A new start This Brisbane family residence survived floods to thrive
THIS GORGEOUS FAMILY HOME HAS EMERGED FROM THE BRISBANE FLOODS OF 2011, AND IS A TESTAMENT TO COMMUNITY, GOOD DESIGN AND SECOND CHANCES
Painted a watery blue, the front door of this Brisbane cottage tells a story of renewal and remembrance. The colour flows inside and streams along the lower half of the hallway, across doors and down the length of the Queenslander. In 2011, floodwaters took the same route, rising up the walls and swamping the home, the neighbourhood and many suburbs that line the Brisbane River. The owner of the cottage, Eliza, was living and working in Hong Kong when news of the floods broke. “I went to bed hoping it would be okay,” recalls Eliza. “I got up early to watch the coverage and saw a journalist reporting from a boat outside our house! I thought, ‘We’ve gone under!’ They were in a boat. In our street!” Family members sprang into action, project managing an army of helpers. “Dad said there were so many people just coming into the house with offers of help that there almost wasn’t enough for people to do,” says Eliza. “We were very grateful. It was an incredible response, with everyone just pitching in.” It was this strong sense of community that drew Eliza back to the urban village – and Australia – two years later, with daughter Eva and son Hugo. She had thought the once-flooded two-bedroom house, which was then rented out, would never be their family home. But could it be? “We missed out on a few auctions and realised, hang on, all we really want is to be in this area,” says Eliza. “I chatted with our architect, and by lifting the house it became a real option.” It was no easy feat. The cottage was cramped, on a small lot, in a flood zone and character listed. “A large part of the design process was spent trying to minimise the impact of having to lift a small house so it wouldn’t appear like it was floating high up in the sky like a mushroom,” explains the home’s architect, Matt Kennedy of Arcke. “That relationship to the ground level was really important. Eliza wanted the kids to be able to go out and kick a ball and for the dog to run around the yard. How do you achieve that when you’ve got a house that’s floating in mid-air?” The answer was a plinth at the back that grounds a new extension and allows for one-level living that flows out to a deck and steps down to a backyard pool. At the front, timber battens run horizontally, to seemingly pull the structure back to earth. The rooms at the front have been reordered to become kids’ bedrooms, a playroom and bathroom. At the back is the family zone, with a parents’ retreat perched on top under a floating roof, while the kitchen is deliberately placed as the connection point. “We had to be really creative about reinterpreting space,” says Matt. For Eliza, the end result feels anything but cramped. “Big windows, big doors that open right up, high ceilings and clever seating and storage make the space both really useable and beautiful,” she says. “I love that there is no dead space, without us feeling like we are on top of each other.” While big issues dominated the build, it is the small details, such as the framing of a tree as a living artwork, that they now appreciate every day.
KITCHEN The kitchen (top right & opposite) links the old and new parts of the home. “By narrowing that connection and creating a thinner, more delicate bridge in the form of the galley kitchen, it allowed the north-eastern aspect to be introduced,” says architect Matt. “It’s all about bringing in more light.” Eliza (pictured opposite) is thrilled with the result, which is also a hit with the family. “It works better than I ever imagined it would,” she says. “People just come and sit on the stairs, the window seat at the foot of the stairs or the stools and talk while I’m cooking.” The warmth of the home’s timber palette is best expressed in this space, where plywood joinery meets oak floors, and windows and doors are framed in New Guinea rosewood. ‘Kav’ pendant lights from Dezion Studio artfully balance the simple palette while the kitchen, which acts as a light well, overlooks a courtyard (left).
ENTRY The red antique Chinese bureau (top left), brought back from Hong Kong, makes for a colourful point to mark the transition from the bedrooms to the living quarters. It’s paired with a vibrant artwork, ‘Awelye’, by Betty Mbitjana.
“THE KITCHEN HAS created A REAL HUB WHERE YOU CAN BE connected TO EVERYBODY” ~ ELIZA