A Cramped Bungalow Is Reborn as an Eco-Minded Abode For Two Gardeners

A sustainable retrofit and extension floods a California-style bungalow outside Melbourne with light and landscape views.
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Dark, cramped and "a fortune to heat in winter," Phil and Rebecca’s home in Brunswick West, a suburb of Melbourne, had been in dire need of a renovation before they met Megan Norgate, founding director and principal designer at studio Brave New Eco.

Inspired by a Green Magazine feature on Megan’s renovated house, the couple tapped the Northcote–based designer for an eco-minded remodel of their 1,819-square-foot abode.

Recycled timbers are used throughout the home from the curved bench to the joinery in the kitchen. The kitchen also connects to a cold-store walk-in pantry that’s cooled with an in-slab ventilation pipe funneling cool under-house air.

Poorly configured renovations by former owners had turned the house into a labyrinth of small and dark rooms. 

As avid gardeners, the homeowners sought a energy-efficient retrofit that would bright natural light back into their home and open it up to views of their backyard permaculture garden

Indoor/outdoor living was a priority in the redesign, and the interior was reconfigured so that views of the backyard and the majestic gum tree can be immediately seen as soon as the front door is opened.

The transformation began with converting a small, dark bedroom that had been wedged in the center of the home into an open study that connects the entrance, lounge, and the three bedrooms to the living spaces in the rear.

The view of dining area from the kitchen.

In the dining room next to the study is a deep window seat inserted on the north side of the home that overlooks the outdoor deck.

A view from the lounge into the converted study furnished with a vintage midcentury sideboard.

The new living areas are housed in a 345-square-foot, highly insulated extension—set on a concrete slab and oriented along the northern axis to follow passive solar principles—and include a kitchen, walk-in pantry, bathroom, laundry, and dining room.

Shielded by overhanging eaves, ample northern glazing lets in an abundance of natural light and views of the outdoors.

A connected dining area and kitchen allows for an open, airy feeling.

"Everything used in the project has been considered for its ability to be reused, recycled, or repurposed at the end of its life in the home," notes Megan. "We prioritized the use of local and recycled materials where ever possible."

Locally made furnishings were used throughout. The living room is furnished with a second-hand Jardan couch, a copper and teak coffee table, and artwork from various Australian artists. The cushions were made with custom printed fabrics from Ink and Spindle.

A gas space heater provides zoned heating in the extension; recycled deco double doors can be closed to contain heat in the lounge.

Improved energy-efficient measures brought the home from a 1.4 to a 4.2 rating in the first-rate 5-thermal performance assessment.

To further reduce the home’s energy footprint, a 3.12 kW solar photovoltaic panel, rainwater harvesting tank, and low-flow water fixtures were installed.

An art deco drinks trolley was repurposed as a bathroom vanity. All fixtures are low-flow.

"We involved the client in the process of having customized elements fabricated locally, introducing them to craftspeople and makers," says Megan. 

"This creates happiness-evoking experiences that underpin the client’s memory of the renovating experience, and give the elements in the space that extra personal significance." 

The main bathroom was remodeled and enlarged. Instead of chrome, Megan opted for hardware with a soft pewter finish.

Handmade fish-scale tiles line the wall over the bath.

The compact 54-square-foot kitchen is equipped with an induction cooktop (no gas used). The countertops are Create Stone's White Quartz made with 72 percent post-industrial waste.

Refurbished vintage copper pendant lights hang above the kitchen’s handmade Manuka honey-colored tiles.

Here's a look at the floor plan. Note the central axis that allows views of the backyard to be seen from the porch.

Project Credits:

Builder/General Contractor: MACASAR Building

Interior Design: Brave New Eco

Cabinetry Design/Installation: Brave New Eco (design) 16 bays (installation)

Architectural Draftsperson: Geometrica

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