- Design Team: Bokey Grant Architects
- Builders: Andrew Connell, Heath Millard
- City: Sydney
- Country: Australia
Text description provided by the architects. Originally part of the 1920’s Durrell’s Estate in Lilyfield, Sydney’s Inner West, the original freestanding brick workers cottage was purchased with a mere 3£ deposit. The house had since been victim to neglect and a series of questionable improvements over the course of its life. It had been stripped of its ornate detail and added to with an asbestos lean-too infill, enclosing and eroding the logic and simplicity of the original cottage’s plan.
The new work aspires to ‘undo’ a number of these questionable improvements, sensitively stitching into and celebrating the original heritage fabric. The relationship between old and new is acknowledged through a doorframe that seamlessly integrates both old and new. Original walls are smooth plaster with detail above the picture rail datum, in the cornices and ceilings. The new work references this but flips it. The walls have a subtle texture up to a datum and the smooth ‘hat’ above helps the spaces feel taller than they are.
Traditional highlight window details have been retained in the old areas and adapted in the new by separating the door and window whilst simultaneously drawing light into adjoining spaces. In one instance, century-old amber stained glass from an original window was damaged upon removal. A material match was sourced from a local heritage supplier who luckily had some matching in his reserves.
The house respects the original structure of the house by adopting its original simple loaded corridor plan. A number of carefully placed sightlines take advantage of views out to the garden and capture natural light. Transitions in new zones reflect the planning diagram but make sure each threshold is deep and low so that transitioning between spaces is a substantial, conscious experience.
The house is small and at only 108m2 has cleverly accommodated 3 bedrooms, a bathroom, laundry, a generous kitchen, living, and dining area. The garden was fundamental to establishing a sense of generosity. The house takes advantage of the surrounding landscape by actively connecting with the garden and beyond. The interior spaces have generosity and benefit through actively borrowing external views. The Garden becomes the central ‘room’ which all other spaces orient and organise around.
The loose brief was to fit an extra bedroom and re-orient the spaces to the garden in the most cost-effective manner possible. This drove the decision to retain the original lean-too roof and many walls, Retaining these elements … It also dictated the original footprint remains as is helping the house gain approval quickly with CDC with the goal of finishing before the clients' baby daughter arrived. It also had minimal impact on the neighbouring heritage context.
These cost restrictions drove the client to complete their own landscaping, external painting, and rendering with the help of friends. The significant fabric retention helped reduce the environmental impact in combination with the deletion of all gas appliances and fittings, Photovoltaic & solar hot water systems on the roof with future battery provision, and prioritising local materials and craftspeople.