Streets ahead

A tra­di­tional Fed­er­a­tion frontage con­ceals mod­ern de­sign magic

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - Home - - FRONT PAGE - Pic­tures Brett Board­man

Hav­ing lived in Bal­main for many years, a young fam­ily of six loved their view of Sydney Har­bour but were ready to stretch out. They had out­grown their home on a typ­i­cally tight site on the in­ner-west penin­su­lar and set their sights on a gen­er­ous block in Haber­field.

The old Fed­er­a­tion house on the block was in rel­a­tively good con­di­tion, but the fam­ily were keen on ren­o­vat­ing and ex­tend­ing it. Ar­chi­tect Sam Craw­ford was brought on board to cham­pion change on the home, which sits in a her­itage con­ser­va­tion area.

The house had been dra­mat­i­cally al­tered in the 1990s by the pre­vi­ous own­ers who turned the four-room cot­tage into an eight-room house with liv­ing ar­eas at the rear.

“It was quite an ex­pan­sive house with five bed­rooms and mul­ti­ple liv­ing spaces that did not in­ter­con­nect or flow,” Sam says.

He wanted to re­move the prob­lem­atic ad­don and create con­tem­po­rary liv­ing spaces in its place. They in­cluded a new open-plan kitchen, liv­ing and din­ing room, me­dia room and an at­tic con­ver­sion for a child’s room.

“We used sound in­su­la­tion so he can play loud mu­sic and play the gui­tar,” Sam says. “Rub­ber pad­ding made the room acous­ti­cally iso­lated.”

Con­sult­ing coun­cil

The real chal­lenge was work­ing with coun­cil, who did not want to sway from the tra­di­tional form of the house. Sam agreed, but he was keen to give the new ad­di­tion a mod­ern feel.

“We also think her­itage is very im­por­tant, in par­tic­u­lar the view from the street,” Sam says. “Any­thing that is of value in the build­ing it­self was re­tained, but this house had al­ready been dra­mat­i­cally al­tered.”

Mak­ing an en­trance

The front fa­cade was re­stored in keep­ing with the rest of the street, in­clud­ing the for­mal en­try, with a side en­try added past the drive­way for fam­ily and friends.

“If you go through the side, you en­ter the mid­dle of the house where the liv­ing rooms are,” says Sam. “There are cup­boards for the kids to put their shoes and bags be­fore they en­ter the house. If you en­ter through the front

of the house, vis­i­tors have to walk past the front bed­rooms, which is not ideal.”

Coun­cil ini­tially ob­jected, as it put the garage fur­ther down the drive­way. The low­ceil­ing garage in the back cor­ner of the block has since been re­pur­posed into a vaulted ca­bana space, says Sam, “de­lib­er­ately con­tained to create a sanc­tu­ary and re­cre­ation area ad­ja­cent to the pool.”

The side en­try was even­tu­ally signed off, but only if was a stand-alone struc­ture that could eas­ily be torn down should the cur­rent own­ers choose to move on.

“The coun­cil had the idea that some­one might want to drive through the back­yard one day, so that en­trance we built is not fixed to the con­crete wall,” Sam says.

Con­crete de­ci­sion

The home ex­em­pli­fies mod­ern ar­chi­tec­ture in its sec­ond half, in con­trast to the her­itage fea­tures up­front.

“I think it’s im­por­tant that new work is ex­pressed as new, and it only am­pli­fies the strength of the orig­i­nal de­sign,” says Sam.

“The ex­ten­sion is in con­crete, which was also chal­lenged by coun­cil. We ar­gued that the rear was not vis­i­ble from the street, so it did not have to be in the same brick as the orig­i­nal house. Con­crete is a per­fectly good ma­te­rial.”

The curved ce­ment hall­way in the new part of the home sig­ni­fies where the ex­ten­sion be­gins, lead­ing into an open-plan kitchen and din­ing room, which looks out to an L-shaped court­yard with a pond. The own­ers, who have four chil­dren rang­ing from pri­mary to high school age, wanted the pond as a fo­cal point in the court­yard and some­thing that the youngest chil­dren could en­gage in.

“They can splash their hands in it and the pond has a re­flec­tive base — trees light up around it at night and it’s lovely,” Sam says.

The own­ers were also in­stru­men­tal in sourc­ing ma­te­ri­als that are new to the mar­ket, such as Valchro­mat, a tim­ber com­pos­ite for the kitchen cab­i­nets, and wood floor­ing by Aus­trian com­pany Ad­mon­ter.

“There is un­der­floor heat­ing in all the rooms, and there are not too many timbers that can han­dle the heat,” says Sam.

“But this one can.”

Raw con­crete is the star of the new part of the house which has a direct con­nec­tion to the gar­den.

The kitchen join­ery is made of Valchro­mat, an al­ter­nate to MDF.

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