LARGE HERITAGE HOUSE RENOVATION
This is a very special project because of the significance of the existing house before the renovation and because of of the client's enlightened approach to the house. The layers of history and 1930s designed sprawling garden with spectacular pines and ironstone garden walls made the house unique and old worldly. The house is positioned on the crest of the hill in the Blue Mountains suburb of Leura with view to the mountains escarpment and back to distant Sydney.
Leura has always been a prestigious leafy garden suburb with substantial heritages houses and well-loved gardens. This house is an interesting example. A former summer house of a wealthy Sydney business family; it was where the family escaped for a cooler summer in the mountains. The style of the original house was in some ways informal rather than highly ornamented. The large rambling 7 bedroom house was largely intact having only had superficial updates in the 50's and 60's to accommodate the local doctors' large family. Such as, a cool pink 50's kitchen and glassed-in verandas: a cheap way to gain space and brace against cold. The existing floor plan was almost like a film set with the two main wonderful but cold wood panelled living spaces on the wrong side (south) of the house and 7 bedrooms down various corridors. In the centre of the house without windows was a cosy 1970's style room with orange carpet and paisley wallpaper, where the former owners had retreated from the cold. There's was a large boiler room like something from Silence Of The Lambs, which housed a wood stove and an outdated boiler to drive the cool, hydronic heating system. The original kitchen had not been updated and was used as a store room with a big wooden stove hidden behind cupboards.
The design brief was to create a new north-orientated open plan kitchen, living and dining room, two new bathrooms and a more functional floor plan while retaining the heritage of the house. It was also important to connect the house to the garden and restore the structure generally. Thermal and solar improvements were also needed. After many late evenings with the owners and architect collaborating in the formal dining room with the upturned Viking ship ceiling, over home-cooked meals and of course wine, the solution emerged.
The solution was to flip the living space to the north and turn a loveable but dysfunctional 7 bedroom house into 5 within the existing envelope. We combined 2 existing bedrooms and a large sunroom to create the new kitchen, living and dining room on the north side while leaving the remaining bedrooms and formal living and dining intact. The verandas were restored and two new bathrooms created for parents and kids.
The new open plan kitchen, living and dining room has a new central, double-sided fireplace and built in stonework matching the original stonework. When walls were removed the most essential overall shapes were kept with the low slung sloped sunroom roof contrasting with the adjacent flat ceilings and the stone fireplace anchors the internal space to creat zones. French doors were installed to open onto the garden and a large, contemporary kitchen installed. The kitchen is sculptural and self-contained within an existing, traditional, timber-panelled space. A large skylight void was also created.
The master bedroom was dark and enclosed by 1960's style windows with the ensuite out on the former veranda. We removed the ensuite and scraped off the paisley wallpaper to reveal beautiful wood panels. New tall, timber doors and windows were installed to gain views of the garden and front lawn from the bed. A new, moody ensuite with a freestanding bath replaced the existing candy-pink kitchen. A new light-filled bathroom with white marble and existing wood panelling was created on the west wing for the kids. The hidden stove in part of the kitchen was revealed and left as a pantry room.
A large number of repairs and upgrades were needed all over the house. The hydronic heating was upgraded with a new, efficient boiler and insulation was added and gaps sealed. As is always the case with our clients, Ben and Melissa collaborated closely with our team and the builders from Blue Eco Homes. The result is a spacious, comfortable, heritage house which accommodates a contemporary lifestyle while still holding its original charm. As Ben says, "we really bought the house for the garden", but as architects and interior designers we don't quite believe it, although we’re prepared to accept that the garden has equal footing with the house.
Leura, Blue Mountains
Existing House Type:
Joe Mercieca Constructions
C. G. Hilder Consulting