Something Old Something New

Australia’s history is filled with diversity, culturally and architecturally.  Australia started out as a penal settlement in 1788 and the simple military style structures was a legacy of its harsh beginnings. These early colonial structures were simple and based on need and available materials.

As time progressed the colony was able to not only develop and import more building materials but also to import the architectural vernacular that was in favour in Britain at the time.

‘Grace Cottage’, shown here in the 1880s, exemplifies the vernacular timber Georgian house. It was transported across the Harbour and reassembled at 137 Mount Street by Thomas Thrussell in the 1870s or 1880s. The right hand side of the verandah was later enclosed to create a display window for fancy goods. The cottage remained in the family until the late 1920s when it was resumed and demolished during Sydney Harbour Bridge work. Stanton Library         

Now in the 21st Century, the streets of Melbourne is a smorgasbord display of residential architectural styles borrowed from other countries. From the United Kingdom came the Victorian, the Georgian from Europe and North America right through to the very popular house of the 1920’s the Californian Bungalow aptly named after the state of its origin.

Californian Bungalow style dwelling. Home has two wide covered front verandas and a gabled roof. Wide entry steps lead up to one open Verandah. Circa 1925

Terrace houses in Gertrude Street Fitzroy 1983

Australian homes were built in these European styles that were not suited to the Australian climate and unsympathetic to the landscape. The Californian bungalow was probably one the most popular and adaptable home as its style was built to suit a similar climate as Australia.

As beautiful as they are, often these period houses of the 19th and 20th century do not fit the way we live today. The lifestyle of the modern family dictates for a home with a more flexible use of space, more light and with a better connection to the outside, taking advantage of the Australian climatic conditions.

Adding an extension to a period house is often the best solution in achieving the lifestyle we want. The question more importantly is ‘Do you add an extension that will blend seamlessly with existing, replicating and being sympathetic to the style of a bygone era or do you take a more modern and contemporary approach?

Truth be told, there is no correct answer, it comes down to personal preference.

Melbourne’s inner city and some suburban houses have heritage overlays which means facades and front rooms often need to be maintained. Others choose to keep the history and charm of their houses but add more contemporary and modern extensions at the back to accommodate their lifestyle needs.

An example of a classical and sympathetic second storey extension by Supa Group Extensions to a weatherboard Californian bungalow in Hughesdale

Where blocks are small and no heritage overlay is present, upper floor extensions prevail when additional space is required.  The design approach depends on the individual’s taste but a carefully designed extension will maintain the architectural flow and symmetry of the building. Replicating the architectural features to create a seamless extension externally can be achieved whilst the interior layout may reflect the current trends of today.

Those who prefer not to create a ‘pastiche’ extension, lend towards fusing the old with new. Adding an unashamedly modern extension to a classic period home can not only be striking but as Architect Travis Wright explains “It makes a virtue out of the contrast between what’s old and what’s new, rather than trying to get away from it”

A perfect example of a ground and second storey extension was a project Supa Group completed in Yarraville. Embracing a bold and contemporary style, a ground and second storey extension was added to the rear of a post war weatherboard house with minimal impact to the original house. The façade was sympathetically renovated respecting the overall appearance of the street. The exterior of the extension with its contrasting palette of white and bold blue reflected the modern approach of the new additions interior

A modern, durable and stylish finish, was achieved using three components to the external cladding. Vertically hung James Hardies Scyon Axon cladding was used for the double storey “eyebrow” to the rear with rendered polystyrene to the inside of the “eyebrow” and finally James Hardies Prime Line Weatherboards to the remaining.