A New Victorian Manner

A New Victorian Manner


Home RenovationsA partially heritage-listed project beautifully incorporates Victorian splendour with sleek, contemporary additions

The client purchased this property with pre-existing planning and building permits to sub-divide the site and construct two two-storey precast concrete dwellings over two property titles.

The existing site contained a 19th century derelict bluestone-fronted Victorian cottage residence that was severely run down. As an outcome of a media campaign arranged by a neighbouring celebrity resident regarding the proposed demolition of the bluestone front (prior to the client purchase), a Special Heritage Overlay was placed over the front bluestone bedroom that fronts Highett Street, Richmond.

The brief, undertaken by architect Matt Gibson, called for three bedrooms with a large master bedroom and ensuite, a large and flexible ground-floor entertaining area, and a further living area upstairs. As the shell had been council approved yet unbuilt, its configurations and massing could not be altered, nor could its footprint.

According to Matt Gibson, “The brief meant dealing with the notion of a two-storey utilitarian pre-cast concrete box normally commonplace in multi-residential developments, rather than a now Heritage Listed single-storey bluestone cottage front. Despite the restrictions, from the layout we were able to tinker internally to enable a second bathroom (originally located upstairs) downstairs and greater storage space on both levels.

“Walls and external openings were shifted to enable an integrated and flowing layout that allowed for a more ‘three-dimensional detailing’. Internally, there were three zones that were facilitated within a ‘T’ footprint — first the existing Heritage construct, second the newly constructed open ground-floor area utilised as a living and entertaining space, and finally the upstairs private area featuring the bedrooms and a retreat / sitting area.

“The solidity and established nature of the bluestone cottage front was maintained and enhanced, with the previous pink paint finish carefully water-blasted off, restoring the original character of the bluestone and tuck-pointing. To the side of the heritage-listed front room, the existing brickwork was stuccoed, with dark-grey render simulating the stone pattern of a similarly aged home on the opposite side of the street (a standard application for buildings of this era). Hence the exterior, old and new, read formally and stylistically as an integrated whole.

“Internally, two different buildings come together — one over 100 years old and the other a shell made to look formally as if from the same period. The stylistic question was, should you make the old place look new or should you make the new place look old? A decision was made to restore the interior of the existing construct in a clean but typically Victorian detailing, while the interior of the new pre-cast construct contains a newly inscribed contemporary architecture — open, light-filled, flexible. The junctions between the two spaces are played off against each other quite directly and literally, accentuating and heightening the sense of transition and indeed telling a tale of the site’s history.

“From the fire-engine-red entry door, a formal Victorian hallway opens up with fully restored detailing and a ‘Chicane’ paint finish leading up to a re-applied corbelled archway — providing the aperture for the transition into the more contemporary architecture. The front room is similarly detailed, with restoration of the existing fireplace. Immediately behind the archway, the light-filled black-stained timber stairway provides a concealed storage wall below the stair to the west. From this more compressed space of the Victorian hallway, an open and light-filled living, dining and kitchen area appears. The transition at this threshold includes a change in ceiling height, a change in colour scheme, and a change in materials.”

Matt Gibson continues to describe the experience of this unique residence. “Once inside the main living space, the colour scheme of the heritage wall of the front bedroom acts as a trace element and a backdrop to the dining area. The newer space within the new pre-cast construct contains strong geometric forms and clean detailing. The same tonal colouring is used within a modern materiality — notably the bronze cladding to the kitchen and the storage cabinet above the fireplace. Other details include Vivid White walls, aluminium framing, mirrored panels, stone tiles, translucent glass, and sheer curtains. Shadowline detailing supplants period moulding; standard-height Victorian panel doors become floor-to-ceiling pivots.

“The layout of the new interior is flexible, spacious, multi-functional, allowing for a generous entertainment space but also enabling a flexibility for future users. There is a movable kitchen island bench on lockable castors, and the provision of the flush-paved external terrace area that literally doubles the size of the living area when the glazed bi-fold door is opened.

“Storage is behind the panelled stair cupboard or within the banquette seat below the fireplace. Appliances are similarly concealed for tidiness, such as the television within the joinery cabinet above the fireplace and the fridge and dishwasher behind the kitchen joinery fronts. Mirrors are used in areas such as the GFL bathroom cavity slide door as a device to enable a sense of continuity of space. Warm pelmet lighting and fireplace add warmth to the clean, cool backdrop.

“Upstairs, a library sitting area provides a retreat and getaway from the more public domain of the ground-floor level. The ensuite to the large master bedroom features a double shower, with a frameless glass roof providing a textured daylight effect and an exterior-like shower experience. The styling involves modularity that lends itself comfortably to the classic proportions and feel of the heritage exterior typology. These elements combine to encourage an interior architecture concerned with both ‘continuity’ and ‘newness’.”

The project was designed Matt Gibson A+D
Built by Dwyer Constructions
ADDRESS: 148 Highett St, Richmond

Limestone, Tasmanian oak Black Japan stained, split-face porcelain tiles

Bluestone, Antique White USA, Vivid White, Chicane, chalk USA

Recycle in ceiling cassette GFL, RV cycle ducted to FFL

Benchtop: Stone Italiana quartz composite ref: ‘Base’
Cabinetry: Symonite ‘Altnum bronze’
Rangehood: Smeg integrated
Cooktop: Smeg

All from Reece design

Masson & Famco

Nu-line glazed alumin, bi-folds, Victorian cricket bat — William Russel doors

Frameless roof glazing by builder

LANDSCAPING: by client
GARAGE DOOR: sliding car port gate / fence.