Kelly and Anthony and their young family wanted a 4-bedroom inner-city family home on a very tight budget to limit debt. They needed a spacious open indoor-outdoor living area, their own room and plenty of storage. They wanted to live in the house during construction and were prepared to lend a hand.
Their tiny worker's cottage with built in verandahs was on a small lot, with very close neighbours and a sewer line across the middle of the property. The existing floor was below river flood level, and the backyard regularly flooded in heavy rain from the creek behind. Any new construction had to be 500mm higher than existing. On the plus side, it was in a quiet location, backing on to a creek, park and community garden.
New construction is much cheaper than renovation, so we built a compact two-storey pod on stilts at the back of the cottage. Cars park underneath. We created a greater sense of space by opening to the light, with privacy from the neighbours. Old and new buildings are separated (to allow light into the gap between) but linked by a family entry and steps. We kept a sightline through front to back, to create a sense of space. the original stove recess was altered to allow indirect light, but not look at the neighbours. The upper bedroom has northern light and southern views. We used the fastest, off-the-shelf construction techniques to save money. The space under the stairs doubles as a pantry. Anthony and Kelly organised the painting, kitchen, and tiling themselves. When the pod was finished, they moved in, while the builders rebuilt the bathroom and laundry. Using our connections, the project came in on time and budget.
Richard and Ray were seeking a private haven of peace and comfort with all the convenience of an inner-city lifestyle that would also easily fit the template of a standard family home. When the council refused their demolition application, the couple approached PlaceMate to assess the property’s potential for renovation.
The original workers cottage was roughly made and raw but still fairly intact despite decades of tenants. The small lot was in a flood zone, rising from a busy road, facing south over a park and included a mysterious old pipe running across the middle of the block. One side of the cottage was so close to the boundary, its window hoods encroached on the neighbours’ property, while the other side fit a driveway. Add to that a series of fibro built-ins and rear verandahs that became progressively lower. You couldn’t see much of the rising north-facing back yard or use it. The house was not insulated. It was hot, pokey and dark with no outlook.
The original cottage remains in precisely the same position, to avoid triggering complex town planning and Building Code approvals. The back verandahs and fibro were demolished, then dug in flat from the kerb for parking. The original cottage is now a two-bedroom guest zone. Behind it, a second “two-storey Queenslander” replicates the cottage roof and details. The old driveway is now a staircase and access path to the middle of the house. Internally, open stairs mark the transition between old and new. The open plan living area opens to the guest sitting room in front, and to a terrace and courtyard at the back. On both new levels views extend right through the back fence to Moreton Bay figs in the park opposite. It feels much larger than its floor area. Big corner doors at the top of the stairs slide back to an indoor-outdoor verandah with outlook across the park. The owners’ bedroom, ensuite, study and back verandah have glimpses across rooftops to the city, trees and hills beyond. It is light, airy and catches every breeze. The builders’ craftsmanship is evident in every detail.