Creative Solutions with Bricks

Creative Solutions with Bricks


garden renovationsOriginal face brickwork is retained and enhanced when a modest family home is converted into a contemporary residence

Approached to renovate a modest 1980s townhouse-style family house on a steep bushy site, architectural firm Owen and Vokes was inspired to build on the existing brickwork in the home as a nod to the growing movement of sustainable living. Architect Stuart Vokes said, “Face brickwork is one of the few remaining true crafts in building construction. Accordingly, brickwork of the existing house is admired and celebrated through the introduction of new brickwork.”

The owners wanted to create additional indoor and outdoor living space, direct access to the garden, as well as improve the light and ventilation in new and existing rooms. The renovations introduced a peninsula room — a narrow room projecting from the back of the house into the tree tops, capitalising on the home’s forest setting and the steep terrain of the site. A monumental brick garden wall anchors the peninsula room to the ground and garden, while a large picture window frames and emphasises the landscape setting.

The ruinous brickwork garden wall was a conscious design solution that created privacy, an interior ‘quietness’, and offers a canvas for a daily light show at sunset. Additional brick detailing was also introduced to the project’s new brickwork due to a close working relationship between the architectural team and brick layers.

Owen and Vokes gave the bricklayers “the freedom to create an interesting pattern affectionately known as the ‘water stain’, that appears under the rainwater head on the side of the house. The pattern is made up of a composition of 30 or so random and multi-coloured sample bricks.”

The new work included the demolition of an existing rear wall and deck, the reorganisation of some walls and entry, the renovation of interiors, and the extension of a new sitting room and garden wall. There was also the introduction of two principal and paired elements: the peninsula room (a narrow room allied with the horizon for one to four people which projects from the main body of the building into the tree tops — reactive to the forest setting and steep terrain of the site), and an abstracted ‘ruinous’ brick garden wall (allied with nature) which anchors the occupant of the peninsula to the ground and garden.

Some of the special design considerations of the project included:
• Small lot-site-placed restrictions on room sizes and building heights
• Orientation of existing building (south-facing extension) restricted direct access to sunlight
• Steep topography of sight restricted easy access to garden and ground
• A third element, a sky window (allied with the heavens), introduces the presence of sunlight in the south-facing rooms and a composed view of the clouds.
Traditional materials and construction techniques were valued, such as face brickwork – one of the few remaining true crafts in building construction. Accordingly, brickwork in the existing building is admired and emphasised through the introduction of face brickwork in the new works.

The affected brick wall (our abstracted ‘garden ruin’) provides a canvas for a daily light show at sunset, turning what would probably be recognised by the local realtor as an undesirable aspect of the property (a west-facing outlook) into something that the occupant derives pleasure from.

As a large privacy screen, the brick wall also yields a pleasing ‘quietness’ in the new rooms, silencing the visual noise and stimulus of elements adjacent the site, stair circulation to the garden, and roof water management.

The inspiration for the design included the existing forest outlook and steep site, the picturesque notions of a ‘ruin in the garden’, and the peninsula room typology. Much of the success of this project’s outcome relied on the embracing of small-scale solutions, with the finished project received a favourable response from a broad audience.

Project Particulars
The project was designed by Owen and Vokes
200 Barry Parade, Fortitude Valley Qld 4006
Phone: 07 3216 1211
The project was built by Shane Mair, Mair Renovations
Phone: 0413 838 628
Interior designer: Owen and Vokes
Photography: Jon Linkins

FLOORING: 100% wool short-loop pile carpet by Godfrey Hirst
WALLS: Internally — painted plasterboard. Externally — brick and spotted gum shiplap board
AIR-CONDITIONING: Not applicable
KITCHEN: Benchtop: Quarella reconstituted stone. Cabinetry: Laminated plastic. Cooktop: Highland 3-burner gas cooktop
LIGHTING: Caribou Lighting
WINDOWS + EXTERNAL DOORS: Custom-designed timber joinery
SKYLIGHTS: Custom-made skylights
DECKING: Tallow-wood decking
GARAGE DOOR: Black powder-coated roller door