Someone to watch over me
How the charms of an unloved 1960s cottage were finally revealed
Not many people would see the charms of the kind of 1960s yellow-brick cottage that confronted architect Christopher Polly when he first saw this site at Woolooware. But, he says, he quickly found himself convincing his clients to renovate rather than detonate.
“It was also about retaining some semblance of the cultural value of the old house and its contribution to the street,” Christopher says. “That type of yellow brick, modest cottage is slowly disappearing and I was looking to keep as much of it as possible.”
He was also concerned that demolishing the old house would add considerably to the cost, both in terms of the environmental footprint and the budget.
Having said that, Christopher says the internal layout was uninspiring, at best.
“The interior was awful,” he says. “The kitchen and the living area were tiny at the back and the laundry was external. The bathroom was tiny and you walked down a tiny corridor to the tiny living space. There was no dining area and the sunroom at the back was enclosed with no connection to the garden.”
Catching the sunset
Christopher’s solution was to create a modest addition at the back of the house and divide the old and new into private and public spaces respectively.
The original house was reconfigured to provide three bedrooms, two bathrooms and an internal laundry while the new work at the back offered an open-plan kitchen, living and dining area leading on to the backyard. An open-tread staircase leads to an upper-level sitting room with the potential to become a guest room, plus a spot to view the setting sun.
“They wanted an upper floor to capture sunsets, because they’re into sunsets,” Christopher says. “If you look back towards the street, they get a view of the rooftops of the suburb.”
While the new work is a departure from the old house, Christopher was keen to visually connect the two buildings. So he created two internal courtyards, with large windows in the new work facing onto the old house.
It also serves to draw natural light into the centre of the house while thoughtful landscaping keeps the connection to the outdoor environment.
“I’ve seen so many extensions where the new work turns its back on the old house,” Christopher says. “So I made a conscious decision to always have that presence within the new build.”
The site slopes gently away from the street, which was managed with a set of internal and external steps.