by Neometro

Strong But Elegant – Brunswick Lean-to By Blair Smith Architecture.

Architecture, Design - by Stephen Crafti
  • Brunswick Lean-To by Blair Smith Architects | Tom Ross

19th May, 2021

The owners of this Victorian house in Brunswick quickly drew the outline of an extension on a paper serviette. This crude outline was marked with a new open-plan kitchen, living and dining area on a 300-square-metre site. “Their idea was just to add a 40-square-metre glass box, replacing a lean-to from the early 20th century,” says architect Blair Smith of Blair Smith Architecture, who were commissioned to extend this double-fronted timber home for a couple with a teenage daughter.


While the original front rooms of the Brunswick house were in relatively good condition, comprising four rooms on either side of a central passage, the lean-to was dilapidated. “It was about replacing what was there in terms of space, but also strengthening the connection to the garden,” says Smith, who was also conscious of creating privacy from abutting properties. So, in contrast to the lightweight timber home, the new wing features concrete bricks with external blade walls either side to create both privacy and also diffuse the northern sunlight.

Brunswick Lean-To by Blair Smith Architects | Tom Ross

Unlike many contemporary renovations, the owners were keen to follow sustainable design principles, including repurposing materials and fittings if they could be accommodated in Smith’s scheme. The marble bench in the kitchen, for example, was sourced on eBay, while the commercial stove that came with the house was too good to simply ditch. And rather than inserting ensuite bathrooms, Smith included one module of bathrooms in the new wing, comprising a guest powder room, along with a separate bathroom used by the family. Featuring a translucent sliding glass door, one can shower with the door open to the garden or create a more filtered environment with the stained timber sliding doors that run across the home’s rear elevation. With the screen’s integrated flywire, the house can be left open, but still secured during the warmer months of the year.

Brunswick Lean-To by Blair Smith Architects | Tom Ross

Brunswick Lean-To by Blair Smith Architects | Tom Ross

As this design was delivered on a relatively modest budget (with the owners doing things such as the painting) the extension of 51 square metres includes a kitchen at one end and a dining area at the other. Smith used the glazed sliding doors in a rhythmic manner to loosely define the open-plan area, and also created unimpeded sight lines from the front door through to the back garden. “I’ve used simple but cost-effective materials, together with a limited palette,” says Smith, pointing out the white-tiled splashback and walls, along with the simply polished concrete floor. And while guests traverse the central passage, the family often wheel their bikes along a side path that leads directly to a pantry/mud room concealed behind the kitchen.

Brunswick Lean-To by Blair Smith Architects | Tom Ross

As the original part of the house was in fairly good condition, it was only touched lightly, including some painting and the installation of hydronic heating. Now used as two bedrooms (including the main), a study and a more formal living area, Smith saw no reason to make any structural changes here. Likewise, the existing brick studio in the garden, along with the established vegetable garden (courtesy of the previous owners), remain intact, with the studio being used as a craft room and doubling as guest accommodation if required.

Brunswick Lean-To by Blair Smith Architects | Tom Ross

Brunswick Lean-To by Blair Smith Architects | Tom Ross

Standard items, such as windows across the rear elevation, informed the slope of the timber-clad ceiling. And where possible, off-the-shelf materials and products were used. “You can still create special moments in a house, even when the budget is modest,” says Smith, who sees the success of this project as a collaboration between the architect, builder, and, importantly, the owners of this home. “You could say there’s a certain level of austerity, but it’s more about focusing on elements that really matter,” adds Smith.

Architecture + Design | Blair Smith Architecture

Photography | Tom Ross

Styling | Jessica Lillico

Build | Cale Peters Constructions

Words | Stephen Crafti  (with opening excerpt from Blair Smith Architecture)


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