Light, space, warmth – a life-breathing renovation

A post war brick house is transformed into a sunny, light-filled and sustainable home – despite an existing south-facing orientation

Renovation and addition by Altereco Design

From the building designer:

This home involved a contemporary and minimal renovation that transformed a post war brick house into an expansive family home situated in Yarraville.

A restrained materials palette reflects the architecture of the project, a meeting of classic and contemporary.

A cooling and minimalist palette enriched with solid timber details and a dowel battened screening creates a welcoming series of spaces with a robust and practical seamlessness.

The fine handcrafted joinery elements in the living and kitchen, offer a light-filled breakfast bar that extends into a year round outdoor entertainment area, and a cosy living unit and fireplace offering a place of refuge.

The existing building fabric has been significantly enhanced with high-performance insulation, solar panels and double glazing throughout.

The challenging site orientation (north facing the street) has been overcome by creating some separation between old and new. This has allowed for some very tall north facing windows, bringing in winter sun to passively warm the polished concrete floor.

We have also reduced the amount of raw materials for this project by retaining a portion of the existing shed!

Ultimately the design celebrates family life and carefully considers the history of the site and its environmental impact on its surrounding context.

• What are the core features of the home?

The design was based around the existing post war, brick veneer home which was in great condition and . This original portion of the home houses the bedrooms/sleeping areas.

The modern extension to the rear touches the existing home lightly bringing the outside in.

With expanses of glass and a Skillion roof reaching north the light in the space is pretty special.

The separation between the old and new buildings allows for garden space in between, creating a sense of being surrounded by green.

• What makes this home stand out from the crowd?

One of the key features in this home are the towering 3m tall double hung windows facing north. These really flood the living area with sunlight, heating the concrete slab inside. The eave above has been carefully considered and provides shading in the hot summer months to prevent overheating or reliance on air conditioning. 

The windows also open from the bottom up bringing the outdoors in and allowing a natural cross ventilation through the living zone.

• What was the brief provided by the owners?

The owner was after some additional space to accommodate the needs of their family.

This included some of the modern comforts including a walk in robe and ensuite to the master bedroom, a multi-purpose room and a renovated bathroom.

These needs were easily met within the context of the existing home with some internal wall modifications.

In addition to the modifications to the existing home the homeowner really wanted an open kitchen living dining zone.

This space needed to be light and bright with a strong connection to the outdoor space and privacy from their neighbours.

Finally the owner wanted a passive design to reduce the need for heating and cooling, and a focus on energy efficiency.

This is what inspired the new addition and contributed so much to its overall success.

Increasing the storage capacity and ensuring bike storage was another requirement. This was achieved through the utilisation of an existing brick garage already on site.

Incorporating this into the design diverted it from demolition and landfill and reduced the amount of raw materials required for the project.

• How did you achieve this?

It can be really tricky to get the passive solar design to work with a site that has a south facing backyard. To overcome this, we relied on having as much separation between the existing building and the new extension.

Sprawling towards the backyard did minimise the space at the back of the block, but what it did for the design overall was returned three fold.

As the design evolved and the decision was made to try and connect to the existing brick shed on the property it all started to fall into place.

A courtyard was created between the existing house and new extension, a glass link connecting the two.

With a skillion roof pitching north over the new extension, a pair of large double hung windows facing north bring in maximum sunlight to warm the internal space.

• How has the design utilised the space?

In some ways the design takes up more space than required because it is quite separated from the existing dwelling.

However the separation brings in natural light and ventilation, solar energy, and the opportunity for green space visible from the internal spaces.

• What are the key features of this property?

These are north facing windows; separation from the old home allowing more light & ventilation; the pitched roof facing north adding volume to the living space.

• Were there any architectural challenges?

In the early design stages it was apparent that the neighbouring dwelling on the East side presenting issues of overshadowing and also privacy.

To mitigate this, the design was anchored on the east side, focusing glazing into a central west facing courtyard and towards the backyard. This way the building itself became the buffer between the neighbour and the home’s secluded private open space.

Additionally, hardwood timber screens will soon be covered with creeping vines to not only improve the privacy but the outlook from the interior spaces as well.

• Does the home promote green living i.e. energy-saving/water-saving features?

As designers we are always looking for a passive solar opportunity. Although tricky to achieve on this site (with a south facing backyard) the opportunity did present itself.

The courtyard between the old and new made it possible to incorporate 3m tall north facing windows.

As a result, sunlight floods the living space landing directly on the polished concrete slab which acts as a thermal mass, absorbing the heat and sustainably warming the internal space.

Making use of an existing old brick garage that was already on site was a wonderful way to reduce the need for new building materials for this build.

This was great to see as it prevented a complete demolition of the shed, diverting

materials from landfill while also reducing the need for new ‘raw materials’ to be used – a win-win outcome.

Credit list

Building designer
Kitchen designer
Altereco Design
Lighting design
Lights Lights Lights
Kitchen sink
Argent Executive Chef
Bosch, gas
Fisher & Paykel, integrated, French door
Miele, Obsidian Black
Bathroom tiles
Terrazzo Stone Tile, by Signorino; general rectified, white matt, by Signorino; feature tile – White Matt (brick), by Artedomus
General heating
Fireplace Heatmaster open wood fireplace box, in Black
Timber flooring to music room to match existing (Tasmanian oak), matt; concrete – Lacy mix
Black Door Building
Landscape designer
Tussock Studio
Cladding on addition
Scyon Axon
Villeroy & Boch Steel Expert Kitchen Mixer
Meile Integrated Dishwasher (existing)
Panasonic Inverter
Sirius Specialist
Unios Kinetic, surface mounted, adjustable; Unios Apex Surface Mounted Can; Unios Ovo recessed step light; Unios Shift Out recessed adjustable downlight; Lucciola wall lights;
Trends International Design Awards (TIDA) Homes – Highly Commended

Designed by: Altereco Design

Story by: Trendsideas

Photography by: Jade Cantwell

18 Jul, 2021

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