Stitching together of old and new, Kieron Gait Architects has added robust and bold new elements to a delicate and tactile original Queenslander in suburban Brisbane to create a home that can grow with the clients’ teenage boys.
Indooroopilly Residence, designed by Kieron Gait Architects, is a stitching together of traditional and modern domestic architecture. The completed scheme retains an original interwar-period Queensland home and connects to it a two-storey addition that extends a new main suite and living space into the back garden.
The suburban Brisbane home’s teenage occupants have affectionately dubbed it The TARDIS and indeed, it is larger on the inside than it outwardly appears. From the front yard, the humble timber facade suggests very little of an interior space that unravels into another sort of architecture completely. From the backyard, an elegant composition of concrete, glass and timber frames a suite of contemporary spaces that ground an otherwise lofty Queenslander solidly in the subtropical landscape.
The clients, who have three young sons, approached Kieron as they came to realize their need for a home that could grow with their boys through adolescence. Their brief was to transform their current dwelling into one that considered the balance of teenage and adult spaces and where the two could function respectfully side by side. In addition, they hoped to improve the connection to the backyard, dissolving the boundary between the living room and garden.
Of the original house, only a small rear lean-to was removed. The rest was remodelled to accommodate children’s bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs, and a guest and soundproof games room downstairs. The new portion of the house is reserved for an upstairs main bedroom with living, dining and kitchen spaces downstairs, all of which are oriented toward the garden with an uninterrupted view of native bushland beyond.
In spaces of the original home, the charms of the past are revealed and celebrated wherever possible. This is evident in many rooms, including the children’s bathroom, which is overtly placed at the former front door so that the toilet can sit proudly beneath the elaborate, decorative plasterboard ceiling of the original entrance hall. In the bedrooms, the original frosted glazing was preserved and it continues to emit the same morning glow that lit the “sleep-out” in the past. In the ensuite, wall tiles are stopped short of the ceiling to expose the original timber linings. The aged timber floorboards throughout the original home continue their gentle creak as they have for almost a century.
In the middle of the house, a timber stair connects the home’s two levels and marks the junction between the old and the new. At this point, contemporary architecture takes over from traditional and a double-storey volume expands above the open-planned living spaces. The surrounding white walls are like a canvas to the changing shadows that are cast in dramatic lines from the corner skylight. On the western wall, clerestory louvres bring winter sun into the centre of the house, and all year round the southern glazed facade delivers soft, natural light to the interior.
The new main bedroom is deliberately positioned to take an elevated and direct view of the landscape. Its interior is a balance of warm timbers and white walls, with the southern facade exclusively reserved for floor-to-ceiling frameless sash windows. Just outside the main bedroom and continuing along the length of the window is a study area, which has been fashioned to allow parents to passively survey homework. This is a modest space, but it is an essential part of a home that works hard to maintain harmony between teenagers and parents.
Interrupting the tall central volume of the extension is a concrete portal that forms the roof of the kitchen and extends out to cover the barbecue terrace. Off-form concrete walls complete the western side of this space and, like the underside of the roof, remain “unfinished” so as to best represent their natural state. The ground-level floor is also concrete and its polished black surface looks like the dappled reflection on the surface of a pond.
The extensive use of concrete in the design of the house satisfies both an inquisitive architect and a brief calling for the use of teenage-proof materials. Overseeing the construction of this aspect of the project was a learning curve for Kieron. Nevertheless, the result has brought a complexity to the finished product and has ensured that these hard-wearing surfaces will age well with time.
The real pleasure in the experience of this home comes with the curious collision of old and new and the delightful contrast of familial and designed elements. Where the original home remains delicate and tactile, the extension is robust and bold. The successful marriage of two such opposing elements is as much a consequence of a conscientious design process as it is a trademark and commendable persuasion of the architect.