This Carefully Restored 'Bush Modernist' Home Is A ’70s Dream

Located in Melbourne’s north-east under a canopy of eucalyptus trees, Monty Sibbel is the family home of the couple behind Nüüd Studio.

The ‘bush modernist’ house was handbuilt by the famous Sibbel Builders in the ’70s. But by the time architect Brad Mitchell and interior designer Kerli Valk bought it four years ago, many of its original features were hidden under layers of paint, or lost to years of disrepair.

In their hands, the humble home has been restored with careful renovations that have revived its natural character, with native timbers and an improved connection to the outdoors.

Christina Karras

Timber joinery has helped transformed the 1970s home. Artwork on shelf by Penelope Aitken.

Oregon beams spanning the full width of the home were revealed in the recent renovations.

The textural living and dining room. Arflex Marenco Sofa from Space Furniture. CH44 Easy Chair from Cult Design. &Tradition Little Petra Armchairf from Cult Design. Ferm Living Dou Shade Pendant from Surrounding.

Single glazing in existing hardwood frames was replaced by new double glazing, and empty cavity walls and ceilings filled to insulate the home.

Arflex Marenco Sofa from Space Furniture. &Tradition Little Petra Armchairf from Cult Design. &Tradition HM Tripod floor lamp from Cult Design. Artwork by Michael Mark.

New joinery crafted from native timbers nod to the original timber elements the house once had.

Inside the bathroom.

Artwork by Fred Williams.

The house is enveloped by eucalyptus trees and bushy gardens.

A new door at the rear opened up a safe space for Brad and Kerli’s young kids to play.

Christina Karras
5th of October 2023
Architect + Interior Designer

Monty Sibbel is one of the enduring homes by Sibbel Builders — who are widely regarded as one of Melbourne’s most significant designers and builders of mid-century modern homes.

The Montmorency residence is a ‘bush modernist’ type of house, with thick, sawn exposed timber beams, brick, and windows that nod to Sibbels’ distinctive craftsmanship, and the overarching architecture of the 1970s.

It’s a quintessential retro gem set amongst eucalyptus trees. But when Nüüd Studio’s Brad Mitchell and Kerli Valk bought it four years ago, it was in a tired condition.

‘Many of its original features were hidden under layers of paint or lost to years of disrepair,’ architect Brad says. Previous renovations had ‘clouded’ the structured floorplan and the existing white laminate joinery had seen ‘more than a decade of wear and tear’.

As the new custodians, the couple have carefully peeled back these layers to reveal the home’s bones. Not only have they restored it to its original glory, but they’ve improved on its honest, solid, and endearing qualities.

Their renovations respected the existing fabric — which placed open living areas along the north and the ‘quieter’ spaces of the bedrooms and bathrooms to the south. Simple reconfigurations made space for a powder room, while a new door at the rear opened the house to its surrounding gardens, making it feel truly at home within the bushy landscape.

‘A small material palette of native timbers was used for joinery and floors, and soft tones of lime paint reflect the changing hues of towering eucalypts,’ Brad adds.

‘The joinery throughout the house are the real new interventions, and we spent a lot of time designing these. The timber bench tops are beautiful to work on and they have such a richness and character. The refined edges gently curve and feather, which really softens the otherwise rigid existing fabric of the house.’

Unable to remove the paint from the brick walls in the living room without damage, these were re-painted in a new cement render, to reflect the original brick tone. Carpet and tiling throughout the house was replaced with solid blackbutt timber flooring to create a cohesive base for the warm, earthy and modest interiors.

‘At only 100 square metres, [Monty Sibbel] also represents a search for a compact, efficient, and affordable home of its time,’ Brad notes.

These principles of efficiency have been improved upon further by Brad and Kerli, with significant updates to the home’s thermal performance. The restored windows have been modified with high-performance glazing, old gas appliances have been replaced with electric ones, and additional insulation has been installed throughout the home.

Brad says the house now has a calmness and clarity that it lacked before. And their thoughtful restoration has helped preserve and enrich this timeless Melbourne home for many years to come.

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