How do you hold onto the heritage of a home when giving it a makeover? Spying this modernist 1965 dwelling for sale, Frank and Kerryn discovered it was an original Pettit+Sevitt project home, designed by eminent architect Ken Woolley. A cacophany of floral wallpapers, mouldy shag-pile carpet and pastel bathware couldn’t hide the building’s potential. The nicotine-stained chandeliers, rickety fittings, non-existent storage and insulation, and minimal access to the rainforest backyard were mere hiccups compared to the danger factor of the ‘drop-offs’ inside and out with no safety rails to speak of.
Needs: A high priority for the reno was to rework the layout of the house, not only as an update, but to incorporate a new kitchen and playroom extension. Urgently needed were some safetyprecautions, such as partial closing of dangerous trip points – Tasmanian oak slatted partitions provided the answer, increasing light and air while protecting the children from harm.
Wants: The owners love the ’60s, so their ‘wants’ list included installations and furnishings consistent with the vintage but capable of accommodating comfortable family life. They also wanted to introduce shots of brilliant colour, hence the emerald blasts.
Alison Nobbs, of Nobbs Radford Architects, reflects on the renovation process:
Was it tricky to redesign the house when the owners were devoted to the mid-century look?
Not at all. It’s an aesthetic that our practice admires. Mid-century design has such an authenticity and relevance to living patterns of today.
Favourite aspects of the project home? The split-level design. It’s something that has lost currency in favour of open-plan design, but a good split-level allows a filtered connection between spaces while still having defined zones.
Were there any unexpected difficulties during the renovation? While the Pettit+Sevitt design had lots of merits, it was still intrinsically a project home. There were a few structural elements that were tired and needed replacing.
Is it worthwhile for clients to hire a quantity surveyor? I think it’s always advisable to get a second opinion of likely costs before heading too far down the design path. Architects often work on square-metre rates, whereas a quantity surveyor will give a detailed budget from which to work. Sometimes, it can also be helpful to engage builders at an early stage and pay them to do a cost study.