A Yarraville cottage is reborn with a modern extension full of light
It has taken Gabrielle Deal and her partner, Alex Stephenson, almost 10 years and two renovations to give their run-down Edwardian cottage a new lease on life.
“When we first bought the house in 2009, it had salmon-pink walls and was really not in a good state,” Ms Deal said.
“But the block was huge and we saw great potential, so we started by renovating the old part of the house.”
The couple restored the two-bedroom, single-fronted cottage in Yarraville, in Melbourne’s inner west, by removing the bad 1970s and ’80s additions.
They replastered the walls, restored and reinstated ceiling roses and replaced aluminium sliding windows with true-to-the-era double-hung windows.
The couple then set about saving money for the second phase, which involved adding a modern extension at the back that was as big as the original house.
For this considerable project, they hired architect Sarah Lake to make the most of their deep block.
“It was a huge backyard, and the whole block is almost 460sq m,” Ms Deal said. “We would sit on the back porch and struggle to see the far end of the backyard.”
Ms Lake said while a deep block offered a great canvas for an architect, the block was also incredibly narrow, so space was tight.
“Gabrielle and Alex wanted the house to be full of light so we created a fully covered, north-facing courtyard, as the backyard faces west and that can become too hot in summer,” Ms Lake said. “The living spaces actually expand and contract around this cut-out courtyard.”
The couple also told Ms Lake they wanted the house to be “hosed down”.
“What that means is they didn’t want elaborate detail or materials that required maintenance, such as a deck that needs treating every year,” Ms Lake said.
“So, we used a burnished concrete slab, clear polycarbonate roof sheeting over the courtyard, Millboard composite decking (made from polyurethane resin to look like timber) and Barestone cladding on the exterior.
“Essentially, they were all very durable, raw materials, which was great because Gabrielle and Alex were thinking of how they wanted to live in the house long-term.”
Ms Lake also knocked down the tacky lean-to, turned the old kitchen into a third bedroom, and added a contemporary kitchen and living space at the back that feels bigger than its narrow dimensions might suggest, thanks to a series of high windows.
A luxurious built-in bench seat overlooks the rear garden and a mature fig tree.
While costs were kept to a minimum through the addition of very little furniture, the kitchen bench, which curves to match the angles of the new part of the house, was a splurge purchase.
“It’s Caesarstone in parts, and the central island is an unusual geometric shape,” Ms Deal said.
“I saw a marble version on Pinterest and showed it to Sarah, and she came up with an idea of using giant, ceramic tiles. We had the bench bespoke-made for the space and it’s gorgeous.”
In fact, the whole house is gorgeous in the couple’s eyes, and they need a very good reason to even leave it these days.
“The house has changed our lifestyle,” Ms Deal said. “I used to go to group classes for yoga, but I do that at home now in the north-facing courtyard where the sun comes in — so perfect for yoga.
“We also have more people over now, because of all of the entertaining space.”
And the courtyard, created from an angular cut-out in the floorplan, has been a revelation.
“We would never have thought of it,” Ms Deal said. “I thought we would just add a box on the back of the old house, but Sarah came to us with different options, including the angles. We were not sure how it would turn out, but it looks fantastic.”
Postscript with Gabrielle Deal
What first attracted you to the home?
We could see that value could be added and we wanted to live close to the city. Plus, Yarraville is a great little village.
Your favourite space?
The (Millboard) deck outside because it is so usable, brings in a lot of sun and is very low-maintenance and doesn’t need staining.
The best party you’ve had here?
We hosted Christmas in 2017 and there were a lot of people — about 16 — but we just put out two trestle tables.
Favourite piece of furniture?
It would have to be the built-in day bed, which is right next to sliding bi-fold doors, so you can either be inside or outside.
We have hydronic heating but we had to have a fireplace, probably because we wanted to create a nice atmosphere. Alex grew up on farms and it reminds him of his childhood.
What does home mean to you?
It’s become the place I spend more time than anywhere else. It’s less tempting to travel and eat out because your home is so much nicer than hotels.