Alteration + Addition Brisbane, Qld
It’s fairly common these days for people to be thinking of resale as they go into a renovation project with an architect. Arguably, that mindset places limitations on the process, whereby the daydreams of a new place for living are filtered through the lens of “broad appeal.” In this project, however, client Tamsin was not interested in the “real estate game” of satisfying some generic future market in the renovation of her house in Annerley in Brisbane’s inner south. Instead, Zuzana and Nicholas Architects proceeded from the perspective of what needed to be done to make the small timber cottage wonderfully liveable for the family for the long run, celebrating the qualities that suited them best. Tamsin’s biggest desire was to create meaningful connections to the garden from as many parts of the home as possible. As an avid gardener, she wished to offer her children rich and varied experiences of nature as part of their everyday life.
Zuzana and Nicholas edited the fabric of the existing cottage to establish a new order of connectivity and practical adjacencies including, importantly, a long sightline from the front door to the green of the garden at the rear. While the street-facing rooms and small enclosed verandah were given a tidy up, the design focused principally on refiguring the back half of the house to be find a better harmony internally and with the outdoors. In this process of augmenting and replacing the skin-and-bone qualities of traditional construction with bespoke built-out and built-in joinery, the renovated interior has been given more definition. Edges have been thickened with storage and shelving elements that help each room serve more than one purpose, an important consideration in a small dwelling.
The reconfigured kitchen has been unfurled from its original position to hug the northern and western edges of what is now a long dining and living room oriented toward the garden. At the end of the room, a new garden view is framed by a window seat where once there was a narrow louvre set. The kitchen cabinetry is made of low-emission plywood, which Tamsin was interested in staining green. The variation of the stained finish tangibly enlivens the materiality of the interior in a kind of kinship with the garden surrounds. Adjacent to the long room and subdivided from it by bespoke open shelving is a playroom. This space can also be used as a guest bedroom thanks to the simple inclusion of stackable sliding doors built-in behind the joinery.
While the interior of the existing house has been significantly opened up through renovation, the
fulcrum of connection between house and garden is created by a small, one-room extension. It’s a memorably transformative element that is glimpsed from throughout the house. A double-height pavilion clad in Zincalume, its form rises toward the east and opens wide on two sides at ground level. To the east it opens onto a stone terrace while to the north it befriends a bed of waving grasses via a low datum, which has been built up out of the new room’s concrete base to offer a reposeful edge. This is a companion threshold moment to the nearby window seat, each celebrating the home’s new unity with its place. Vertically, the pavilion offers a novel delight in a mezzanine nested beneath the apex of the skillion roof. It’s just wide enough to accommodate a small variety of possible purposes: as a study, an extra sleeping place or a much-loved reading eyrie for the children.
Although modest in area and materially restrained, this new room adds a tangible spatial luxury to the home. It pragmatically increases the liveable area available to the family, but it also multiplies the ways one can inhabit the dwelling, which always makes a small home feel generous. It also dovetails the house with the rich and varied garden, which was a collaborative project between Tamsin and Jonathan Kopinski. Much as the reimagined house knits together new adjacencies and creates many different places to be, the garden offers a patchwork of textures and experiential worlds for the children: a square of perfect lawn, a productive garden, a shadowy grove. And from the garden, looking back at the bright pavilion with its welcoming open thresholds, they can spy all the other places where they can play, sit and read.
Before Zuzana and Nicholas’s intervention, this was a dark, compartmentalized and introverted house that constrained family life within a century-old planning pattern. The architects have stitched in a new logic of connectivity, editing, augmenting and extending the house to create a unique and beautiful scaffold for this particular family’s inhabitation, enriched and interwoven with the stuff of their daydreams.