nestling the structure into their sloping block so the house journeys down the hill, where temperatures are more passively regulated by the earth’s thermal mass. Downstairs is a spacious kitchen and dining area, a sunken lounge made of spotted gum, a homework area, a laundry, an additional bedroom for their eldest daughter, and two outdoor courtyards that flank the kitchen.
Cooling the house naturally was particularly important to Mickey and Steve, so they built a small pool in a central outdoor courtyard. The pool creates a well and stack effect, sending cool air through the downstairs living areas and up through the bedrooms on the next level. The house is orientated away from the western sun, and louvres, sliding doors, and windows provide good cross ventilation. The lush indoor and outdoor plantlife, combined with the home’s cooler colour palette of greens and blues, create the soothing mood of a rainforest refuge. The second outdoor courtyard is brick-paved with built-in seating and a pizza oven. It’s beautifully shaded by the family’s beloved Poinciana tree.
Currently studying her Masters in Architecture, Mickey is also an apprentice carpenter with SBUILT. She’s an impressive, hands-on woman, with a passion for function over form and natural materials over synthetic. ‘My aesthetic has more to do with context than style,’ says Mickey. ‘For this home, my focus was on creating spaces that would encourage gathering, fun and memory making…I didn’t want the house to be precious or worrying about the kids denting walls or cupboards. I want them to enjoy themselves and create memories to hold them strong for their lifetime. They can scooter in the kitchen without me worrying!’
With these sentiments in mind, the internal walls downstairs are made from plywood and fibre cement, and the cabinetry is form ply – all strong materials that will hold up to the kids for years to come. This is especially important since Mickey and Steve welcomed baby boy, River, to the fold in early 2016, increasing the size of their family to seven (and the cat makes eight!). Family life is ever-changing, busy, and wonderfully chaotic – Mickey and Steve know this well, and have designed a clever, thoughtful family home fit to withstand all that life throws their way!