When Figr Architecture were engaged to renovate this Edwardian home in Brighton, Melbourne, they could have knocked the entire house over and started afresh. Luckily, they took a different approach.
‘We really liked the principles behind the existing plan layout. The interior was a little outdated, however it did have good bones,’ says Adi Atic, director of Figr Architecture. ‘We felt that maintaining as much of the existing home was an integral part of the design.’
The period home had been renovated multiple times before, including a ‘90s extension designed by John Cuthbert, which Figr hoped to preserve. Their overall vision was relatively simple: open up the floor plan by removing dead ends; create a sanctuary related to the outdoors; and facilitate a ‘lighter’ building sympathetic to its surroundings.
‘From a philosophical point of view and design response, we focused on restraint — how to start again without reinventing the wheel and demolishing everything,’ says Adi. ‘The moves that we made had to be subtle, yet responsive to the site constraints.’
Original fireplaces, architraves, skirtings, and picture rails were all restored, and contemporary reinterpretations added. Australian sourced hardwood clads the punctured facade openings, as well as in the interiors that feature a low VOC hardwax oil coating.
The only extension added is a new west-facing verandah and covered outdoor area surrounded by operable, slatted screens.
While challenging at times, working within the existing structure of this project drastically reduced construction waste, and ultimately resulted in a better home.
‘You naturally inherit the flaws and imperfections of the past… crooked walls, bad plumbing, and openings that didn’t have adequate structure,’ explains Adi. ‘These constraints and discoveries resulted in making some quick decisions during construction, which led to interesting solutions that complemented the final project outcome.’
Adi most appreciates how light now enters the home, and how the new architectural updates sit comfortably and easily alongside the home’s restored, original features. ‘The undeniable character of old buildings like this provide an indelible foundation on which architecture can avoid whimsy and needless extravagance’ he concludes.