Building on heritage to blend with the modern

King George: Red face brickwork picks up on existing tuckpointing, and the concrete lintels are a modern interpretation of the cottages lintels. Images: Dion Robeson
King George: Red face brickwork picks up on existing tuckpointing, and the concrete lintels are a modern interpretation of the cottages lintels. Images: Dion Robeson

Depending on how you look at it, this Fremantle property is a beautifully renovated heritage-listed cottage, or a modern yet sympathetic multi-use extension.

According to architect Simone Robeson, the brief called for a modern working family home; to be respectful of the much adored cottage yet provide additions that are functional and exciting.

"The clients loved the character of East Freo, and wanted a house that fit into the surrounding context. But they also wanted something very modern, that had a luxury hotel feel at the same time," she said.

There were minimal interventions to the heritage-listed workers cottage

There were minimal interventions to the heritage-listed workers cottage

The brief also called for flexible spaces. With a mixed-use zoning, the home is designed with a self-contained office and bedroom which could be leased in future.

Simone's response was to respect and highlight the existing cottage by distancing the bulk of the extension to the rear, and linking the two with an internal courtyard.

"There were minimal interventions to the cottage; insertion of skylights to hallway, conversion of existing run-down kitchen and bathroom into a larger family sized bathroom, powder, and laundry, reinstatement of original bullnose verandah and general restoration works," she said.

The charcoal aluminium cladding above was intended to recess into the background, allowing the street level scale to dominate.

The charcoal aluminium cladding above was intended to recess into the background, allowing the street level scale to dominate.

She worked with heritage architect Phillip Griffith; the only alteration to the existing external walls was to widen an existing opening to form the link to the new works. New building walls were tucked under the existing eaves.

A kitchen, courtyard, office, garage and upper floor bedroom and ensuite comprise the new works, and working with a small lot required some creative design solutions.

For example, there was no room for a separate dining table, so a table was designed that could be used as an extension to the kitchen island bench, or when used as a table it could be pulled to the side and used with the window seat.

Since there was no room for a separate dining table, we designed a table that could be used as an extension to the island bench. When used as a table it could be pulled to the side and used with the window seat.

Since there was no room for a separate dining table, we designed a table that could be used as an extension to the island bench. When used as a table it could be pulled to the side and used with the window seat.

Another method to increase the sense of spaciousness was to run the internal floor finish to the external courtyard with a flush threshold. This flush threshold makes the kitchen and feel like one big open space.

"Key to the brief was a sense of spaciousness on the small site. Sight lines from the entry through the courtyard to the rear was a key design move," Simone said.

"A dropped dark ceiling forms the transition from the cottage into the higher ceiling in the kitchen. Level thresholds and matching floor finishes run from kitchen through to courtyard. Storage insertions into the existing bedrooms modernise the home respectfully; the robes do not abut existing surfaces."

A sense of spaciousness was achieved by running the internal floor finish to the external courtyard with a flush threshold.

A sense of spaciousness was achieved by running the internal floor finish to the external courtyard with a flush threshold.

The highly polished introduced finishes of Nero Marquina marble, white oxide concrete flooring and glossed black timber lend a dramatic contrast to the raw and matte finishes of the cottage. This is an intentional contrast that references the original materials with an opposing finish.

Externally, the ground floor office had to relate in scale and form to the neighbouring commercial tenancies on George Street. The angled parapet of the office references the original cottage's roof line; a suppression of building height through the centre of the site rises across George Street to align with the commercial parapets to the east.

"Materiality links the project to its context; red face brickwork picks up on existing tuckpointing, and the concrete lintels a modern interpretation of the cottages lintels," Simone said.

The ground floor office had to relate in scale and form to the neighbouring commercial tenancies on George Street.

The ground floor office had to relate in scale and form to the neighbouring commercial tenancies on George Street.

"Three-toned glazed red brickwork laid in an ombre pattern wraps around the office, a play on the heritage reds of the cottage. The charcoal aluminium cladding above was intended to recess into the background, allowing the street level scale to dominate."

The house received a commendation at the 2018 AIA WA Awards Alts & Adds and won the 2018 Best in State AIDA Awards.

  • with Bowerbird
The owners intend to use the nearby parks and cafes as extensions of their home, hence gardens are minimal and low maintenance.

The owners intend to use the nearby parks and cafes as extensions of their home, hence gardens are minimal and low maintenance.