Mod squad: the new extension. Pictures: Nic Granleese
When Lily and Jonathan Spear bought their Victorian cottage in Hawthorn, it came complete with some questionable “improvements”.
The facade was covered in brown-brick cladding, and the backyard was fully concreted.
“When my friends first came to the house they couldn’t believe we’d bought it,” Ms Spear recalled. “It was the darkest, ugliest, smelliest house on the street.”
How the home used to look.
While the home’s heritage charm was somewhat compromised, the Spears were able to see past the negatives.
They focused on the pluses, such as how the front was beautifully framed by the neighbouring Victorian houses and how the ceilings were wonderfully high.
But it was clear a renovation was in order.
The Spears, who have two daughters, had the challenge of not only returning some of the Victorian character to their home, but also making it a bright, modern space for a young family.
And how the home looks today.
First up, they reintroduced some of the old-world charm, installing traditional-style skirting boards and doors that mirrored the originals.
But then came time to contend with an ineffective rear addition.
“We’d had houses before where we’d done little renovations, but not this scale with a whole new living area,” Ms Spear said.
With a penchant for a minimalist look and an interest in living sustainably, the couple decided to take a different approach for their new extension.
They engaged the services of Habitech Systems, which custom designs modular housing that is delivered to sites in flatpack form.
The smart-looking kitchen is part of the extension.
Habitech Systems managing director Chris Barnett said the company’s homes were “modern, sustainable, super strong and highly insulated”.
He estimated this style of home shortened build times by two to three months compared with traditional builds.
Ms Spear said the seamlessness and speed of the project was a plus.
“They laid the foundation and then the walls came in and it was a quick process,” she said. “The transformation in just a few weeks was exciting to watch.”
The family enjoys its new space.
The family’s new rear addition features: an open-plan living, kitchen and dining area; a main bedroom with ensuite and walk-in wardrobe; a lounge; and a laundry.
The main living hub is bathed in natural light, as it receives northern sun. Hydronic heating and cooling systems keep the family comfortable.
A heat-recovery ventilation system ensures the supply of fresh air through the house and reduces energy consumption.
Awnings and eaves on the north and east-facing windows help keep the house cool in summer and warm in winter.
Awnings and eaves aid temperature control.
Windows stretch to the ceiling.
And the modular form and feature windows give the house a funky, modern feel.
“We love that this isn’t a cookie-cutter house and it has been designed with careful consideration,” Ms Spear said. “The block isn’t that big but the house flows really well and the roofline just soars up.”
One of the home’s feature windows.
As for the old brick cladding on the facade, Habitech designer Viv Faithfull devised a solution that not only updated the home but helped create the aesthetic the couple was after.
Naturally oiled cypress-timber battening laid over the cladding has softened the look, and a new front porch has given the home a modern edge.
“We wanted a blending of both Scandinavian and Japanese simplicity,” Ms Spear explained.
The front garden was designed by Melbourne Clivia Group president Michael Barrett with a mix of sculptural, leafy and flowering plants (including clivias). It’s one of Ms Spear’s favourite aspects.
“The contrast between the greens, purples and greys and the timber on the house is quite beautiful,” she said.
The Spears have opted for a rather unorthodox approach in regards to front fencing that works for both them and their garden-appreciating neighbours.
“We have no solid side fences to either adjoining properties,” Ms Spear said. “We enjoy looking at their gardens and vice versa!”
Open wide, come inside.
Postscript with Lily Spear
What do visitors comment on the most?
The abundance of light even on the darkest of winter days.
Your favourite spot?
In winter, we enjoy sitting in front of the Norwegian Jotul wood stove in the kitchen/living room, which radiates so much warmth. Also, the window seat next to it is a favourite spot for reading. And we love how we can see the outdoors and sky from every room thanks to clever window placement.
The home’s interior style?
The front of the house dates back to the early 1900s and there are still lovely Victorian features. As you proceed down the long hallway, you can see and sense the transformation into a very modern space. We’ve furnished accordingly, mixing modern with older pieces we’ve accumulated along the way. We love pieces that tell a story like our Berber rug from Morocco and original Le Corbusier pony-skin chairs.
A typical weekend?
An early-morning bread run to Phillippa’s Bakery in Richmond and coffee at Maker Fine Coffee next door to the bakery. As we have quick access to the river, we love to bike ride on sunny days.
What interiors item are you hankering after?
More artwork in the back living area to fill up the tremendous wall space.
Any more plans for the house?
Not really. We are very satisfied with the outcome.
What does home mean to you?
A warm and friendly sanctuary. Definitely not a showroom with the latest on-trend styles.
Pretty in pink: one of the bedrooms.