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Renovators Notebook: Heaven & Earth

Australian House & Garden April 2015.

Most renovations are designed to minimise sightlines to neighbours’ places but when Rebecca and Greg drew up plans to renovate their home in Sydney’s inner west, they were keen to capture views of the adjacent property. “The beautiful, historical sandstone church next door was part of the appeal when we bought our house, and we wanted to enjoy it,” says Rebecca.
Architect Joshua Mulders, whose practice is just across the road from the home, fully appreciated his clients’ sentiment and, in response, created a design with a deep connection to the heritage-listed 1889 beauty. His plans included strategic placement of windows to frame views of the church.

The four-bedroom Federation home had plenty going for it, including a relatively deep backyard for the area (the land is 570m^) and good bones in the original parts of the home. Set on a sloping block, it presented as a single storey at the front, then split into two levels with a “very basic subterranean rumpus room at the back”, says Mulders. “The front facade and bedrooms were in good condition, but the rear consisted of a series of older additions that didn’t have heritage value and weren’t structurally sound, and there wasn’t a great connection between upstairs and down.”

Rebecca and Greg’s brief was precise. “We wanted five bedrooms, two bathrooms, an open-plan kitchen/ dining/living area and a separate family room,” says Rebecca. They also wished for better indoor-outdoor connections and a lap pool.

Mulders has delivered on all counts, reconfiguring the home while making the most of its existing footprint. There are four spacious bedrooms upstairs and one downstairs. The kitchen and living areas have been relocated to the lower level, linking to a rear entertaining space and the backyard.

Central to the brief was the call for natural and tactile materials within a warm, earthy palette. Mulders has used oversized timber posts salvaged from an old wharf in the downstairs living area, in tandem with elements such as wide oak floorboards, honed concrete, handmade tiles and natural stone, to produce a medley of complementary tones throughout.

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