After a long wait, the photography of our Black, White, Timber House is now complete. We now have a wonderful series of photos documenting the interiors of this beautiful home, now ready for publication.

This article provides a sneak peek of the beautiful photos captured by Emma Cross, of Emma Cross Photographer. All images featured in this article are by Emma Cross Photographer.

The art was generously loaned to us by This Is No Fantasy Gallery for the photoshoot. Works included in the Living and Dining areas are by Petrina Hicks, Simon Degroot, Vincent Namatjira. Art featured in the Rumpus Room are illustrations to “Amy and Louis’ by Freya Blackwood, children’s book illustrator.

Thanks to all of the team, including our special models, for your efforts to make this happen!

More photos and project information on this project can be found here.

Cool, calm, and very individual. This home accepts the difficult site constraints, and celebrates connection to the outdoors and sunlight.
Photo 1: A simple, calm interior connects effortlessly to a small deck and light well to the north of the Living Room. Simon Degroot‘s work effortlessly complements the design’s bold material and colour references to iconic Australian Houses of the late 50’s and 60’s. Degroot’s work pictured includes: Abbreviated Gestures (Sweet Viburnum), 2023, oil on linen, 168 x 122 cm (pictured left), and Abbreviated Gestures (Orange Jessamine), 2023 oil on linen, 168 x 122 cm (pictured right).

What is the Black White Timber House?

The Black, White, Timber House is a residential project, including alterations and additions to an existing single storey cottage, located in Fitzroy North, Victoria.

Our design for the Black, White, Timber House exemplifies innovative design and renovation within a tight budget, aiming to enhance an inner-city home’s functionality, beauty, features and value. The design resolution reinvigorates a compact urban residence by focusing on careful planning and thoughtful execution.

Photo 2: The interior of the open plan living areas continue southward to an extensive deck with easy access to garage, and gate to side street. Petrina Hicks‘ works create a conversation piece at the heart of the home, the dining area. Works pictured include: Hercules, 2021 Archival pigment print, Tasmanian Oak 100 x 123cm edition of 8 + 2AP (pictured left), and Bruised Peaches, 2018 Pigment print 100 x 100cm edition of 8 (pictured right).

Design Response to the Project Brief, Site, and Context

The project pays homage to the original cottage by preserving its presence to the street frontage, to the side street, while also retaining its historical charm. The site’s unique characteristics were fully utilized by placing living areas at the heart of the home, ensuring flexibility, access to daylight, and outlook to three sides from the main living space. This strategic choice maximised the potential of the three clear site boundaries.

A new upper storey maintains a restrained design to respect the original cottage, while the contemporary addition at the rear features a distinctive two-level structure with modulation of volume, contrasting materials and colours, purposely setting the new mass apart from the existing cottage.

Inside, seamless integration of living spaces with north and south garden areas creates a substantial outdoor living experience. The design thoughtfully incorporates purposeful window placement to control views while maintaining privacy and security.

Photo 3: The existing ‘front’ room facing north has been updated to accommodate multiple purposes including: workspace and consultation room by day, and a parent retreat or guest room by night (fold down bed at left of image).

Relationship to Context and Broader Public Benefit

The Black, White, Timber House project is situated within Fitzroy North, blending harmoniously with the eclectic range of building scales, ages, and materials in the neighbourhood.

By revitalizing an existing compact property and enhancing its aesthetic appeal, usability, and energy efficiency, the project contributes positively to the broader public benefit by setting a precedent for revitalizing inner-city homes while respecting their historical significance.

Photo 4: A separate ‘kids room’ is located at the threshold of the old and new areas of the home. The room borrows light from the corridor and street beyond, and includes a large window and glazed door facing a deck and light well (located beyond the right of image). This room can be closed off from the corridor by a vast sliding timber lined door. This room is also purposely multi-functional. By closing the door, closing the curtains to the deck, folding out the couch, provides another comfortable room for interstate guests or overnighters. Freya Blackwood’s beautiful work comfortably adds to this wonderful, flexible, kid’s room.

Response to Site and Briefing Constraints

The Black, White, Timber House successfully addresses challenging conditions, including limited site area and conditions, and budget constraints. Despite these obstacles, the renovation added substantial value to the existing property and improved the overall quality of living.

Dealing with complex statutory planning and heritage assessment processes, the project navigated regulatory hurdles to create a design that honours the home’s history while meeting the client’s contemporary functional requirements. Designing in an inner-city environment without a north orientation presented a significant challenge. However, through thoughtful planning the project maximized the available access to sunlight, ventilation, and outdoor living space, ultimately transforming the home into a welcoming and functional space.

In summary, the Black, White, Timber House project showcases exceptional design innovation in the face of challenging constraints. By respecting history, embracing opportunities, and harmonising indoor and outdoor spaces, this renovation not only revitalised an inner-city home but also contributed positively to its surrounding context and broader community.

Photo 5: The upper floor areas feature strategically located windows to the street. This not only provides the interior with ample light and outlook, but also provides surprisingly distant views across trees and streets of the neighbourhood.

Sustainability Objectives and Resolution

This project prioritizes sustainability by incorporating features such as adapting existing spaces and structure, building ‘small’ and flexible, optimizing efficiency, maximizing natural light, improving insulation, and utilizing renewable energy sources. These align with an eco-friendly design approach, reducing energy consumption and enhancing usability.

Size and Sustainability in Response to the Client Brief

The client’s brief emphasises size and sustainability, calling for efficiency through adaptive re-use and retrofit strategies. The focus is on optimising functionality, consolidating rooms for multifunctional use, and minimising space wastage while prioritising eco-friendly practices and resource-efficient design principles to create a sustainable, space-efficient solution.

Response to Siting of the Home and Building Form

The design optimises energy efficiency by avoiding west-facing windows and glazed doors. East facing windows are minimal in number.
Passive strategies such has the use and placement of thermal mass, and cross ventilation (via strategic location of windows) reduce the need for active heating and cooling systems, decreasing energy consumption.
The home prioritises resilience and longevity by ‘designing in’ adaptable spaces and the use of durable materials.

Photo 6: Materials, colours, details and features are repeated in the upper floor areas, creating a united, consistent palette through the home.

Preservation, Materials, and Embodied Energy

Existing timber framed cottage structure: floor, wall, roof and ceiling structure was preserved where possible.
Reclaimed (demolished) items were donated to other homes, including tram doors, fireplaces, and HWS.
‘Recycled reds’ (bricks) were used for external face brick walls and garden walls.
Reclaimed Blackbutt (timber) used for internal joinery items including Kitchen and Laundry benches.

Water Use, Storage, and Recycling:
4,000 L Rainwater tank, connected to ground floor toilet and front garden watering system.
Low water use fittings include Dual flush toilets and low-flow shower heads and tap sets

Building In Higher Thermal Performance Building Enclosure

Roofs: Glass wool batts: R3.5, plus
Ceilings: Insulation blanket: R1.8
Walls: Thermal wall batts to timber framed walls: R2.5; plus Rigid foam insulation (behind exterior metal wall claddings): R2.5
Floors: Underside of existing timber framed floors: Rigid insulation, R2.1, or Underside of reinforced concrete  slab floor and footings: Rigid insulation, R2.7
Windows and glazed doors: Timber framed with double glazing, argon filled: 1.5Uw
Windows and glazed doors: Aluminium framed thermally broken with double glazing, argon fille: 1.6Uw (via Thermeco)

Renewable Energy Generation and Use (aka “the bells and whistles”)

Power Generation – 17 Photovoltaic Panels for power generation, PV 5.72 kW (expected generation 6,630 kW/yr (18.1k kWh/day). This is cabled to (future) battery storage
Hot water generation – electric boosted solar hot water system (HWS)
All electric house – there is currently gas connection for the hydronic heating, including in-floor heating (within a topping slab) for living areas, plus hydronic wall panels and heated towel rails to rooms at the front of the house, and the upper floor.  The gas furnace will be replaced with an electric furnace in the near future, thus removing any gas appliances to the home. Cooking is via induction cooktop and electric oven.

The Black Beauty House, by Cathi Colla Architects
Photo 7: The living areas connect directly with the north facing deck and garden space beyond (image from our earlier photoshoot).

Biophilic Design

A key design strategy was to create an urban oasis with a strong connection to nature, offering pleasant views and outlooks to the garden and deck areas from the living areas and other spaces. This connection contributes to wellness via the abundant natural daylight, visual and physical access to garden spaces, and a horizontal perspective.

Garden Design and Landscape

The garden at the street frontage is designed purposely with heritage and streetscape in mind. Due to the high vehicle use in this street, this garden cannot be used for edible production.

The garden to the west (light well) has retained a mature tree, now complemented by ground cover and creepers across walls and fences to enhance the northerly outlook from within the living areas.

To the south, a raised garden bed is located within the rear garden to gain maximum sunlight. There are plans to increase the edible garden area by converting the garage roof  (anticipated, and allowed for, in the design and construction of the garage).

Photo 8: The vast (by inner city standards) deck and its relationship to the living areas and kitchen, enables an extension of the family and entertaining zone for the family. Special thanks to our models for this image (and few others not included here) including Sheenagh, Shawn, Djava, Paul and Pepper!

Social Contribution and Sustainability

Despite facing a busy street, the house maintains strong connections with the quieter one-way side street through windows, and the gated rear garden. The client’s desire for a “neighbourhood watch” effect, preserving connections with neighbours and kids, has been successfully achieved.

The “tuck shop” window that was the old window facing the side street in the dining space has been reinterpreted in the form of the new kitchen window facing the same side street. The window is located such that it provides elevated view of the street, with interaction with passers by. Privacy can be readily controlled via internal blinds when required. The new window to the upper stair provides a similar controllable view that overlooks the side street and the greater neighbourhood.

Post Occupancy Evaluation

Anecdotally, this home is comfortable all year round. It is cosy in winter (with minimal heating).

It is cool in summer, especially on the ground floor with optimum flexibility of doors and windows to control cross flow of cooling breezes. A cooling concrete floor underfoot increases the sense of calm, coolth (yes that’s a word!) and freshness.

More photos?

Of course!
More photos and project information can be found in the Projects section of our website, with the specific project listed here.

What’s next?

We are currently teeing up our next photo shoot, aiming for November. This will be the photography of our alterations and additions to an existing home in Moonee Ponds.
Watch this space!

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