Inside A Renovated 1970s Home Designed To Embrace Its Enchanting Garden

Before its renovation, this red-brick home near the shoreline of Lake Macquarie, New South Wales, lacked connection to its beautifully tended garden, which had been carefully organised to respond to the needs of each tree, shrub, and vine.

A set of ‘tiny architectural interventions’ by Newcastle architecture firm Curious Practice opened up the original floorplan to embrace the outdoors, without adding more than five square metres to the property. Step inside the quiet and unassuming refuge.

Christina Karras

Aija’s Place by Curious Practice is located in Eleebana, 18 kilometres from Newcastle. Photo – Alexander McIntyre

Careful updates have transformed the dated red-brick home without altering its existing character. Photo – Alexander McIntyre

Despite the condition of the ageing house, there was a ‘beautiful tended garden’ that inspired much of the resulting renovation. Photo – Alexander McIntyre

A small addition to the bedroom facilitated a much-needed connection to the lush backyard. Photo – Alexander McIntyre

The owner says being able to step out of the bedroom and directly into the garden each day is ‘one of the many new joys of living here’. Photo – Alexander McIntyre

Curious Practice say the project is a lesson on how small interventions can alter existing dwellings to have a greater awareness of the site and sense of place. Photo – Alexander McIntyre

Dark joinery contrasts beautifully alongside the exposed timber ceiling in the new kitchen. Photo – Alexander McIntyre

The materials also work to enhance the leafy views. Photo – Alexander McIntyre

Capturing newfound sunlight was another key part of the renovation. Photo – Alexander McIntyre

The serene bathroom features a mix of textured tiles and muted grey and green tones. Photo – Alexander McIntyre

Simple, subtle and sophisticated. Photo – Alexander McIntyre

The ethos of the updates was to rework the home, rather than remove. Photo – Alexander McIntyre


Christina Karras
2nd of May 2023

The brief behind this renovation in Eleebana, New South Wales, was all about transforming the 1970s red-brick home with a series of small changes that could have a big impact.

Curious Practice director and architect Warren Haasnoot says the owner, Aija, presented his team with a modest budget, which encouraged them to develop a strategy around managing the scope of the project, its materials, and the final design. But the result is a beautiful lesson in restraint.

‘We were very much interested in the way tiny architectural interventions could moderate atmosphere within existing housing stock,’ Warren says.

While the home itself had ‘no consideration for siting and orientation’, with low ceilings and a compartmentalised floorplan, the renovation sought to enhance the home’s sense of place by embracing its best feature, the enchanting garden.

They removed the old flat ceiling, exposing the unique roof structure and new timber lining added on top of the rafter created ‘new openings’ for breezes and a connection to the outdoors. Small updates like a window above the new kitchen helped with this as well, capturing the dappled afternoon sunlight. A new bathroom replaced the old, while the front deck overlooking the lake that was falling apart was carefully reinstated.

These cost-friendly changes were also two-fold. Warren notes how designing the existing house to function in a completely new way helped increase the project’s sustainability, reducing the waste of demolishing and rebuilding, in addition to preserving the character of the original architecture.

As the home didn’t need increase in size – only amenity – nothing more than five square metres was added onto the main bedroom. This still managed to be of the most meaningful updates, as Aija notes how the once dark and cold space is now her favourite place to hang out and read, with opening on three sides that give her the best views of the abundant gardens.

A simple blend of timber, dark joinery, and textured tiles anchor interiors amongst the green tones just outside her windows. There’s almost an assuming nature to the design, with Warren adding ‘it isn’t until you stop and look at the building that you notice the accenting features’.

‘There is also a strong sense of refuge from within as many of the interventions reveal themselves through apertures of sunlight and views,’ he says. ‘We see Ajia’s Place as an adaptive example that can be replicated on mass.’

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