‘The old house was really dark and cold before – we were always looking for a jumper’
A dark and cold worker’s cottage in Red Hill was transformed into a bright space usable all year round by owners David and Rachel.
The pair brought architect Karen Ognibene from KO&Co Architecture on board to guide their home renovation. Built in the 1900s, the cottage had undergone some ill-fitting renovations in the 1950s and 1980s before the couple bought it, including a false low ceiling that ran throughout the home. The positioning of the rooms was also a problem, with the kitchen tucked away at the back of the house separated from the living room at the front.
“We wanted a relaxed area where everything could happen in one space, so when we had friends over we could be cooking or barbecuing and socialising at the same time. And it just didn’t have a good feel because of the compressed ceiling,” David says.
One of the main challenges for Karen was working with the orientation of the block to bring enough light and warmth into the new open-plan kitchen, living, dining and outdoor rooms at the south-facing back of the house.
A stepped ceiling with clerestory windows was designed to solve the problem, allowing light and breezes into the rooms.
“It’s one of the best ideas in the house,” David says. “In summer you can open up all the windows and it lets the breezes in, and in winter when the sun is lower it keeps the house quite warm. The old house was really dark and cold before – we were always looking for a jumper.”
The false ceiling was also removed and the original three-metre-high ceiling reinstated. However, to create a sense of compression and release in the open-plan living area, a lower ceiling was installed in the kitchen and between the dining and living rooms.
“It divides the space up into rooms, so it’s a distinct dining room, a distinct living and a distinct kitchen without having walls,” Karen says. It also solved the problem of hiding the airconditioning ducts.
On the western wall, solid openings were integrated including timber louvres inside and casement windows outside.
“For most parts of the day you can have them open but in the afternoon they keep the heat out,” Karen says.
The kitchen is separated from the western wall by an internal staircase and features a pressed metal splashback. Although the splashback was difficult to install, Karen says the result was well worth the effort. “It’s a contemporary kitchen otherwise, with just that little bit of nostalgia,” she says.
The house was moved forward one metre on the block, and raised just under a metre to build an extra living room, bathroom and laundry downstairs, in addition to a massive four-car garage to accommodate David and Rachel’s three cars, their campervan, bikes and a workshop.
A bracing system was designed to create one large open area without any pesky posts in the way.
“The result is amazing because you can utilise the whole space,” David says.
As the couple often travel for work and stay in motels, David says it’s a joy to return home now. “It feels like we’re coming home to a resort where we can just chill and relax,” he says.
Architect: Karen Ognibene, KO&Co Architecture, ph: 0417 007 458.
Builder: James Anthony Constructions,
ph: 0448 880 283.
Pictures: Kate Mathieson Photography