Opposites attract

Contemporary black box addition to older home

A deep soffit provides some shade on the architecture, backyard, cottage, facade, home, house, real estate, shed, siding, black, gray
A deep soffit provides some shade on the north side of the black box addition to this older home, by architect Evelyn McNamara.
Architect Evelyn McNamara talks about the contemporary expression of the new addition, and relates this back to the original architecture.

Extending an older home often presents a conundrum do you retain the character of the existing house, or do you opt for a more contemporary expression?

There was no argument about which way this project would go the addition contrasts the original in every possible way to signal a clear separation between old and new.

Architect Evelyn McNamara says the existing house had a very small living area, and there was plenty of space to push this out towards the sunny rear lawn.

"The existing gabled roofline posed a few challenges in terms of adding a new structure," the architect says. "By creating a large, flat-roofed extension that stands proud of the house, the roofline is essentially hidden, and there was no need to rework the entire roof."

McNamara says it then made sense to continue to contrast the new with the old this was never going to be a renovation in a traditional disguise.

"The linear form of the horizontal weatherboards is reinvented in the vertical lines of the black Shadowclad panelling that clads the exterior of the addition. The black also makes a strong contrast to the white weatherboards and it frames the entire new wing, much like a piece of art."

With the large bifolding doors set back beneath deep soffits, the living room is shaded from the direct sun, but is still light and airy.

Interior designer Tomi Williams specified a black and bookcase, furniture, home, interior design, office, orange, room, shelf, shelving, table, yellow, gray
Interior designer Tomi Williams specified a black and orange palette for the interior accents of this renovated home.

"The more formal seating area with the fireplace is two steps lower than the original floor, yet the ceiling is at the same level," says McNamara. "The extra height enhances the sense of space and defines the lounge within the open-plan living area."

The architect was also able to create a separate media room, which appears as a smaller black box within the large black box that is the house.

"This freestanding element is seen as a separate element, and consequently is more of a design feature," she says. "For this reason also, it is devoid of decoration. It has acoustic insulation, and eventually will be glazed around the top as well."

Enlarging the house was not only a way to give the owners a bigger living space, but also improved the circulation through the house. There is now enough space for a walkway to one side of the media room, leading to the kitchen and living area.

The kitchen was not significantly altered. But a new concrete tabletop was added to the end of a peninsula to provide a perching spot for the family and friends. A built-in shelving unit creates a division between the dining area and the lounge.

Interior designer Tomi Williams says the owners favoured Mid-century Modern design, with an industrial edge. This helped to determine the furnishings.

The design also needed to work with the architecture. The black box that encloses the media room is clad in Decortech, which resembles a scaled-down version of the exterior cladding.

Contemporary black box addition to older home the backyard, estate, facade, home, house, outdoor structure, property, real estate, residential area, swimming pool, villa, gray
Contemporary black box addition to older home the new addition to this 1950s weatherboard house. Architect Evelyn McNamara

"Orla Kiely Linear Stem wallpaper was chosen for an accent wall in the living room," says Williams. "It provides a wall of black to complement the black box, but the effect is softened by the repeating pattern. The built-in cabinetry beneath is in pine plywood, which also lines the interior of the black box media room. This gives the room an informal look in keeping with its use as a children's area, and is highly practical."

Williams says the owners' artwork provided the cue for the colour scheme, particularly a black and orange painting.

"These became the key colours that are repeated throughout the house," she says. "But the area rugs are multicoloured to bring together all the shades in both the new and old areas of the house."

Because the extension is at the rear of the house and there are trees screening the windows, privacy is not an issue. Williams says there are no window coverings, so the black-framed windows can make a bold architectural statement.

Other key elements of the renovation included extensive landscaping at the rear. A new swimming pool was added, and a timber deck designed to link the house with the pool.

May 03, 2014
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