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

An Ultra Energy-Efficient Makeover Of A Victorian Country Home

Sustainable Homes

We’re always inspired by sustainable design, but there’s something particularly impressive about upgrading an older home to meet modern performance standards.

This particular period house in Victoria’s Hepburn Shire has been reworked and extended, with a new highly energy-efficient addition. Once a cold and poorly appointed space, the property now facilitates year-round comfort without relying on traditional heating or cooling systems.

We asked MRTN Architects how they did it!

4th August, 2020

This period cottage in Victoria’s Hepburn Shire has been reworked and extended, with a new highly energy-efficient addition by MRTN Architects. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The interior is lined with salvaged timber boards and plywood imparting a warm glow to the living spaces. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

A two-way fireplace allows heat to spread evenly throughout the extension when (rarely!) required. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Post-occupancy testing shows the house maintains a natural temperature between 18 and 26 degrees for 93 per cent of the year. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The level of energy efficiency can be put down to the home’s orientation, extended eaves that shade the house in summer, improved insulation, and internalised thermal mass in the concrete slab.  Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Timber adds texture and warmth while reducing the need for painted finishes. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

North-facing windows allow a generous flood of sunlight into the house all day. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The cohesive use of similar materials and colours on all surfaces helps to elongate the space. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Odd-lot tiles from the ‘70s and ‘80s sourced by the client feature in the kitchen. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Roof eaves ensure the harsh summer sun can’t quite make its way into the house, while the winter sun is welcomed in all day. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The aesthetic is reminiscent of Japanese architecture, which influenced the entire design. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Brick pavers salvaged from a neighbourhood skip now feature on the bathroom floor! Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The owners of this house, Martin and Cheryl. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The renovation and addition connects this house with its garden for the first time. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The dark timber cladding of the extension contrasts with the original cottage. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The home is located in Victoria’s beautiful Hepburn Shire region. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Energy-efficient appliances, solar panels, and a heat pump hot water system further add to the home’s eco-friendly credentials.  Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Conceptually the new addition has been designed as a long ‘shadow’ of the original cottage. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Amelia Barnes
Tuesday 4th August 2020

 ‘Quality design by its nature will incorporate a vast array of sustainable design attributes simply as part of good practice.’ – Antony Martin

The owners of this home, Martin and Cheryl, purchased the property in Victoria’s Hepburn Shire over two decades ago. While the couple loved its period charm and history, they described the original home as pokey and basic, with a consistent cold draft in winter. After 20 years, it was time to renovate.

The idea of demolishing the original cottage was initially proposed, but Martin, Cheryl and their architect, Antony Martin of MRTN Architects, soon agreed this would be better retained and extended. ‘We established the optimal siting for a home was in the existing location, so proposed instead to retain the original Victorian cottage, and only demolish a series of increasingly shoddy lean-to additions,’ says Antony Martin.

Conceptually, the new addition has been designed as a long ‘shadow’ of the original cottage, constructed with contrasting dark, timber cladding. North-facing windows invite in natural light and warmth, while harnessing the site’s previously overlooked views.

Martin and Cheryl have gone to great lengths to integrate recycled materials throughout the extension. Bricks from demolished rooms are now used as outdoor paving, odd-lot tiles from the ‘70s and ‘80s feature in the kitchen, and brick pavers salvaged from a neighbourhood skip now make up the bathroom floor! ‘Every tile is a testament to the client’s commitment to salvaged materials and low embodied energy,’ says Antony.

When stepping inside the now-completed home, its sustainable qualities are immediately evident. The near air-tight interior creates a distinct feeling of stillness, and natural light beams in through all directions. Every architectural decision makes sense, and serves a distinct purpose, from the reading nook bathed in the perfect amount of afternoon sunlight, to the two-way fireplace that allows heat to spread evenly throughout the space.

Timber cladding lines the walls and ceiling of the new extension, adding texture and warmth to the interiors while reducing the need for painted finishes. The aesthetic is reminiscent of Japanese architecture, which Antony explains influenced the entire design. ‘This project was designed shortly after returning from my first trip to Japan, where I had been deeply influenced by the traditional architecture I had seen there,’ says the architect. ‘The clients have also frequently visited Japan, as their son lives and works there, so they were also keen to explore ideas about the materiality, built form and landscape connections that are so evident in Japanese architecture.’

Most impressive about this home is its performance. Post-occupancy testing shows the house maintains a natural temperature between 18 and 26 degrees for 93 per cent of the year. ‘Pretty remarkable given how cold and hot this part of Victoria can get!’ says Antony. This level of energy efficiency can be put down to the home’s orientation, extended eaves that shade the house in summer, improved insulation, and internalised thermal mass in the concrete slab. Energy-efficient appliances, solar panels, and a heat pump hot water system further add to these eco-friendly credentials, resulting in an 8 star NatHERs energy rating.

It is clear that both Cheryl and Martin value living sustainably to a great extent, with their electric car parked out front, and their passionate commitment to creating an eco-friendly home. Not only is this home a simply wonderful place to be, but its running costs are slim to none, and its positive impact on future generations – immeasurable!

This story is part of our series on Sustainable Homes, brought to you in partnership with Bank Australia.

Bank Australia’s Clean Energy Home Loan offers a discounted home loan rate if you buy or build a home that exceeds a 7-star NatHERS rating, or have made ambitious green upgrades in the last 12 months. Find out more here!

This Week

Family

Artist Miranda Skoczek On Single Parenting, Smelling The Roses + Spontaneity

Artist Miranda Skoczek shares her multigenerational family life in the Dandenongs with son Harper and aunt Margaret.

Shopping

The Ultimate Outdoor Furniture Guide

From sleek and chic to fun and playful, here are four different schemes for the outdoor dining situation of your dreams!

Architecture

A Minimal Intervention Weatherboard Home Makeover

A Seddon weatherboard renovation by Circle Studio Architects that doesn’t erase its past, but firmly enhances its future.

Architecture

A Classic Victorian Terrace, Reimagined As Three Light-Filled Pavilions

A series of mews-like buildings designed by Matt Gibson Architecture + Design have expanded this Fitzroy home for added light, air and space...
Amelia Barnes
  4 hours ago

Architecture

A Traditional Queenslander Turned Multigenerational, Japanese-Inspired Home

Arcke architects lifted this Queenslander to accommodate a two-bedroom apartment underneath, and provide better connections to the outdoors

News

Melbourne's Futuristic New Gallery For Art + Science

Excitement is high – the latest museum in the international Science Gallery Network opens in Melbourne today!
Sponsored

Stays

Stay Off-Grid In A Tiny House, Or Restored 1890s Hut, On The One NSW Property!

Escape to one of two tiny houses or a restored 1890 hut at Wildernest, located on the edge of the NSW Southern Highlands.

News

WIN A One-Of-A-Kind Artwork By Local Artist Dave Kulesza - aka Boris Bombay!

Bombay Sapphire are giving away a nostalgia-fuelled, pop art-esque tiled artwork by Boris Bombay (aka Dave Kulesza) to one lucky winner!
Sponsored

News

Save Soho Rose Farm!

Donate to help save Victoria’s most beautiful field-grown roses, after a devastating hail storm. 

A Day In The Life

A Day In The Life With Trailblazing Curator, Shonae Hobson

Inside the day of Kaantju woman and curator of Indigenous art at the NGV, Shonae Hobson!

On The Market

The Perfect Mid-Century, NSW South Coast Beach House Is For Sale

This mid-century Mollymook Beach house is perfect in its proportions, feel and water views... and it's on the market!

Homes

An Incredible 1896 Waterfront House, Accessible Only By Boat

Garden designer Richard Unsworth shares ‘Trincomalee’ – his magical 1896 waterfront home in northern Sydney, accessible only by boat.

Words From The Wise

Pushing Against The Status Quo As A Creative Professional, With Designer Timothy Moore

Sibling Architecture director and co-founder Timothy Moore shares refreshing advice about embarking on a career in architecture and design -...
Haroula Karapanagiotidis

Homes

The Experimental Melbourne Home Of Two Artists

The 'warped maximalist colour feast' home of artists Nabilah Nordin and Nick Modrzewski in Newport, Melbourne.

Studio Visit

The Graduate Designer Pushing The Limits Of Traditional Furniture Design

Brigitte Owers-Buccianti is the designer behind Real Non-Real, an exciting new practice making multi-functional furniture pieces.

View Comments

Similar Stories

Building Better

Everything You Need To Know About Installing Solar

The complete beginner's guide to installing solar power at home.

Sustainable Homes

An Unbelievably Energy Efficient 100-Year-Old Workers’ Cottage!

With the expertise of Altereco Design, this cute cottage in Yarraville is now an ultra sustainable homed home, powered predominantly by sola...

Architecture

A Contemporary Farmhouse In Suburban Melbourne!

MRTN Architects design a farmhouse suitable for suburbia in Melbourne's Fairfield!

This Week

Architecture

A Classic Victorian Terrace, Reimagined As Three Light-Filled Pavilions

A series of mews-like buildings designed by Matt Gibson Architecture + Design have expanded this Fitzroy home for added light, air and space...
Amelia Barnes
  4 hours ago

Architecture

A Minimal Intervention Weatherboard Home Makeover

A Seddon weatherboard renovation by Circle Studio Architects that doesn’t erase its past, but firmly enhances its future.

News

Melbourne's Futuristic New Gallery For Art + Science

Excitement is high – the latest museum in the international Science Gallery Network opens in Melbourne today!
Sponsored

Shopping

The Ultimate Outdoor Furniture Guide

From sleek and chic to fun and playful, here are four different schemes for the outdoor dining situation of your dreams!

News

Save Soho Rose Farm!

Donate to help save Victoria’s most beautiful field-grown roses, after a devastating hail storm. 

Words From The Wise

Pushing Against The Status Quo As A Creative Professional, With Designer Timothy Moore

Sibling Architecture director and co-founder Timothy Moore shares refreshing advice about embarking on a career in architecture and design -...
Haroula Karapanagiotidis

Homes

The Experimental Melbourne Home Of Two Artists

The 'warped maximalist colour feast' home of artists Nabilah Nordin and Nick Modrzewski in Newport, Melbourne.

On The Market

The Perfect Mid-Century, NSW South Coast Beach House Is For Sale

This mid-century Mollymook Beach house is perfect in its proportions, feel and water views... and it's on the market!

A Day In The Life

A Day In The Life With Trailblazing Curator, Shonae Hobson

Inside the day of Kaantju woman and curator of Indigenous art at the NGV, Shonae Hobson!

Family

Artist Miranda Skoczek On Single Parenting, Smelling The Roses + Spontaneity

Artist Miranda Skoczek shares her multigenerational family life in the Dandenongs with son Harper and aunt Margaret.

Architecture

A Traditional Queenslander Turned Multigenerational, Japanese-Inspired Home

Arcke architects lifted this Queenslander to accommodate a two-bedroom apartment underneath, and provide better connections to the outdoors

News

WIN A One-Of-A-Kind Artwork By Local Artist Dave Kulesza - aka Boris Bombay!

Bombay Sapphire are giving away a nostalgia-fuelled, pop art-esque tiled artwork by Boris Bombay (aka Dave Kulesza) to one lucky winner!
Sponsored

Studio Visit

The Graduate Designer Pushing The Limits Of Traditional Furniture Design

Brigitte Owers-Buccianti is the designer behind Real Non-Real, an exciting new practice making multi-functional furniture pieces.

Homes

An Incredible 1896 Waterfront House, Accessible Only By Boat

Garden designer Richard Unsworth shares ‘Trincomalee’ – his magical 1896 waterfront home in northern Sydney, accessible only by boat.

Stays

Stay Off-Grid In A Tiny House, Or Restored 1890s Hut, On The One NSW Property!

Escape to one of two tiny houses or a restored 1890 hut at Wildernest, located on the edge of the NSW Southern Highlands.

Similar Stories

Building Better

Everything You Need To Know About Installing Solar

The complete beginner's guide to installing solar power at home.

Sustainable Homes

An Unbelievably Energy Efficient 100-Year-Old Workers’ Cottage!

This cute cottage in Yarraville is now an ultra sustainable home, powered predominantly by solar!

Architecture

A Contemporary Farmhouse In Suburban Melbourne!

MRTN Architects design a farmhouse suitable for suburbia in Melbourne's Fairfield!

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 – we would love to hear from you.

Please email us here.