An Architect's 1958 Midcentury in Tasmania Gets a Graceful Renovation

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By Melissa Dalton
Designed by architect Edith Emery for her family and built in Sandy Bay in 1958, this midcentury abode receives a deliberate expansion that carries the spirit of the original.

Edith Emery was an Austrian émigré, doctor, and architect whose work was "shunned as a female practitioner during her later life in Tasmania," write Taylor and Hinds Architects. "We recognized early on that we were operating within the sensibilities of a fine, and seriously underrated, practitioner." 

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An Architect's 1958 Midcentury in Tasmania Gets a Graceful Renovation - Photo 1 of 15 -

The homeowners had bought Emery's house in 2005 and appreciated its spare, midcentury details and "gentle livability." However, nine years later, they needed a bit more living space and an update for the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry, as well as better connection to the garden. Taylor and Hinds studied Emery's original drawings and architectural philosophy to inform their approach. "We felt that the new work should read as if it is drawn out of the original fabric," they say. "As an extension in the truest sense, rather than an addition." 

Let's take a tour of the result. 

The original house is shaped like an L, and features a butterfly roof. The architects first took note of Emery's key material moves, which include the white-framed windows, a brick foundation, and dark hardwood cladding on the exterior.

The original house is shaped like an L, and features a butterfly roof. The architects first took note of Emery's key material moves, which include the white-framed windows, a brick foundation, and dark hardwood cladding on the exterior.

At the rear of the house, the architects created a low-slung space that hews closely to the site's slope, making room for a second living room that connects to the garden via folding doors, as well as a new bathroom and laundry. "We kept the volume of the extension low to preserve the lyricism of the original roof," write the architects. Note the repetition of the brick and how the exterior cladding "adopts the materiality" of the original, white-framed fenestration that Emery employed.

At the rear of the house, the architects created a low-slung space that hews closely to the site's slope, making room for a second living room that connects to the garden via folding doors, as well as a new bathroom and laundry. "We kept the volume of the extension low to preserve the lyricism of the original roof," write the architects. Note the repetition of the brick and how the exterior cladding "adopts the materiality" of the original, white-framed fenestration that Emery employed.

Inside the entry, which affords a view through the house towards the extension, Emery's original palette combines white walls with wood floors.

Inside the entry, which affords a view through the house towards the extension, Emery's original palette combines white walls with wood floors.

The architects gently reworked the interior layout, replacing a small sitting room and bath/laundry with a new kitchen. The kitchen's wood cabinetry "references the original timber joinery elsewhere," write the architects.

The architects gently reworked the interior layout, replacing a small sitting room and bath/laundry with a new kitchen. The kitchen's wood cabinetry "references the original timber joinery elsewhere," write the architects.

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The kitchen's new position takes advantage of morning light. Note how the white countertop doesn't disturb the original windows.

The kitchen's new position takes advantage of morning light. Note how the white countertop doesn't disturb the original windows.

Moving the kitchen gave the existing dining room and living room more space.

Moving the kitchen gave the existing dining room and living room more space.

With its walls of windows, stone fireplace, and wood floors, this living area was kept much as Emery designed it.

With its walls of windows, stone fireplace, and wood floors, this living area was kept much as Emery designed it.

The architects signified the extension with a waxed concrete floor. To the left of the staircase is a new bathroom and laundry. The stairs lead up to a new sitting room that connects to the new brick garden terrace.

The architects signified the extension with a waxed concrete floor. To the left of the staircase is a new bathroom and laundry. The stairs lead up to a new sitting room that connects to the new brick garden terrace.

The finish palette in the bathroom relates to the kitchen for consistency.

The finish palette in the bathroom relates to the kitchen for consistency.

In the new sitting room, the architects opted for timber-framed windows and doors. "In this space the fixed joinery elements invert the original material strategy of the house," they write.

In the new sitting room, the architects opted for timber-framed windows and doors. "In this space the fixed joinery elements invert the original material strategy of the house," they write.

The homeowners have flexibility in how they can use the new living space. Right now, it can be a play room; years from now, an office or second living room.

The homeowners have flexibility in how they can use the new living space. Right now, it can be a play room; years from now, an office or second living room.

The new sitting room easily links to the brick terrace, which has a wraparound built-in bench.

The new sitting room easily links to the brick terrace, which has a wraparound built-in bench.

In the new sitting room, a bay window with a built-in seat takes advantage of distant views of the city and water, and offers a cozy perch.

In the new sitting room, a bay window with a built-in seat takes advantage of distant views of the city and water, and offers a cozy perch.

The bay window as seen from the exterior. "We think that this gesture of the canting window breaks with the figure of the house, in the manner that a small child does when peeking from behind the legs of a parent," write the architects. "We have worked in close attentiveness to the needs of our clients and sought to offer them a humble, livable, and affordable adaptation of Emery’s original architecture."

The bay window as seen from the exterior. "We think that this gesture of the canting window breaks with the figure of the house, in the manner that a small child does when peeking from behind the legs of a parent," write the architects. "We have worked in close attentiveness to the needs of our clients and sought to offer them a humble, livable, and affordable adaptation of Emery’s original architecture."

Project Credits:

Architecture: Taylor + Hinds Architects

Builder: Dean Scurrah Building

Engineer: JSA Consulting Engineers

Lighting Design: Anaesthetic

Cabinetry: Immac Cabinets