Before & After: A Rundown Brisbane Cottage Turns Into a Ravishing, Modern Home

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By Michele Koh Morollo
A design duo transform an 1871 Australian cottage into a bright and breezy home with a vibrant kitchen at its core.

When design blogger Geneva Vanderzeil and her partner, architect and interior designer Ben McCarthy, purchased their first house together in Brisbane, Australia, there was no denying the property needed a lot of work. Amped for the challenge, the design duo rolled up their sleeves and conducted an extensive DIY renovation, remodeling the rundown 1871 cottage into a charming, open-plan home with a versatile kitchen.

"More so than ever, the kitchen is an area for gathering and socializing, so when we started planning the renovation for this cottage, I knew that we needed to turn the kitchen into a focal point for the whole project," says Vanderzeil. Scroll ahead to learn more about the revamp.

Before: 

Before: The original kitchen was small and only featured one tiny window.

Before: The original kitchen was small and only featured one tiny window.

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The original floor plan featured only a few small rooms which were all a bit dark, so the couple worked on opening up the home to bring in more natural light while also retaining as much of the property's historic character as possible. 

Before: A look at the exterior of the 1871 cottage.

Before: A look at the exterior of the 1871 cottage.

"Creating this space required a lot of changes at the back of the house," explains Vanderzeil. "First the house was raised and the existing deck was removed. Then, we took out the back wall of the house. Once that was done, and an extension was added, we had a big, open space to play with. We connected the outdoor patio area, the kitchen, dining, and the living lounge into one big room, so the house [now] feels a lot bigger."

Before: Sections of the existing interior walls were retained to help the new space retain some of the home's original character.

Before: Sections of the existing interior walls were retained to help the new space retain some of the home's original character.

Before: Vanderzeil located the new kitchen along the northern wall of the extended house.

Before: Vanderzeil located the new kitchen along the northern wall of the extended house.


After:

The new living area has been designed as an open space, flowing through the kitchen and out to the outdoor deck.

The new living area has been designed as an open space, flowing through the kitchen and out to the outdoor deck.

McCarthy was attached to a long, industrial bench, so the couple designed the kitchen to accommodate this piece of furniture, which now serves as a worktop and breakfast bar. 

McCarthy was attached to a long, industrial bench, so the couple designed the kitchen to accommodate this piece of furniture, which now serves as a worktop and breakfast bar. 

"As soon as Ben saw this bench, he knew it could have lots of different uses—like an island bench, kitchen table, and dining table. This long kitchen is about as simple as it gets, but it works so well in this open-plan living space," says Vanderzeil.

"As soon as Ben saw this bench, he knew it could have lots of different uses—like an island bench, kitchen table, and dining table. This long kitchen is about as simple as it gets, but it works so well in this open-plan living space," says Vanderzeil.

They opted for minimalistic kitchen appliances to not overwhelm the simplistic design. 

They opted for minimalistic kitchen appliances to not overwhelm the simplistic design. 

In search of an affordable cabinet with a beveled profile, Vanderzeil found a system from Australian brand Kaboodle in alpine, which she and McCarthy painted with the gorgeous Bay-Berry green shade from Haymes Paint.

In search of an affordable cabinet with a beveled profile, Vanderzeil found a system from Australian brand Kaboodle in alpine, which she and McCarthy painted with the gorgeous Bay-Berry green shade from Haymes Paint.

Black wooden doorknobs from Australian brand Kethy were used for the cabinet pulls. The couple decided on bowl-shaped knobs for the larger pantry cabinets, and cylindrical knobs for the smaller cupboards. 

Black wooden doorknobs from Australian brand Kethy were used for the cabinet pulls. The couple decided on bowl-shaped knobs for the larger pantry cabinets, and cylindrical knobs for the smaller cupboards. 

"I had contemplated something a little bit more 'beachy,' but I have to say that by mixing the industrial elements and the tropical details of the room, I think we struck a good balance." notes Vanderzeil.

"I had contemplated something a little bit more 'beachy,' but I have to say that by mixing the industrial elements and the tropical details of the room, I think we struck a good balance." notes Vanderzeil.

The industrial light fixtures were antiques that McCarthy had found years ago from a market in Europe.

The industrial light fixtures were antiques that McCarthy had found years ago from a market in Europe.

Tiles left over from the bathroom remodel were used in a striking vertical layout for the kitchen backsplash. 

Tiles left over from the bathroom remodel were used in a striking vertical layout for the kitchen backsplash. 

To unify the different living zones, the couple built DIY floating shelves with wood planks from Bunnings that they painted in the same shade of Haymes paint as the cabinets.

To unify the different living zones, the couple built DIY floating shelves with wood planks from Bunnings that they painted in the same shade of Haymes paint as the cabinets.

Project Credits:

Architecture and interior design: Charlie & Rose / @charlieandrose

Photography: Geneva Vanderzeil, A Pair & A Spare / @apairandaspare