We weren’t wanting [to build] a monument.
Kylie Forbes of Blueprint architects recalls the “incredible brief” she was given for renovating an 1869 colonial beauty in Brisbane’s inner-west Paddington. “The owners rang and said that they weren’t exactly sure how it happened, but they’d just bought on a whim an old home they’d been admiring for years.”
The house had been owned by one family for generations, and the previous owner had recently turned 100 years old in it, having raised her eight children there. Much of it was intact, including the unpainted, stained VJ walls. Other features, and the general layout, were also unspoiled by incursions, and the new owners were keen to retain them. But the best part of the commission for Forbes was the clients’ understanding that less was more, and their insistence on a single living space and one bathroom. “It’s so unusual for clients these days to ask us to make a place smaller rather than larger,” says Forbes.
The owners, who had spent several years living in small quarters in Shanghai, China, wanted to promote family life on a single level. “We weren’t wanting a monument,” they said. “We wanted to downsize and still have plenty of opportunities to run into each other as a family.”
The four-room cottage was retained at the front, with delightful verandahs graced by latticed arches. At the rear, catching breathtaking city views, a wall was removed to create a family space comprising a kitchen, living area and outdoor lounge. Here the family’s significant collection of art and artefacts is displayed on custom-built shelves and niches. Forbes has enclosed the outdoor room with solid balustrades, and a system of sliding arched windows that repeat the arches of the verandah.