Sustainable Homes

How An Architect Turned This 1930s Bungalow Into A Sustainable Family Haven

When architect Emily Sandstrom and her partner Chris Low found this 1930s bungalow in Sydney’s inner west, it was run-down and without hot water after being untouched for decades.

But rather than knock it down and start again, the couple saw an opportunity within the walls of its ‘utilitarian’ build to create their character-filled family home.

After lovingly restoring the South Marrickville house’s original features inside, their renovations also transformed it into a sustainable haven fit for the future – with solar panels, recycled materials, and a productive vegetable garden!

Christina Karras

Inside the couple’s South Marrickville bungalow turned warm family home. Photo – Rohan Venn

The renovations made a concerted effort to use recycled materials throughout the new extension. Photo – Rohan Venn

Old bricks demolished from the existing home were incorporated into the new brick walls. Photo – Rohan Venn

Contemporary timber joinery helps connect the new living and kitchen areas to the 1930 part of the home. Photo – Rohan Venn

The extension’s U-shape in combination with the wide and curved eves provides passive heating to the home during the winter months and shade during the summer.  We have a thick solid concrete floor for thermal mass. Photo – Rohan Venn

In addition to standard sustainable elements like solar panels, the home features a custom-built wine cabinet that is passively cooled using cross flow of air directed underground through a system of pipes that cools the cabinet to 16 degrees – based on the design of early fridges! Photo – Rohan Venn

A thick, solid concrete floor also helps with the home’s passive heating and cooling. Photo – Rohan Venn

‘We focused on a light touch in the existing part of the house, removing carpet and uncovering the beautiful floorboards that had never seen the light of day,’ architect and homeowner Emily adds. Photo – Rohan Venn

They also restored all of the windows and timberwork, painting and replacing light fixtures. Photo – Rohan Venn

The relaxing bathroom has been designed around  Japanese design and garden principles. Hanging Linen Robe in Sand and in Blush by Carlotta + Gee. Photo – Rohan Venn

‘We really wanted the bathroom to be a space to celebrate bathing rituals and spend time,’ Emily says. Photo – Rohan Venn

The sunken bath creates a very ceremonious feel, while the timber decking with concealed drainage points speaks to that Japanese simplicity of form and flow. Photo – Rohan Venn

‘It was important to us that the bathroom had a strong connection to the garden,’ Emily adds. Photo – Rohan Venn

Beautiful bedding by Carlotta + Gee enhances the cosy feel in the main bedroom. Quilt Cover, 100% Linen Flat Sheet, Linen Pillowcase Set and European Pillowcase Set all from Carlotta + Gee. Photo – Rohan Venn

The home’s 1930s charm still shines through. 100% Linen Duvet Cover in Tobacco by Carlotta + Gee. Photo – Rohan Venn

The couple’s daughter, Lottie’s room. Photo – Rohan Venn

Their outdoor space features an Argentine style barbecue and pizza oven! Photo – Rohan Venn

A courtyard garden encased in glass. Photo – Rohan Venn

The striking exterior. Linen table cloth by Carlotta + Gee. Photo – Rohan Venn

Christina Karras
20th of January 2023

Architect Emily Sandstrom and Chris Low endured a long search before they stumbled upon a 1930s house in South Marrickville. They had been looking for an older property they could personalise and ‘bring back to life’ – it also had to have the space and aspect to grow fresh produce in their own backyard.

So, when they found a dated bungalow that ticked all these boxes, they weren’t deterred by its lack of hot water in the kitchen, or the sunroom filled with asbestos.

‘While the house was rundown, there were so many original features that we loved — the stained-glass windows, the ceiling details, the dark timber detailing, the scale of the rooms, and we really wanted to preserve the history and integrity of the house,’ Emily says.

They demolished the small kitchen, laundry, the asbestos sunroom, and the outhouse at the rear. A key part of their renovations was salvaging recycled materials from anything they knocked down, even going to the effort of hand-cleaning the bricks and building them into their new 45sqm extension.

It’s no secret that getting an older property to meet the environmental concerns of today is big ask. But in addition to minimising waste by restoring the original parts of the home, Emily and Chris’ thoughtful renovations have also managed to equip the bungalow for the future with an impressive list of sustainable features.

The refreshed home runs off solar power and is passively designed with concrete flooring and double-glazed windows to eliminate the need for heating or cooling. It also operates off a 7000L water tank, and in line with the couple’s vision, they created a productive garden made up of almost entirely edible plants. There’s even a remarkable wine cabinet, which is cooled without electricity, ‘using cross flow of air directed underground through a system of pipes that cools the cabinet to 16 degrees’!

Chris is a chef by trade, so creating spaces for cooking, and entertaining was another central point of their dream home. As a result, the U-shaped extension has been designed to champion the garden views, with the kitchen extending into the lush outdoor space.

‘Overall, the design is airy and light, and leans to elements of hospitality design in the rear, while being more relaxed and cosy in the original home,’ Emily adds.

‘We designed joinery that preserved all the skirting, picture rail and ceiling details, as well as the sense of scale and traditional layout of the rooms. We hope that we’ve positively impacted the original home and site so that it will have a life beyond our time there.’

Recent Sustainable Homes