Middle Cove Home
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Breathing new life into collectable architecture is like playing with a Russian doll. Giving a twist and pull reveals new layers and dimensions that otherwise remain hidden. This 1960s Middle Cove home near Sydney had remained immaculately preserved without manipulation over the years, holding together the ingredients of a magnetic design that was yet to be fully refined and enjoyed by its owners.
The revised design is the result of the owners' desire to nuture its native 1960s aesthetic and architectural pedigree. "Our approach was to preserve, not re-create," Alison says. "We believed the house had its own story to tell, so it was our task to tune into it and respond to what it had to offer, instead of trying to overlayour own agenda."
The three-bedroom, two-bathroom home was given a complete renovation, adding a new kitchen, playroom for the children and two home office studies. At first glance, however, the house's most impressive feature is its palette of colours and textures. The gaudier aesthetic elements popular in the 1960s have been groomed away, allowing the natural, verdant setting of Middle Cove to offer its own cues as to what should take their place.
Instead of resisting the landscape, the home has been redesigned to mirror it like a chameleon. A grounding but instantly affable collection of leafy and earthy hues has drifted down through the branches of the surrounding trees - smouldering charcoal and deep black, mossy green and teal, light Tasmanian oak and polished concrete. The velvety, caterpillar green of the kitchen cabinetry has a subtle intricacy, with tonal and finish differentiations on each panel that vary with the changing daylight. The blacks and greys in the flecked charcoal carpet and polished concrete floors are a restful and grounding nod to the hard, stony elements of the surrounding landscape. "Middle Cove is one of those fantastic, terraced sites with rocky outcrops and lush vegetation, and we have drawn that into the structure," Alison notes.
The entry to the house delivers a significant architectural contribution in the form of original, geometric wrought iron double gates, freshly refitted, followed by the soft spareness of a Harvey Guzzini pendant lamp descending from the white, angled ceiling. Characteristic of its design era, the original home had insular rooms with poor spatial flow from one to the next. The architects removed selected walls, but retained their space-dividing utility by replacing them with vertical slatted timber screening.
By connecting them with the garden, Alison injected vitality into previously congested, or seasonally restricted, living areas including those outdoors. The wraparound paved terrace is sheltered by a pergola of operable louvres, which extends its use across seasons. The topography of the site allowed for a playroom terrace elevated slightly above that of the main terrace. "I like to think of it as each generation having their own space," Alison muses. "The house is suited for entertaining and the owners love to host informal gatherings, they say the house absorbs families well."
Louvred glass windows across the west-facing wall of the playroom open to a panorama of old eucalypts, and Alison sought to expand this view. "We printed two different patterns of striation onto each pane of glass; as the sunlight moves across them you see strobing shadows that work playfully with the room's function." she says.
According to the architect, working with existing homes always provides the opportunity to improve their passive performance in heating and ventilation. "It had good bones that we tweaked with simple gestures - improving cross-ventilation, replacing glazing and replacing fixed windows with operable louvres."
Challenges were few in modifying the forty-year-old home. "We felt an affinity for it and slipped into its architecture quite comfortably," Alison says. "It wasn't something we felf we had to work against. The owners appreciated it for what it was, and could become."
Story by Jessica Rule. Courtesy of HOUSES, issue 71
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