Real Homes

Inside the clever modern extension of a semi-detached heritage cottage

The renovation project was incredibly complex, but perseverance has reaped beautiful rewards for the owners of this semi-detached heritage cottage by the sea

There’s no such thing as the too-hard basket for Jo Gillies, director of Archisoul Architects. If there was, this renovation would surely be in it. The owners of this early 1900s semi-detached house, or semi, contacted Jo, having seen an Archisoul sign outside another heritage project, to enquire about renovating their property.

Jo and her design team took on the job and soon struck their first challenge: council planning officials insisted the adjoining semi be renovated at the same time. “The owners convinced their neighbour to bring his renovation plans forward. So we had two different briefs, two budgets and two timelines to work to with our one builder,” she says. “One homeowner lived in Europe, which meant lots of late-night phone calls, and we acted as the contracts administrator for one semi but not the other. And when we began the project, we had no idea of the building’s historical significance.”

It turns out that the cottages were built by local fishermen who would drag their wooden boat out from the house to the nearby ocean to conduct daring sea rescues in the early 20th century. “The brothers were pioneers of the surf-lifesaving movement as we know it today,” says Jo. “It was our heritage consultant who discovered this; none of the homeowners had any inkling.”

Archisoul Architects has carved out a niche for itself as a firm that specialises in heritage work, so the team understood how to approach this complicated project. The facades of the semis, and their two front sitting rooms, were retained and restored. In the semi on the right [the home featured here], the brick fireplace was also saved. “We protected it with ply and ropes while the house was demolished around it,” says Jo.

The floor plan today bears little resemblance to the original layout – “there was no flow, rooms were tacked onto rooms” – and it’s now a light-filled family home with an open-plan kitchen, living and dining area and a whole new level upstairs.

A trip to a kitchen showroom saw the homeowners fall instantly in love with the Leicht European styling and craftsmanship they saw. “They adore the concealed extraction fan that pulls air into a vent in the island bench. This works well with the kitchen’s integrated appliances and handle-free cabinetry.” A slimline timber dining table fits neatly in with the island cabinetry and beautiful Vitrocsa steel doors open the area up to the greenery outside.

The kitchen and dining areas are flooded with light, thanks to the glass hallway floor above that’s positioned beneath a generous skylight. This hallway accommodates a home office area and links a child’s bedroom at the front of the house with the main bedroom, which has a walk-in wardrobe, ensuite and Juliet balcony.

“We treated the update of this home very sensitively,” says Jo. “The extension is barely visible from the street. We reused materials and far exceeded the minimum environmental requirements. Sustainability to me means a return to wholeness and that’s something that, through a collaborative design process, we’ve achieved for this home.”

Words by: Sarah Pickette. Photography by: Tom Ferguson. Styling by: Archisoul Architects. 

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