Renovated for a young professional couple and their beautiful Labrador, architect Thomas McKenzie of Thomas Winwood Architecture had a couple of challenges on his hands. Firstly, the clients were living overseas during the design process and renovation, and secondly the modest scale of the home meant careful planning was required to ensure the project’s success.

Navigating time differences, the initial design meetings were conducted on Skype. However, the distance was made easier by the client having a clear idea about their specific requirements for the home. Thom tells us ‘these become core elements of a design, and are beneficial to the success of the project. As the clients had a design background, they had a clear vision of how they wanted the house to work and references of project that appealed to them’.

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One of the homeowners grew up in a modernist house that had been designed by his father, who was an architect. You get the sense that his love for modernist design was firmly ingrained from an early age. They were also both inspired by iconic projects like Heide II at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, and houses designed by Robin Boyd.

‘The potential of the existing 1970’s house was what had appealed to the clients when they purchased it. We set out to realise the potential of the house by amplifying its character and updating it in a contemporary way.’

And the clients had chosen just the right architect to transform their ideas, inspiration, and wants into an award-winning home that was as much about liveability as it was about design. ‘It’s a period of architecture that inspires the work of our practice’, says Thom. ‘It was a great fit.’

‘With our experience in residential architecture we were able to develop and refine these ideas in a way that realised the ambitions of the clients and made best use of the potential of the existing house and project.’

Much of the footprint of the home remained the same, however it’s in the use of the materials and colour palette that has largely contributed to the project’s success.

‘We wanted to use natural materials that had an honest expression of fabrication and detailing.  The retention of the existing brick walls and concrete slab combined with the Abyss Slate tiles and timber batten ceiling brought the space to life.’

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Although a lot of the update was cosmetic, the transformation was dramatic. Choosing this materials palette enhanced the feel and light of the space, as well as giving it a sense of quality. ‘The subtle textures, play of light and timeless combination of stone, brick and timber all constructed with care gives the space a wonderful feeling’, says Thom.

The home’s modest scale required very careful planning to ensure all the spaces functioned well, in particular, the kitchen and bathroom. With the client’s desire for an interior that was beautifully zoned, the design of the spaces took considerable amount of work throughout all design stages. Working in close collaboration with cabinet makers, Cantilever Interiors, they managed to pull it off. The spaces now feel much larger than they actually are, and not at all compromised.

As with any renovation project, other challenges popped up along the way. ‘A non-compliant existing staircase and insufficient drainage fall required careful consideration during the build, but thankfully didn’t compromise the outcome of the project’.

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Thom says the way the project feels is the most successful aspect of the renovation, and one we think he should be immensely proud of. With the client’s furniture and expansive art collection in place, he believes it’s the ‘intangible feeling of peacefulness and quality that makes the space a joy to be in.’

‘This is the result of the combination of many different aspects of the project coming together in a harmonious way at the completion of the project. It has character and personality but in a very unassuming and liveable way that is a joy to experience.’

Inspired? See more of this project and others by Thomas Winwood Architecture here.

Photography by Fraser Marsdsen.