Some Simple Modifications Transform This Unrenovated Family Home

Designed by Winwood Mckenzie Architecture

Simple ideas = huge impact. Winwood Mckenzie Architecture transformed this post-war cream brick house into a light-filled and functional family home by maintaining and refreshing the majority of rooms, while making a few key investments…

Northcote House

The architects were asked to “transform the unrenovated house into a contemporary light filled residence and reorient the house to the light and views for a family of three. The clients who are involved in the arts wanted space to hang art and a home to fill with family, friends and art.”

So, armed with this brief, Winwood Mckenzie Architecture proposed a few simple, but impactful ideas.

Northcote House

Northcote House

The well-built home sits on a solid foundation – a double brick and concrete basement, to be precise. The basement provides excellent thermal mass for the brick veneer home above. The architect capitalised on this by investing in wads of insulation in the walls and ceiling and double glazed windows. In this case, it’s a change you can’t even see, but you’ll certainly be able to feel the difference. The addition of ceiling fans in the bedrooms helps to promote cross ventilation and is a cost-effective way to improve the comfort of the home.

Northcote House

Northcote House

The most transformative investment was the relocation of the bathroom and moving the laundry into the basement. This allowed for the reorientation of the living areas to face views and light, without adding additional floor area.

Northcote House

In a domestic Berlin Wall moment, the walls separating dining and living spaces were brought down to create a new freedom of movement through the home. The spatial tricks this performs are every bit as dramatic as that last sentence, creating a new sense of flow from front to back. The new openings allow all rooms to borrow space and light from each other, making the whole house seem larger without adding even a square millimetre of floor area.

A new Tallowwood hardwood floor throughout enhances this effect by uniting the home. Visually, each room borrows space from the next, flowing seamlessly over thresholds.

Northcote House

Northcote House

Northcote House

In the bathroom, a dreamy-blue terrazzo tile is used on the floor, walls and even the joinery unit. Props to the joiner for pulling off such a beautiful and unusual piece of work. The terrazzo is a subtle reference to the period of the home and the great Italian immigrant legacy in Northcote. But thanks to the colour, seamless integration of joinery and a luxurious freestanding bath, it’s less post-war immigrant and more multicultural, 21st Century Australia.

Simple ideas also mean cost-effective ideas in this budget-friendly, yet high-impact renovation. Apart from minimising expense and avoiding the need to extend, this clever approach also minimises materials, meaning its a more sustainable option too. Winwood Mckenzie Architecture has made a dramatic and beautiful transformation to this previously unrenovated family home.

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Recreate it with the following tips:


Simple yet impactful ideas can enhance a space dramatically, especially when dealing with limited space.


Beautiful and unusual joinery can be created using all kinds of materials - these dreamy-blue terrazzo tiles are a winner!


Selecting fewer materials not only reduces expense and avoids the need to extend, it's also a more sustainable option too.


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