not in my backyard thank you very much
renovations and additions to residence
completed 2010

the career trajectory of any architect or architectural practice usually has a direct correlation with the projects they knock back
with some initial success the up and coming architects can confidently declare they no longer undertake works under… say for argument sake $300,000 that gives way to $600,000 which finally arrives at the all encompassing statement of architectural pedigree in that ‘we don’t do any residential work unless its over a mill and only if we get full artistic freedom’
well at least up until the next economic recession and then everyone takes whatever they can get

we however have found that, as a general rule clients with a small budget are much more open to experimentation…
they have little to lose and much to gain, as their tiny little workers cottages can be vastly improved by a quirky and creative architectural reworking

clients with larger budgets… as is a general rule, or at least as we have found, are wary that they are investing more and therefore need to ensure they invest it wisely, often but not always, making them more conservative in their decision making
of course this makes perfect logic as long as you don’t go to the extremes of say putting in a bath [claw footed of course] when you really don’t want a bath nor would ever use a bath, but a real estate agent known to a friend of a friend, strongly advises that a bath is an essential resale feature
we in the business are acutely aware of the strange fetish real estate agents have with baths, perhaps others are not

cal&simon’s is one of the aforementioned smaller projects, one we took on knowingly and have recently completed

from a pragmatic business perspective this was the project to knock back… as it came with budget that would have been tight ten years ago
from an architectural design point of view however, the dynamics of the project were far more enticing
a young couple with their two rugrats of the female persuasion, were open to ideas both in terms of a floorplan, its translation in form and in its ultimate material expression, as both worked in creative fields
add to the equation a narrow inner-city site… a bit of a back yard, a big old tree, good rear access and lots of neighbours all protecting their individual slice of heaven with tooth and nail

as clients cal&simon understood that to meet their budget they would need to involve themselves to some degree in the building process by doing base works such as painting
beyond that however they were actively interested in participating in the building process
simon was a very capable home handyman/carpenter and therefore a proportion of the fitout, the stuff that would give the renovation its anchor, could be removed from the contract and put under simon’s wing so to speak

finally as clients… they had very real and tangible needs
the rear portions of their home resembled a shack [all apologies guys], their existing kitchen / eating arrangements didn’t work as the family couldn’t sit around the dining table, the fridge had no home, the laundry did not exist, and you came out of the bathroom grubbier than when you entered it
with their small budget you had to admire that they valued the advantages an architect brings to a project
they put weight to the intent that considered design adds more to a project than a more expensive fridge

to achieve their budget we attempted to utilise and reorganise as much of the existing building as was possible, demolishing only what really needed to go
further to this we attempted to keep the main service areas, such as the kitchen, bathroom and laundry within close or even as it turned out, exact proximity of their previous zones
this meant we did not need to create new service runs and so kept costs down, it all helped…

not wanting to have any detrimental effects on the existing, much loved

moreover, by removing internal walls we were able to open up the existing interior so the original parts of the building now flowed into the new addition and out into the garden, both visually and physically connecting the living spaces to this precious suburban backyard

to tie the new and old together and to create texture and a sense of place, we utilised recycled cabinet doors as panelling to the underside of a dropped ceiling that stretched from the original house into the new addition, again pulling the eye to the garden beyond

the use of old cupboard doors as panelling is a detail we stole from 6° [look them up if you haven’t heard of them, and while your at it do yourself a favour and look up ivan ivanoff… try perth 6000 blogsite]

this however was only part of an architectural dialogue worked around recycled and reused materials that included re-use of existing cabinets [both from the site itself and from our personal, bottomless, always reliable dumper bin… yes every self respecting architect should have their own dumper bin hidden away somewhere], doors reused to create storage cabinets, frp fibreglass mesh salvaged from a previous project now acting to support the vanity basin, mirrors, old ladders as towel rails and so on

with the kitchen proper being an amalgam of some of the existing kitchen cabinets [sanded and repainted], our recycled cabinets and a couple of extra, cost effective items chosen from an ikea catalogue, steel framing fabricated on-site by the builder, as was a concrete benchtop poured on site by said builder at same time he poured the slab

all appliances were salvaged and re-used and the old kitchen benchtop [which unfortunately couldn’t be reworked as we had hoped to be re-used for its initial purpose] became shelving

this dialogue of old and new, reclaimed and reinterpreted materials depended heavily upon the co-operation and sheer capability of the builder, and in this case we had one and a half builders

the half being our client simon, who acted as carpenter on many of the fussier, time consuming recycling tasks such as sanding, staining and cladding the dropped ceiling with panels provided by us

the full bottled part of the equation was derek maguire of brunswick builders, for whom this was his first job as a registered builder and who will undoubtedly now be too busy to look at any of our future work…

part of the client/s aspirations was to make as small a footprint as possible both physically and environmentally, while still achieving the outcome of their house becoming home
that the designers and the builder all lived within a five minute walk from the project gives testimony to this endeavour

the design itself explores the idea that by looking to rework the existing spatial configuration as the first imperative, and only then looking what additional space is needed, practical, family friendly spaces can be achieved on smaller inner city blocks while still retaining a decent amount of that very precious back yard [otherwise tagged POS] as well as the family’s favourite well established tree to green the site and the community at large

ultimately this project delivers a small and cost efficient house for a young family
there is only one bathroom and it opens to becomes part of the living space, so as the youngsters participate in bath time they are in direct contact with the other activities of the household

the design brings all of the activities of the family together
it is not about everyone having their own ensuite and private time-out space

ultimately when and if the kids get to an age that they desire more privacy the family will probably move to a bigger house and hopefully another young family shall move in… and the cycle continues

project design team
tim o’sullivan architect
sioux clark interior designer
ro berry

brunswick builders

structural engineer
ray o'byrne

building surveyor

tamsin oneill [green magazine]

publication images
the age domain magazine