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1910 Shorncliffe Transformation (as featured in the Courier Mail 23/01/2016!)


To create a serene sanctuary for effortless living and discreet entertaining, and build underneath without raising the house, avoiding the need for town planning and heritage permissions.

Previously a holiday home for a Brisbane lord mayor, few Art Nouveau details remained following this 1940sconversion into four poky flats. The original house rested on a water table and termites had rotted the timber from underneath. Inside, cracked aluminium windows obscured panoramic views of Moreton Bay to the east and western views to Taylor Range were lost in the oppressive heat generated by a corrugated iron roof. Add to all that the presence of very close neighbours.

Pare everything back and get out of the way. Frame beautiful views and turn ugly ones into light. Reduce visual clutter to create more flow and space. Transform semi-underground bedrooms into a light, airy garden rooms.

Tumbulgum Transformation


An old-style, relaxed country homestead where they could develop their boutique distillery, care for rescued horses, entertain and host friends and family for extended stays.

This grey 1980s project home had scant connection to its extraordinary location – the ridge of Terranora over paddocks to the north, and the blue hills of northern NSW, over the Tweed River and across canefields, to the south. The house lacked presence. Entry was along a side path, past bathroom windows and through a poorly positioned sliding door. Only a good size floor area and OK bedrooms precluded demolition and starting all over again.

Leave both ends of the existing structure as is for bedrooms and garage. Add on three elements common to traditional homesteads: a ‘stables wing’ to house a garage, office and loft; a ‘side  verandah’ as entry; and a ‘great room’ with raked ceiling on a north-south cross axis. What resulted was a calm balanced interior that immediately increased the home’s scale and presence in the landscape.

At one end, the great room roof extended into a north terrace down to paddocks. At the other, a river terrace with a truncated gable framed a sunset silhouette of Mt Warning. Sandstone walls marked the main entry. Inside, a range of large and small spaces to sit, dine and relax were detailed with neutral colours, natural textures and heritage features. Independent living was made possible with a self-contained flat on one side of the house, separated from the family’s three bedrooms, including a master suite with outlook in both directions.

Fig Tree Pocket – 1970s Makeover


To enlarge the house in harmony with the land, opening it up to expansive western views – without baking in the heat. To unite home and garden with a large indoor-outdoor living room and to add a new, secure entry for visitors and family.

This magnificent, high property with lovely trees, gardens and tennis court was beautifully maintained throughout but its interior spaces were too small for family gatherings across three generations. Originally a compact 1950s Brisbane home, bitsy modifications over the years had added verandahs, rooms dug out from underneath, a free-standing garage and an architect-designed 80s extension.

Create a double height living space nestled between garage and house and marry all three structures with thoughtful openings for air, view and security, careful proportions and detailing. Create private and public courtyards through a gated entry porch, with new landscaping at both ends of the property. Add shade-cloth awnings and new handrails to transform the deck into livable space, both inside and out.

Paddington City Views


Richard and Samantha moved from England for work and to enjoy a tropical urban lifestyle. They wanted to capitalise on the location by opening up as much of the house as possible to the spectacular views, and creating a flow of related spaces from the entry gate on the street, to the pool and teenagers' bedrooms four floors above. They wanted an easy range of spaces to relax, entertain and hang out around the kitchen.

The site was very steep, with city views from every level, but they could only be appreciated from a couple of spots because the room arrangements were disjointed and dark, and the detailing was cluttered. Side windows looked directly into the neighbours 3m away. The bathroom and guest room opened on to the kitchen. A pool at the top of the block could not be seen from anywhere in the house. They needed two extra bathrooms. Although large, the house felt tight and constrained.

We left the structural shell and roof of the house the same (to avoid town planning issues), gutted the main living area to install a linear kitchen creating vistas from front to back plus walls for art. New doors and post layouts framed a generous outdoor living area. The top floor grew by 4sqm to fit an extra bathroom, and windows rearranged to overlook the pool. Side windows were closed screened or moved for light with complete privacy A light natural resort style ensuite replaced the dingy colonial one.

All the surfaces from street to pool were simplified and streamlined to frame the views instead of distracting from them. Stainless steel rod balustrade elegantly echoes traditional handrails. The house feels light, open and flowing. Every living space and bedroom has either city or water views.

New Farm - Million Dollar Makeover


To complete a makeover-before-sale to capitalise on the return from this investment property originally bought and renovated in the 80s when the owner was a student.

Long-term rental had left this blue worker’s cottage dark, dirty and neglected. The deck and stairs were rotten and meanwhile, scrub turkeys had moved into the back yard. A good local real estate agent valued it at $850,000.

Project management, working with a stylist, landscaper and subcontractors, to repaint and repair the house and garden. The property sold before auction for $1.12m with a $360,000 net profit for the owner.

Enoggera - Modern Pod


To add space without adding a lot of debt to their modest three-bedroom cottage.

Typically open to a classic suburban back yard all summer, this modernist 50s cottage with low-to-the-ground tim- ber floors retained an easy casual connection with the outside. Inside, rooms were compact and a bathroom felt cramped.

Minimise costs with minimal alteration to the original structure and instead add value with a two-storey pod out- side the kitchen to house a family room and laundry on the ground floor, and a master suite at the top of a winding stair. Bump out under the eaves to enlarge the bathroom and tuck the shower behind the red tile wall at the back of the vanity.

Boundaries between old and new are blurred with the use of materials, roof shape and colours that echo the original house. Stacker doors and windows encourage easy flow from inside to outside. Open corners make compact rooms appear much larger. Storage is everywhere and built into a long window seat under the stairs.

The owners’ subsequent decision to open up the existing kitchen to the living room created even more space.

Camp Hill - Hamptons and Extended Family


A generous, functional home for their busy hard-working household of four generations, including two small children, a grandfather, great-grandmother and an adult sister with special needs. A range of indoor and outdoor spaces that would enable everyone to be together or be private, all in ‘Hamptons’ style with strong symmetry in black, white and chrome, to tie in with an existing contemporary-styled pool.

Boxy rooms and a windowless central bedroom were the legacy of an earlier extension in a Queenslander style to this post-war cottage on a regular suburban block. Elsewhere a new roof, and a north-facing pool and garden featuring a charming flowering tree were already complete.

Raise and convert the existing house into five bedrooms on the upper level. Relocate main access to the centre to strengthen formality and create a glimpse from the front door of the spaces beyond. Open the middle of the house with a stair to bring height, light and outlook to both levels of the house. Create two ground-floor bed suites for elders at the front and an open-plan living area at the back. A separate family entry incorporates a dump zone and a side utility yard provides the children with running access between pool and bathroom though the laundry.

Toowong - 1960's Stairs


To increase living areas, create a bigger bedroom, internal stairs and incorporate a pool, all on a budget.

Crazy paving marked the entry path to this original late 60s build, renovated by the previous owner in a black and white colour scheme. From a street-level carport and tiny, low store room under the house, the property rosesteeply into bushland. Inside, a single living area had everyone living on top of each other.

Convert the front lawn to a pool courtyard and create a ground floor entry and double-height glazed stairwell to link both levels of the house. Private from the street, the pool becomes a highlight of arrival and movement through the house. Add open tread black and timber steps with chrome verticals in keeping with the Mad Men styling of the original house. Tuck a bag / shoe rack beside the front door, upgrade the storeroom into a teenagers’ retreat / pool room with utility bathroom, and pop the bedroom out onto the verandah to create more space.

Chelmer – 1920 Classic Queenslander


A big white classic, Georgian Queenslander townhouse for her family to live and play in, with lasting value and spaces for art, music and entertaining. 

Three previous rounds of alterations and additions had left this 1920s Queenslander with little connection between house and garden.

Lift the house and move it forward on the block to accommodate a tennis court. Create new living areas downstairs that flow outdoors to the classic garden. Create spacious open verandahs upstairs. Retain focus on an internalstairwell to unify  formal space arrangements, and apply carefully chosen colour and classic materials throughout.

Yeerongpilly -1920’s Arts and Crafts Renovation


To create a beautifully crafted forever home with large, contemporary living spaces for their family, including three teenagers, to enjoy each other’s company or be apart.

This house felt smaller than it was. What had once been servants’ areas had been boxed in in the 1960s and 70s to create a back kitchen and bathrooms. Despite formal rooms featuring wonderful dark timber paneling, there was no flow between spaces or to the outside. Under the house was grubby and dark.

Extend the roof and rooms as originally intended to create an open, flowing kitchen, indoor / outdoor living areas and a verandah link to the pool. Convert downstairs into spacious utility areas and a teenage den. Restore andhighlight original features such as the brick chimney.

Graceville - 2011 Flood Makeover


A three-bedroom home, five metres high and flowing effortlessly down to the in-ground pool, that would allow them to adapt to future floods and ensure that they would never be homeless again. A Queenslander from the street, but inside, a contemporary home, full of light and air.

This 1950’s post-war cottage had been altered three times before it was flooded to above-door height. The original rooms were small and dark, with little connection to the outdoors. It looked nondescript from the street, but had perfect north aspect out the back, overlooking the pool.

Locate the whole house at the top level, so the family could live there after the next flood. Change window and door positions to create view and breeze lines. Locate garage, laundry and stairs 1.5 metres above ground and design each to be either water blasted or replaced cheaply. The open stairwell and double height deck beside the pool creates vertical flow and unifies the levels. A heavy-duty driveway deck, new front roof and verandah grounds the height of the house.

Chapel Hill – 1980’s Bushland Retreat


A spacious white minimalist kitchen with an island bench and a new back deck beside the existing pool. Clutter-free living and more space.

This 1970s dark brick house had a tiny kitchen, no storage and ugly, outdated wet areas. Despite backing onto beautiful Brisbane bushland at Mt Coot-tha, the view could not be seen from inside or easily accessed.

Careful demolition to create views through the house to the bushland beyond. Rearrange the rooms, add a new deck and redecorate all interiors.

Carindale - Outdoor Room


To create a relaxed interior to share with friends and family, watch a match or the big TV and enjoy a drink. Turn a shabby, damp courtyard into a spacious outdoor living hub.

Cathedral ceilings lined with pine boards were the dominant feature of this spacious 1980s dark brick project home. Although the bones were good, some of the finishes – arches and solid balustrades – were dated. The rooms – including living / kitchen / meals zones, a dust-controlled room housing a competition-level billiard table and a full bar facility – were large but separated and lacking flow.

Shift the focus from inside to out with a double height roof over the entire courtyard. Link spaces with large timber doors and frame sitting and dining zones with carefully placed posts. Conceal storage and services and streamline the bedroom balcony. Apply neutral trim colours and natural finishes throughout to echo the interior and frame the deep rich natural colour of the existing brick.

Jamboree Heights - Acoustic Challenge


A majestic, acoustically sound ‘music room’ to house a 19th century English ‘Parish Church’ organ for this professional musician and trained opera singer, conductor and music teacher. A secondary objective was the room’s capacity to convert into a bedroom or family room should future owners require it.

A typical Jamboree Heights home.

Natural under-floor ventilation via low-level louvres allowed cool air under the house to rise into the room toaccommodate the organ’s requirement for an even operating temperature without the use of air-conditioning. Finish the room with a mix of new and traditional materials, including stained and polished plywood flooring to complement the look and style of the organ.

St Lucia - Queenslander Unfurled


To overhaul their much-loved thirty-year home to incorporate modern practical facilities and plenty of storage in a complementary style.

On a steep north-facing hillside in St Lucia, this high-set 1920s Queenslander had been built in underneath in the 1980s. Like the upstairs kitchen that looked into the brick wall of a neighbouring town house, the bathroom and laundry were worn out, the back of the house was low and dark and there was hardly anywhere to sit and fully appreciate the beautiful location with its views over the city, Mt Coot-tha and a terraced garden.

Stage one: construct a new bathroom and upper verandah, bridging a previous extension to minimise demolition.
Stage two: rebuild the back of the house to include a new light-filled kitchen to take in the views, a book-lined dining room, spare bedroom, craft room, back bathroom, laundry / dog space and drying deck, with each room carefully detailed to echo the original home’s interior. Add texture without fussiness and Incorporate as much storage as possible.


Holland Park - Extreme Renovation


To retire to a large comfortable home, beside a pool and garden where family and friends would be welcome.

This three-roomed narrow Queensland cottage sat on a high ridge and featured enclosed verandahs on both sides with views to the Taylor Range, Mt Cotton and the city that couldn’t be seen from inside the house. Previously in the hands of an elderly owner for 40 years, what remained of its charming cottage garden had become dilapidated.

Lift the house to create three bedrooms upstairs. Build in open-plan living rooms underneath and extend the guest area and garages down the hill. Gut the original house and re-create in traditional style, with a country kitchen as the hub of the house. Traditional and crafted detailing throughout.

Kenmore 1960’s Garden Cottage


To turn a two-bedroom cottage into a four-bedroom family home, including cook’s kitchen at the heart, a garden and two car parks, to be built in stages.

This small, boxy post-war cottage, surrounded by a lovely garden with large Poinciana tree, featured a large, badly built deck that couldn’t be reached from inside the house.

A neat extension incorporating a deck, kitchen and two bedrooms. Opening the view to the trees adds the illusion of space to what is a compact floor area. Careful placement of stairs permits the option of building a family room in future years.

Paddington Purple Pod


A light, airy, private pod with a view at the bottom of her garden, in harmony with her existing home and its neighbors, with the flexibility to either be rented as a yoga studio, accommodate the owner’s father or adult children and incorporating a garage that might double as a pottery studio. Budget: less than $175,000.

What was originally a corner store was now a purple residence that had been gradually extended, back and under, over decades, in a range of styles and textures. A steep south-facing slope and antiquated drainage added to the design challenge for construction, universal access and north light.


A 54-square-metre room with bathroom and kitchen that can be divided into living and sleeping zones. A north-facing skillion creates light and space. A lower deck provides a spacious outdoor living area, connects the pod to the house and provides level access to the street. Windows are carefully placed to allow views, but not outlook to or from neighboring homes. Underneath, recycled glass panels look onto massive sandstone boulder retaining walls and let in dappled light from the garden above – all completed on time and budget.

Graceville Garden Connection


A long-term quality renovation incorporating a secluded living room deck to enjoy her garden with friends and family, and to be able come home and enter the house under cover.

More than one extension to this post-war family home had left living areas visually separated from its beautiful semi-tropical garden. Outside, a daggy fibro carport and concrete paving dominated.

Extend the line of the roof as a gable. Replace windows with bi-fold doors on to the deck. Screen out neighbours with a BBQ pop out. Demolish half the carport roof and install a smaller, side verandah with a linked roof. Turn the concrete pad into a southern garden.

Wooloowin Small lot with space


More space to live and work and a soundproof room to watch ice hockey for their family including two boisterous boys.

This cute three-bedroom workers cottage on a small block fronting a noisy suburban street was bursting at the seams. Entry was via the back door, past a tiny bathroom. It had no covered outdoor area, no parking, no storage and the kitchen was dark. In a designated character area, it couldn’t be demolished and land was tight.

Raise the house, demolishing the bathroom lean-to, and build in ground-level living areas under the existing foot- print including a large alfresco area. Bring the outside in with large doors and a servery. Open part of the noisy front verandah as the front entry and stairs. Block street noise with a garage that encloses a rear courtyard behind. Locate utility areas and garden storage on the southern side yard. Carpet, sound-insulate and wire a media room for full sound. Incorporate a laundry chute and walk-in shower into the upstairs kids’ bathroom. Grant the parents some peace with an ensuite and walk-in robe.


Placemate Architects

1/3 Prospect Tce
St Lucia  QLD  4067 
Ph: 0439 495 333