A Home That Links Heritage With New Narratives, From Africa To Australia

This renovated Preston Home by Irons McDuff Architecture takes a slightly unusual approach to heritage architecture. Rather than clearly differentiate between the old and new, the design gently embraces both at once.

Through peeling back layers of the home, the architects have created a space that is welcoming to the owners, who have moved from Africa to Australia. The home offers material references to the past, present, and a new Melbourne-based future.

Miriam McGarry
Supports The Design Files

Old and new mix in this home by Irons McDuff Architecture. Photo – Tatjana Plitt.

A welcoming yellow entrance. Photo – Tatjana Plitt.

Layers of the past and present. Photo – Tatjana Plitt.

The owners artworks and belongings bring the home to life. Photo – Tatjana Plitt.

A reading nook and a cosy fireplace. Photo – Tatjana Plitt.

Breakfast bar stool line-up. Photo – Tatjana Plitt.

A crisp white kitchen fit out balanced against the raw red bricks. Photo – Tatjana Plitt.

Bathroom and wardrobe details. Photo – Tatjana Plitt.

The renovated home now links to the outdoors, and provides plenty of outdoor living opportunities. Photo – Tatjana Plitt.

Miriam McGarry
3rd of July 2019

The Gertrude Street House by Irons McDuff Architecture is a warm and restrained transformation of a single story house in Preston, which has been thoughtfully updated, while respecting the heritage overlay. The home sits in a small side street, but architect Brett Stonehouse explains that the property ‘had no connection to the north facing rear garden, nor an obvious entry point from the street.’ The renovation was designed to link the indoors and outdoors, and to update the interiors to provide a backdrop for the client’s collection of colourful artwork.

The owners of this property had relocated across continents, from Africa to Australia. Their new home also needed to accommodate overseas visitors, with family and friends often coming to visit. Brett also explained that a key consideration was allowing for easy wheelchair access, so all members of their family were comfortable and included.

The concept for the design was informed by wanting to ‘create a contemporary counterpoint to the existing brick residence, that somewhat blurs the lines of old and new.’ Brett highlights how a palette of neutral finishes alongside those textural red brick walls provided the perfect backdrop for the vibrant colours and natural textures of the clients artwork from their African homeland. In addition to the use of local native timbers, the clients also resourcefully salvaged timber from an old factory being removed at the end of their street. This was repurposed for a dining table and bedhead.

The architect highlights how important the clients were in driving the project and placing their trust in the design process. He describes how ‘the project became a vehicle to focus their energy and embrace their new country, with a house that had a connection to the history of that area.’ In peeling back the home to expose the original brickwork fabric, introducing new contemporary elements, and furnishing with the owner’s treasured artwork and belongings – this residence shares the history of its place, and the narrative of its owners. Welcome to Preston!

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