Modern conversion of an old Australian workers cottage

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Hamersley Road Residence is the conversion of an early 1900’s Australian workers cottage into a modern family home by Studio53, located in Subiaco, an inner western suburb of Perth, Australia. The external timberwork, moulded plaster, handmade tiles and flannel flower glass of the existing house give the home a distinct arts and crafts aesthetic. The house had been untouched for many years. The owners, architect and interior designer from Studio53, wished to provide a functional home for their family with flexibility for now and into the future. They also wanted to respect and enhance the existing craftsmanship.

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As we were designing a home for our family, we wanted to optimize the space of the relatively small site area. We were able to do this through the use of pure forms such as the ‘courtyard’ and the ‘box’.

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The conception of the ‘box’ is integral to the design of this house. Internally, the box is its own zone; bedrooms, bathroom and play room for the children. Externally the box defines the character of the extension, highlighting the change from existing house to contemporary home in a sympathetic but contrasting manner.

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Throughout the design process, we re-used and recycled elements of the existing home to create a story of restoration. This included recycling bricks, light fittings, and even the old laundry trough, which is now a thriving herb garden. The original tin awning on the front of the existing house was resurrected with a coat of Dulux Weathershield in ‘Happy’ to match the ‘box’.

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The upper level addition is delineated from the existing house by taking the form of a pure yellow ‘box’ gently placed on top of the ground floor behind the gable of the existing home. The Box is then further wrapped in a perforated screen to shade and protect it from the sun.

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To the rear of the existing home we constructed a ground floor extension that envelopes a landscaped courtyard. Building to two boundaries and focusing the new ground floor rooms into the courtyard assisted in the creation and then blurring of the boundaries between indoor and outdoor. The intent was to provide multiple spaces of differing character, to be used at different times of the day and year, some inside and some outside.

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The intricately patterned and visually permeable screen envelops the box on all sides. The pattern is inspired from the floral motif of the original carpet and fireplace tiles; although given a contemporary edge. This screen provides visual richness, shade and protection to openings whilst offering opportunities for passive surveillance of the street. At night, the screen is illuminated, glows and provides a moment of joy for the neighborhood.

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Despite being untouched for over 90 years, the existing home was rescued and rejuvenated. The honest values of the house have been maintained, continued and extended into the new addition, to breathe life into the existing cottage and to create a “happy” and contemporary family home.

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Photos: Christian Sprogoe, Chris Maher

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