Terrace Transformation

Photo Anjie Blair, courtesy Loop Architecture

Remarkable things can happen when you are not looking to renovate a heritage-listed property, including multiple awards and the pride associated with being part of something “amazingly rewarding".

Launceston couple Louise Millwood and Kerry Haywood stumbled upon their inner-city terrace home by sheer luck. “It was a good place that needed lots of work, but we hadn't anticipated buying a heritage-listed place. We didn't want to jump right in, so we contacted Heritage Tasmania for advice. Having that conversation before we purchased helped us understand what was important and how to avoid mistakes.  We learnt that new work did not have to match, though must compliment the historic building."

The c1889 property is one of six residences in a terrace row.  This particular terrace had seen multiple changes before the terrace was entered on the Tasmanian Heritage Register, particularly to the rear living areas. This provided more latitude in the design response. The approach taken was to retain the building's external character; retain and incorporate significant, original details and features at the front of the terrace; adding a modern extension to the rear; and retaining, reusing and recycling as much possible.

“We wanted to credit the value of heritage within a modern living style. Loop Architecture provided several concepts for us to consider, and we landed at something that would work for us. Our builders [ProBuild Tasmania] were very much on board with what we were trying to achieve. They enjoyed using their traditional building skills and having the freedom to take their time to work with us to come up with solutions that delivered what we wanted."

A number of clever and considered decisions has allowed modernity to co-exist with the past. The living space marks the turning point, from the original front rooms to the new addition to the rear. Here a feature wall of original brickwork, which was the rear wall of the terrace, has been retained and revealed, to define the transition from the old to the new.

Photo Anjie Blair, courtesy Loop Architecture

Cleaned and relayed brickwork around an expanded opening replacing the original back door and window, has created another spectacular feature that helps the modern addition maintain unity with the neighbouring terrace. “We reused the bricks from the previous extension to create a boundary wall with our neighbour. We found a few that had the maker's imprint on them and the bricklayer suggested making them a bit of a feature so you can see them dotted throughout the wall.  Everyone single one of those bricks was cleaned by us. I'm still not tired of looking at it."

Photo Anjie Blair, courtesy Loop Architecture

Terraces typically have narrow footprints, so eking out space for new kitchen cabinetry and storage throughout was a major consideration. Newly inserted sassafras storage units show how a contemporary approach executed using traditional craftsmanship can enhance an historic space. The joinery harmonises with the exposed Baltic pine floorboards.  Other decisions were more difficult.

“We tried to work out a way to keep the original staircase. Moving it even 50mm meant we would have to comply with current building codes which would have compromised the original fabric even further. In the end we removed the staircase, keeping the newel in the roof space, reusing the treads and doing away with the hand rail and balusters which were not original. Kerry came up with the idea of 'framing' the historic treads to comply with the depth required in the building code." From underneath the unfinished treads seem at odds with the contemporary floating stair case. It is, however, a simple yet gratifying reminder of the original structure.

Living in a row of terraces often comes with an added sense of responsibility for home owners. Louise and Kerry hope that what they have achieved will inspire others, whether current or future owners of the adjoining townhouses, to take a similar approach of seeing the potential that can be achieved with regard for the site's heritage values.

“We've given the terrace another 100 years. There was a lot that couldn't be salvaged because of the different renovations over time, but we hope what we have kept will be appreciated by people in the future and they too will retain these features."

At the recent 2019 Master Builders Tasmania Awards, this renovation project was awarded Best Renovation/Extension ($200,00 - $400,000); best heritage listed or period home restoration open value; and best use of Australian made products for the black heart sassafras cabinetry.

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