Leading architectural practice Clare Cousins Architects was able to strike the right balance between preservation and renewal at a freestanding Edwardian home in a Melbourne suburb, about nine kilometres south of the CBD.

The inner-bayside suburb of Elsternwick where the house is located is going through an apartment-building boom. Though most of the older buildings in the neighbourhood are protected under local council heritage codes, there is conflict between the modern developments and the area’s Victorian and Edwardian residential heritage. Heritage homeowners looking to retrofit their homes to meet the needs of the 21st century as well as planners and architects are constantly looking for solutions to find the right balance.

Clare Cousins Architects (CCA) was commissioned to extend the Edwardian house to suit a growing family.

“When looking at the house in context, it essentially was untouched since its construction as part of estate development around the 1920s,” says Oliver Duff, architect at Clare Cousins Architects. “The surrounding buildings were therefore almost all mirror images of each other, with about eight to ten with matching rooflines. For this reason the local council wanted to protect that sense of uniformity.”

With practically no changes made since it was built almost a century ago, the home featured such historic artefacts as a lean-to kitchen and bathroom, which had to be demolished to make way for the extension. Since it was one of the few two-storey houses on the street, it was necessary to keep things “almost invisible” from the street.

“There’s not a lot of two-storey development in the area, and the streetscapes of this part of Elsternwick are really quite well-maintained, with the council noting the street to be significant in its heritage overlay.”

Various inner-Melbourne suburbs have witnessed similar precise ‘box-out-the-back’ extensions attached to the rear of homes on heritage-conscious streets. However, this didn’t mean playing safe and predictable for CCA.

“For us what was most important was creating a sense of contrast between old and new,” says Duff. “That meant using recycled red bricks for the top-storey extension, while using white Bowral bricks below to show the relationship between old and new.

“The only view that the client originally had was to the east, which is great when you’re capitalising on passive shade, but for us, we were trying to maximise views back out to the garden. Essentially we wanted to look out and see walls of greenery.”

“We’ve really tried to create a subtle shift between the enclosed old house, and the outward-looking extension,” says Duff. “We wanted to instil a soft transition to blur the connections somewhat.”

Find more about the Bowral Bricks range here.