Design Anthology - Asia Pacific Edition
This home was renovated according to the belief that a successful addition contributes to a home’s quality without sacrificing its original character
through an articulation of craft and quality, this home by Williams Burton Leopardi is a rare renovation and extension effort that focuses on elevation and sensory heightening over expansion. Through experimental rigour and the exploration of upward massing, the resulting approach frames views and creates meaningful connections across time, the site and its occupants. The firm’s founding directors David Burton and Sophia Leopardi speak to an unusual process of thinking and curating small. ‘A good addition adds to the quality and the design without interfering with the style,’ says Burton. ‘It adds warmth and instils an effortless flow from the moment you enter the home through to the backyard. It feels continuous in all respects, and deliberate.’
The quaint and highly detailed heritage-listed cottage is one in a row of significant homes in an inner urban enclave of Adelaide. The understandable restrictions on the extent of new works are what anchor these reminders of the past to their sites and ensure that the built fabric of North Adelaide retains its storied charm. ‘Each cottage had its own interesting features, with side entrances, high ceilings and relatively large rooms,’ says Burton of the homes’ character. ‘Each had a large room at the front, with double doors that opened to the street, and contained courtyard garden spaces.’ Here, the spacious lean-to behind the home has been replaced with a reimagined contemporary sleeve that now extrudes to the rear, gently navigating the long, linear site. New gestures awaken opportunities for connection, where an engagement with natural light becomes a key focus and muse.
The owners undertook extensive feasibility studies to determine the best use of the site, and their appreciation of the unique relationship between site and spatial qualities led to the preservation of the previous footprint. ‘The emphasis was on integration — matching proportion, materiality and a level of quality in a contemporary and sensitive manner,’ Leopardi explains. The approach, she says, ‘was founded on reinterpreting key cues from the original home: heights, wall thickness and an elevation of materiality, and then carrying that through the whole home.’ The use of muted and restrained tones creates a softness that is further emphasised through an interplay with light throughout the day.
Gestures throughout offer a sense of compression and release within the overall whole, hinting subtly at changes in space and function without the traditional vertical barriers. ‘It’s all about flow, the threading of the heritage into the contemporary addition and maintaining that element of craft,’ Leopardi says. ‘We wanted to create moments that are beautiful but functional.’ As the descending rooms open up and connect with steel and glass doors, visual connections bind the spaces, with the window to the rear framing the view and garden. The kitchen and garden space take a less traditional approach, with the landscape wrapping under a cantilevered bench element and a standing island bench creating another expression of materiality.
The considered and conscious home is founded on a sense of beauty and detail that captures its original spirit, resulting in what Leopardi describes as ‘an embedded sense of calm’.