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A Clever, Creative Renovation For This Compact Victorian Home

Homes

From the front facade, you’d have no idea of the clever renovations that lie within this Victorian cottage in Melbourne.

Keen to avoid a ‘typical box on the back’ extension, owners and designers Penny and Simon Barnes crafted an alternative, curving roof extension that utilises every inch of available space on the Carlton North block.

The expanded home remains faithful to the area’s original architecture, while simultaneously providing more space and improved energy efficiency for the couple and their three children. 

30th June, 2021

Painting above fire place by Prue Clay. Table designed by Simon Pengelly. Kitchen and living room joinery made by Woodbeast. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Painting above fire place by Prue Clay. Table designed by Simon Pengelly. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Penny and Simon Barnes are both designers at Arup. They live in their home with their three children and labrador! Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Painting above fire place by Prue Clay. Table designed by Simon Pengelly. Lighting by Tim Hunt. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The dining table runs the length of the kitchen, with the cabinetry behind. Joinery by Woodbeast. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Artwork clockwise from left: Pablo Palazuelo vintage poster from Fondation Maeght; unknown artist from Vietnam; painting by unknown artists from Gallery Midlandia. (Bottom left on table) painting by Margie Woodall from New Mexico; right (on table) paintings by Poppy and Penny Barnes. Robin Day sofa. Joinery by Woodbeast. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Moments Musicaux de Six a Huit vintage poster by Valerio Adami from Fondation Maeght. Living room joinery made by Woodbeast. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Børge Mogensen Spanish chairs from Modern Times. Living room joinery made by Woodbeast. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The home contains space for work, pleasure and relaxation to suit the family of five. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The hero of the entire project is the extension’s curved, blackbutt plywood ceiling. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

This ceiling and sentimental items bring instant warmth to the entire space. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Embroidery cushion by Penny’s mother Annie Garrett. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

A bedroom in the new upper-level extension. Embroidery cushion by Penny’s mother Annie Garrett. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The unique extension is only visible from the laneway behind the home. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Lucy Feagins
Wednesday 30th June 2021

‘We didn’t want a typical “box” on the back and wanted to use every available ounce of space, so we constructed a steel frame with curved roof to create a unique first floor. – Penny Barnes

Penny and Simon Barnes are both designers at Arup, so they approached extending their Carlton North home with a clear understanding of their desires, and the home’s potential.  

Their intention; ‘Avoid the tedium of the box and the flimsiness of cheap construction through robust recycled brick and sound environmental performance,’ says Penny.

To achieve this, the couple demolished the existing rear of their Victorian home and reimagined this to suit their family with three children.

Simon was largely in charge of designing the specific details, including triple glazing, thermal mass, rainwater storage, and solar panels. 

‘We didn’t want a typical “box” on the back and wanted to use every available ounce of space, so we constructed a steel frame with curved roof to create a unique first floor,’ Penny says.

Spanning two storeys, this new extension retains the essence of inner-Victorian terraces the couple love (‘A sense of human scale and materiality,’ as Penny says), just with added space to suit their lifestyle.

Materials are simple yet durable, with minimal embellishments, except for those pre-existing. Penny explains, ‘In places, we have left the “memory” of previous wall finishes as a reminder of the age of the home and its colourful history. We have celebrated the new structure which lives inside the existing boundary wall, and creates a sense of scale to the ground level.’

The hero of the entire project is the extension’s curved, blackbutt plywood ceiling, which was brought to life by builders Swift Innovations. This ceiling, along with the kitchen cabinetry by Woodbeast brings an instant warmth to the entire space. 

‘We deliberately tried to eliminate any lighting from our ceilings, and were assisted in this with our colleague and lighting guru, Tim Hunt,’ says Penny.  

Books, plants, artwork, and sentimental items collected from all over the world further add to the charming feel of the property’s interiors. There’s even a table shipped over from one of the couple’s favourite pubs in London! (It required some major rejuvenation,’ Penny says). 

Penny calls the completed home an ‘environment of creativity’ – a place for making – supported by its new and old architecture, the craftsmanship of the builders, their children’s personalities, and recent stint working from home. 

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