Turning inside out
You won’t believe what inspired this redesign
Japanese design may not be the first thing you would think of for re-imagining an old home in a country town. However, for one couple downsizing from a larger property outside Orange in the NSW Central West, it was everything they wanted out of their renovation.
Local architect Sally Sutherland from Source Architects says the couple travel regularly to Japan and love the design sensibility and connection to nature.
“In particular, they wanted a Japanese bath, which was discussed in the very first meeting,” Sally says.
As it stood, the three-bedroom house close to the centre of town was in good condition.
Positioned in a conservation area in Orange, it sat on a long, narrow block with the side of the house facing north. There were just a few problems that needed to be addressed.
“The existing house only had one northern window,” Sally says.
“It had an extension at the rear but it didn’t make the most of the light. The toilet was also out the back — the bathroom had a basin, shower and bath but there was no toilet.”
Sally and partner David Sutherland’s plan was to maintain the three existing bedrooms at the front and add a study.
While the house takes up most of the width of the block from the front, Sally designed it to step back from the boundary further down the block, offering exposure to the northern light.
This is the location of the new open-plan kitchen, dining and living area, with large windows and doorways allowing light to flood into the space.
While most of the original house has floorboards and carpet, they opted for concrete to create thermal mass which would help maintain even temperatures indoors.
Hydronic heating — where hot water is pushed through pipes set into the floor — keeps the house warm over cold winter nights. “There are two (concrete) slabs,” says Sally. “There’s the working slab and then there’s an insulation layer and the hydronics are on top of that.”
A second slab is then laid and heat travels through to the top slab to warm the space.
Hydronics were also used in the concrete and fibreglass Japanese bath, which is so deep, it has a ledge to sit on.
Sally says integrating Japanese design principles into the house and garden was key to the success of the project.
“We were mindful of not just copying Japanese style because we didn’t want it to be a literal interpretation,” says Sally. “There’s a hint of it but it’s not overpowering. “We didn’t want it to be obvious.” Once you are aware of it, you can see elements of this style in the use of timber which, in some parts of the house, is reminiscent of Japanese screens.
The garden also reflects the Japanese
approach to landscape, with rocks selected and placed to represent the mountains and a mix of plants native to Australia and Asia.
“The garden has some plantings from Australia but Orange is the perfect climate for plants like camellias and maples,” Sally says.
“We transplanted a Japanese maple from their old house — it was planted by her father some time ago so she wanted to keep it.”
Sally says the clients were happy to leave the construction phase to them.
“They took a holiday to Japan during construction but we kept them up to date.”
The side of the house completely opens up to the north, with seamless connection to the garden, which is a gentle nod to Japanese landscaping.
The front facade was left virtually untouched, in keeping with the heritage values of the street.
One member of the family already understands the benefits of the underfloor heating.
The Japanese-style bath was a high priority for the owners.