High and mighty renovation

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HIGH ceilings with clerestory-style windows to maximise daylight and a family-friendly kitchen feature in Christine Mercer and Martin Wardrop’s contemporary, sustainable extension on their 1950s red-brick house in O’Connor.

The house has been entered in the 2011 ACT Architecture Awards.

“We didn’t want a massive attachment to the original house,” says Christine. “We were prepared to go pretty radical and experiment though – there’s not really a culture of doing that in Canberra.”

Although they did temper their original ideas, the additions to the house, which includes a family room and incorporated pergolas, and a new walk-in robe and ensuite for the master bedroom at the other end of the house, is still unusual.

“We used to get people passing by and stopping and staring,” she says of the almost completely square, modern addition in grey mini-corrugated metal cladding.

“But recently we’ve heard people saying ‘they must get so much light’. There must be a lot of light-starved people out there.”

Architect Alan Morschel who designed the addition, says that the height of the extension gives it a “distinctive” appearance. “The grey metal cladding is a noticeable and attractive contrast to the existing red-brick house,” he says.

“The kitchen used to look out on to the neighbour’s wall, but now it’s completely shielded and the new pergolas look over the street and takes advantage of the north light.”

“We’re not privacy-seeking people, so the decks draw us out into the garden at the front and we love to watch the world go by, and seeing our neighbours,” says Christine.

“This really works for us and we love the textural contrast of the mini-orb bluescope steel with the red brick of the original house; the combination of texture, colour and materials.”

The entrance to the home now features a private deck with a view of the mature oaks in the park opposite, and a new carport. The couple also included photovoltaics on the roof and 8000-litres of rainwater tanks, cleverly concealed around the exterior under new decks.

“We lived in the house for 18 months before starting the work, so we had a good idea of what we wanted to do,” says Christine. “We plan to stay here for the long term, so we were looking for a sensible way to add space and make the most of the long, narrow block without a full demolition.

“Now we use the extension more than any other space in the house. I love the splashes of bright red – we’re not colour shy! The windows catch every bit of sun and floods the space with light.

“It’s great because it means we’re all together more as a family.”

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Kathryn Vukovljak
Kathryn Vukovljak is a "CityNews" journalist with a particular interest in homes and gardens.


  1. I love that you you’ve kept the iconic red brick, which is disappearing in suburbs of painted and rendered anonymity. And although you’ve merged it beside funky new, it’s still kept its character. Long live Old Red.

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