Laneway view of the second storey addition at our Brunswick house.

Laneway view of the second storey addition at our Brunswick house.

Having bought a cottage five doors down from their first home, our clients for this project were looking to give the well-aged Victorian terrace an respectful update.

With many of its original and charming period features well hidden by previous works, the house required major restoration. Externally, its walls needed underpinning, roofs needed replacement and windows needed rejuvenation. On the inside, existing mantelpieces needed restoration and iron and brickwork needed cleaning.

Like so many homes of the era, the rear of the house was a jumble of rooms that had been added periodically with no real cohesion, and without regard for maintaining the garden as a space to enjoy. It was not going to work in what was now going to be the home of a growing family.

Our starting point was the removal of the confusion of rear rooms, replacing them with a new addition that would complement the period elegance of the original house.

Our creative process centred on three thematic ideas: the warmth of the local neighbourhood; the colours of the Australian landscape; and the clean, white architecture of northern European countries.

Our chosen palette of white walls provided a contrast with a rich green colour used in the older sections of the house. Long, thin decorative skylights illuminate the stairs, while other windows and skylights ensure that light enters the house from a range of directions – reflecting the light levels and weather patterns of the outside world. We also engaged a stained-glass manufacturer who showed us how their traditional craft could be given a modern interpretation. Light and colour sparkle on the white walls of the stairway. It is just a small feature, but it provides a delightful addition of colour when sunlight strikes the tinted glass.

So often in contemporary residential buildings there is a desire for lots of space that can be difficult to achieve in within the constraints of period homes. Here, however, the quality of the new space enriches the feeling of the house. Rooms in both in the old and new sections are generous, open and connected to each other.

Different parts of the house can be opened up and connected to each other for additional roominess, or they can be separated by partitions and doors to provide privacy when family members need it. The open stairwell and mezzanine provide a connection between the upstairs bedroom areas and the downstairs main living room spaces.

And then there are the details that we’ve used to keep things interesting. The positioning of brickwork, the choice of mortar colour, the shiny black mosaic tiles at the kitchen bench, the selection of stone, the hand-crafted timber door handle, the painted steel beam. All of these small details contribute to a series of moments that make the house a special place to enjoy.

Project Team
Cath Matthews – DiMase Architects
PM&R Builders Phil Murdoch
Maurice Farrugia & Associates.  
Building Surveyor
REDDO – Glenn Driscoll 
Land Surveyor
Peter Rickard
Katya Menshivoka
Slender skylights above the stairwell bring light into the space.

Slender skylights above the stairwell bring light into the space.

Small but effective skylights.

Small but effective skylights.

Staircase in Brunswick house

Staircase in Brunswick House

Modern timber family kitchen

Modern light filled timber kitchen

Project Type
Full Architectural Services
Fitzroy North / City of Yarra
Energy Rating
6.0 Stars NATHERS
Building Area
Main Materials
Brick and Timber Cladding
Notable Suppliers
Windows and Doors – European Windows and Doors
Joinery – Design Excellence, David Elliot