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

A Sleek, Surprising Reworking Of A Victorian Cottage

Architecture

When architect Blair Smith first met the owners of this Brunswick house, the three sat in the property’s original lean-to, wearing puffer jackets due to the almost untenantable temperature. 

While it was clear a new and improved extension with better thermal performance was required, Blair noted a poetic quality and modesty in the original structure he was keen to retain. 

The double-fronted cottage now sits alongside a new 51 square metre addition, achieving a high level of detail and finish, within a limited budget.

14th January, 2021

Rather than creating a much larger extension that would see the garden destroyed, Blair settled on a more understated design encompassing the kitchen, dining area, and bathroom.Photography – Tom Ross. Styling – Jessica Lillico.

Velvet dining chairs in sand, dining table and retro webbing stool by HK Living from House of Orange. Hand-loomed olive rug from Halcyon Lake. Fliegenbein standing lamp from Great Dane. Photography – Tom Ross. Styling – Jessica Lillico.

Ross Gardam ‘Polar’ wall light. Velvet dining chairs in sand, dining table and retro webbing stool by HK Living from House of Orange. Hand-loomed olive rug from Halcyon Lake. Fliegenbein standing lamp from Great Dane. Photography – Tom Ross. Styling – Jessica Lillico.

Velvet dining chairs in sand, dining table and retro webbing stool by HK Living from House of Orange. Hand-loomed olive rug from Halcyon Lake. Photography – Tom Ross. Styling – Jessica Lillico.

An assortment of objects. HK Living abstract head sculpture from House of Orange. Ribbed peach glass vase + fruit bowl available from House of Orange. Photography – Tom Ross. Styling – Jessica Lillico.

Ross Gardam ‘Polar’ wall light. Velvet dining chairs in sand by HK Living from House of Orange. Hand-loomed olive rug from Halcyon Lake. Photography – Tom Ross. Styling – Jessica Lillico.

The kitchen is an exercise in functional monochrome. Laminex AbsoluteMatte cabinetry in black; Sussex Taps in chrome; Bosch integrated dishwasher; Sirius rangehood with custom stainless steel surround; splashback in white gloss tile from National Tiles. A pop of colour courtesy of ‘Wash in Pastel Mountain’ painting by Giorgia Bel from Fenton & Fenton. Photography – Tom Ross. Styling – Jessica Lillico.

The signature black cladding on the exterior is made from a range of materials: Adbri Masonry architectural brick ‘Slate Blend’ blackbutt timber battens (wall and screens) and silvertop shiplap cladding from Britton Timbers with ‘Ebony’ stain from Abodo. Photography – Tom Ross. Styling – Jessica Lillico.

‘Wash in Pastel Mountain’ painting by Giorgia Bel from Fenton & Fenton. Hand-loomed olive rug from Halcyon Lake. Photography – Tom Ross. Styling – Jessica Lillico.

The home’s rear, northern facade now features three sliding timber screens to control heat gain, glare, and privacy. Each has an integrated fly screen that can be locked across a dedicated doorway, enabling security and passive cooling simultaneously. Photography – Tom Ross. Styling – Jessica Lillico.

The existing edible garden became a central focus for the team at Blair Smith Architecture and led them to conceptualise a dark exterior in order to accentuate the greenery. Photography – Tom Ross. Styling – Jessica Lillico.

The . Photography – Tom Ross. Styling – Jessica Lillico.

The interior lighting scheme has been deliberately designed to feature no overhead fittings, which works to accentuate the garden. Photography – Tom Ross. Styling – Jessica Lillico.

When the battened screens are closed, the house can be completely partitioned off from the garden. Photography – Tom Ross. Styling – Jessica Lillico.

Blair describes the updated home as a retreat from the activity and grit of Brunswick. ‘It now has a palpable “slow” quality to it.’ Photography – Tom Ross. Styling – Jessica Lillico.

Amelia Barnes
Thursday 14th January 2021

‘The lighting scheme heightens your awareness of the garden as the sun goes down and there is a calming, primal quality to the interior in the evening.’ – Blair Smith

The standard process when updating an outdated lean-to is to replace the structure with a much larger, modern extension.

At one stage this might have been the course for this Brunswick property, but an existing edible garden on site inspired Blair Smith Architecture to consider other ideas. 

‘The original lean-to had a poetic utility and modesty I wanted to somehow distil,’ says Blair. ‘The site already had a detached [14m²] brick studio, and an edible garden started by the previous owner, so part of the brief was to insert something new that could retain those elements.’

Clearly the original lean-to with its lack of aspect, awkward layout, and poor thermal performance had to go, but there were other elements of this structure that spoke to Blair. 

Rather than creating a much larger extension that would see the garden destroyed, he settled on a more understated design encompassing the kitchen, dining area, and bathroom. The original lounge room within the cottage was able to be retained as a result, allowing the contemporary addition to be minimised. 

The home’s rear, northern facade now features three sliding timber screens controlling heat gain, glare, and privacy. Each has an integrated fly screen across a dedicated and lockable doorway, enabling security and passive cooling simultaneously. 

Attention to detail has been paid throughout the project, as seen particularly in the bathroom orientation, (which opens to both the interior and exterior, meaning someone at an outdoor gathering can step directly into the bathroom without trudging through the whole house!), and moody interior palette.

Another interesting detail is the lighting scheme, which has been deliberately designed to include no overhead fittings. ‘I mentioned to the clients that I always wanted to do a project where there were no ceiling lights, and they liked the idea of that as a design challenge, as well as having low lighting generally,’ Blair explains.  The only fixtures touching the ceiling are a custom range hood, and part of a pendant light in the kitchen – the rest are wall mounted. ‘The lighting scheme heightens your awareness of the garden as the sun goes down and there is a calming, primal quality to the interior in the evening,’ Blair says. The impact of the upward light from walls also brings added dimension to the ceiling with its medium-density fibreboard ribs.

Some minor, cosmetic updates have been made to the original portion (73m²) of the house in this project, but overall this remains largely untouched. ‘Even before our project, the clients had a great selection of art and artefacts within the cottage that felt homely and naturally accumulated over time… Sophisticated without pretence,’ Blair says. ‘This may have been something I was subconsciously responding to.’ 

At 51 square metres, this home’s new extension is relatively modest in size, but its impact is radical. Even the owner’s cat and dog have been thoroughly impressed with the updates, particularly the rear windows that facilitate keen observation, and the concrete floor that soaks up the sun!

Blair describes the updated home as ‘a retreat from the activity and grit’ of Brunswick. ‘It now has a palpable “slow” quality to it.’

This Week

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.

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

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...

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

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

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

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

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

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
  23 hours ago

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.

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

Studio Visit

Kuku Yalanji Artist Tiarna Herczeg Creates Colourful Maps Of Country

The emerging artist shares how they found their creative voice and intuitive painting style, as their latest solo show opens in Sydney.
Christina Karras
  7 hours ago

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

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

View Comments

Similar Stories

Architecture

A Generous, Light-Filled Addition To A Heritage Home

A restoration and renovation project in Kensington, NSW by Studio Prineas creates a harmonious dialogue between old and new.
Sasha Gattermayr

Architecture

A Gloriously Verdant Inner-City Extension

BKK Architects design a contemporary addition around its luscious, sprawling garden for a pair of self-declared introverts in North Fitzroy....
Sasha Gattermayr

Architecture

A Small Footprint, Japanese-Inspired Home in Sydney

The architect-owner used traditional machiya architecture to enhance the efficiency of this small house!
Sasha Gattermayr

This Week

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

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.

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

Studio Visit

Kuku Yalanji Artist Tiarna Herczeg Creates Colourful Maps Of Country

The emerging artist shares how they found their creative voice and intuitive painting style, as their latest solo show opens in Sydney.
Christina Karras
  7 hours ago

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

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

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

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
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.

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...

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.

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

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
  23 hours ago

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

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

A Generous, Light-Filled Addition To A Heritage Home

A restoration and renovation project by Studio Prineas creates a dialogue between old and new.
Sasha Gattermayr

Architecture

A Gloriously Verdant Inner-City Extension

BKK Architects design a contemporary addition for a pair of self-declared introverts in North Fitzroy.
Sasha Gattermayr

Architecture

A Small Footprint, Japanese-Inspired Home in Sydney

The architect-owner used traditional machiya architecture to enhance the efficiency of this small house!
Sasha Gattermayr

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