BLACK WHITE TIMBER House, by Cathi Colla Architects

For many people living in the inner city, means making the most of a compact home with minimal natural light and next to no outlook. With a tight budget and significant challenges posed by the Statutory Planning process, this design was challenging – but in the end brings joy and significant value to the existing home.  

The best part of the whole process is she made our house immediately feel like a “home.” She listened to what we wanted, processed it, and elevated it to a level beyond our expectations.”

The Black White Timber House Design Brief

There are always good and challenging aspects to most sites. For its location in Fitzroy North, a site being 6.8m wide by 35m long is reasonably generous. It’s a flat site with access to all boundaries except that shared with one neighbour. The house however was in a pretty sad state with drafts galore, sloping floors, bowing walls, and rotting timbers.

Being located on a reasonably prominent street and on a corner, along with a very old dilapidated home we knew, no matter what was designed, that the Statutory Planning (and Heritage Assessment) process would be challenging.

Our client’s requirements were very clear: to create a home for a family of four that loves entertaining with friends, neighbours and family. To create a home for a growing family and dog, with added function to accommodate a home-office and space to sleep extended family from interstate. To create a home that looks great, feels welcoming, respects the home’s history; PLUS a home with a layout that functions well and makes the most of the sun and the outlook.

No mean feat for an inner city renovation, let alone one without a north orientation!

The Black White Timber House Design Solution

The form of the original cottage at the front of the site is retained. This is in respect of the existing streetscape and a nod to history, whilst retaining a formal frontage and entry to the home.

Opportunity of the three clear site boundaries has been embraced in the design. Living areas are located at the centre of the home, enabling flexibility of use and access to gardens to the north and the south. This strategy also ensures daylight, views and ventilation from three sides of the main living space.

In respect of the original cottage, the upper storey is restrained in its form. The contemporary addition is revealed beyond the rear of the cottage, distinguished over the two levels with modulation of volume and contrasting materials and colour in order to differentiate the new form from the existing cottage.

The living spaces integrate with the garden and deck areas to the north and south. This provides for a significant area of outdoor living (decks) and garden area.

And did we mention the amazing views to the city?

Features designed within the building fabric to enhance usability and reduce energy use (and bills):

  • Re-use and adapt existing building areas
  • Compact, efficient and flexible rooms arrangement
  • Living spaces with light and natural ventilation on the north and south sides
  • High thermal mass to ground floor, plus significant levels of insulation to walls and roofs
  • Minimal west facing windows to reduce summer heat loading
  • Double glazing to all new and existing windows
  • Operable windows to encourage natural cross ventilation (cooling cross breezes throughout)
  • High levels of insulation to new and existing areas, including insulation to ceilings and roofs, all new walls and beneath all floors
  • Rainwater harvesting for garden irrigation and toilet use
  • Photovoltaic panels to roof
  • Roof mounted solar hot water service
  • Hydronic heating throughout
  • Ceiling fans
  • Low energy lighting
  • Space for edible gardens
Project Team
Architecture and Interior Design
Cathi Colla Architects
Structural Engineer
Meyer Consulting
Building Surveying Services
Statutory Planning Authority
City of Yarra
Project Photography
Emma Cross Photographer
Petrina Hicks, Simon Degroot, Vincent Namatjira, generously loaned for photoshoot by This Is No Fantasy Gallery
Project Details
Architectural Services
Full Architectural Design, including Concept Design, Developed Design, Documentation and Contract Administration Services
Project Status
Construction completed, pending final items and landscaping

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