16 Impressive “Before & After” Renovations in Australia

16 Impressive “Before & After” Renovations in Australia

These skillful transformations of Aussie homes trade tired and deteriorating interior spaces for charming features and light-filled rooms.

Whether carving out more space in a cramped apartment in Melbourne, streamlining a dilapidated 1950s beach house on the Tweed Coast, or inserting a courtyard into an Italianate terrace in Sydney, all of these projects prove that even modest renovations can make a large difference.

A Pitch-Perfect Remodel Strikes Harmony in a Home Atop a Violin Shop  

Before: For this cramped apartment above a violin shop in Melbourne, local studio Tsai Design specified a generous rear extension with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and three separate exterior decks that amount to 270 square feet of outdoor space in total.  

After: By capping the central stairwell with a translucent rooftop, the firm introduced much more natural light into the building. The existing bedroom was relocated and transformed into the renovated primary living and dining area. In the place of the former bedroom window, a tall glass door now opens to stairs that lead up to a new roof terrace. 

Before: For the renovation and expansion of this historic Edwardian weatherboard house in Melbourne, the team at Steffen Welsch Architects put the existing, run down backyard to better use. 

After: Now, a wood-lined courtyard with a built-in fire pit and bench is nestled in between the old structure and the new addition. With its playful blend of blue, white, and gray bricks, the home’s exterior matches the interior finish, which creates a connection between indoors and outdoors. Built at a 45-degree angle on the site, the structure stretches out over the property to utilize every inch of land.

Before: The owners of this 1957 house on the Tweed Coast in New South Wales describe its previous state as "a homely, higgledy-piggledy house." For the renovation, the couple worked with DFJ Architects to update the features and finishes, while preserving the home’s character details, like the dramatic fireplace composed of stones that were salvaged from the local beach.

After: The Byron Bay–based firm restored the "midcentury heroes of the project," such as the exposed ceiling beams and chimney, and incorporated the original elements as anchor points in the new design. 

Before: This Victorian home had undergone a massive renovation in the 1970s that removed much of the structure’s historic features. In 2014, homeowner Steph Hegerty and her husband updated the Melbourne residence with the goal of reinstating some of its original charm.

After: The couple reintroduced Victorian architectural details such as a bullnose veranda roof, lacework, and window moldings. "The floor came out [and] the roof came off, but aesthetically, the biggest changes were to the windows," says Steph, who installed more period-appropriate timber sash windows units in place of the existing aluminum ones.

Before: After a 1989 renovation, this 1940s Melbourne home featured a strange mix of Arts and Crafts tradition combined with playful Memphis details. "Its central identity was confused," explain the Drawing Room Architecture designers, who stepped in for a more cohesive remodel.

After: In the main bedroom, a cosmetic upgrade lightens up the look. The rebuilt vanity—with black MAXI Film birch plywood and a Caesarstone concrete-and-stone countertop—punctuates the new cork floors and peach-toned walls.

Before: Although this Italianate terrace house in Sydney was originally built in 1885, the structure was substantially altered during a 1930s renovation. In order to turn it into his family home, owner and architect Joe Agius of COX Architecture divided the project into two parts, restoring the front portion and facade, then adding a contemporary rear addition with a lush interior courtyard.

After: The architect restored the front facade to fit in with the existing streetscape—and also to reflect how the home would have appeared when it was first built in 1885.

After: The rear of the home was demolished and replaced with a new extension that contains the garage, bathroom, and storage room on the ground floor, and two bedrooms for the owners’ teenage sons on the upper level. Almost every space on the ground floor has a deliberate sight line to the courtyard, and all of the courtyard-facing partitions are glazed.

Before: To turn a 150-year-old pub in the suburb of North Melbourne into an artful home, local firm Ioa Studio instituted a series of subtle curvatures and a playful color palette. 

After: Pink-toned terrazzo pleasantly contrasts with olive green–painted cabinetry and floors in the updated kitchen, which includes open shelving that was crafted using leftover plywood. "Wherever possible, we reused and repurposed materials we found and kept material wastage to a minimum," says Amy Bracks of Ioa Studio.

Before: The owners of this 1978 home in Melbourne are of Danish heritage, so they asked the team at local firm StudioFour for a hygge-infused makeover. The goal for the renovation was to "strengthen the initial intent of the architecture," says StudioFour director Sarah Henry. The architects also introduced a palette composed of charcoal-painted brick and light oak.

After: The architects emphasized the home’s horizontality by extending the eave and perforating the roof. This way, light could cascade down through the opening and plants could grow into it.

After: The existing brick exterior was painted with a darker hue, which the architects carried into the interior for continuity. A floor-to-ceiling, plate-glass window overlooks the entry courtyard.

Before: Robson Rak Architects recast a derelict cottage and dairy stable into a family compound in Melbourne. The team first rehabbed the two existing structures, then linked them with a striking new addition.

After: An "infill" addition composed of pale-colored brick connects to the Victorian-style cottage and stables. The addition contains the kitchen, dining room, an internal courtyard, and a glass-enclosed stairwell, which leads up to a second-floor principal suite and connects to bedrooms in the rehabilitated stables. The renovation also includes a basement level and rooftop terrace.

After: The interior courtyard is bordered by retractable glass doors and features Savior Blue limestone tiles, which flow from the inside to out.

Before: When Blank Canvas Architects principal Cecilia Yuan renovated her 1,722-square-foot home in the dense Port Melbourne neighborhood, the architect sought to preserve as much outdoor space as possible. "We have a seven-year-old son who is obsessed with cricket and soccer and needs the outdoor area," Cecilia says.

After: To incorporate the covered outdoor space into home’s interior, Cecilia installed a generous bifold door across the rear facade that creates a seamless connection between the kitchen and backyard. The upstairs balcony is covered by a new pergola that mimics the existing roofline. 

Before: Jennifer and Grant Peck hired the team at Doherty Design Studio to brighten up and personalize the Melbourne church they purchased in 2018, which had previously been converted into a home. For the renovation, the team sought to bring in as much natural light as possible while highlighting the distinct ecclesiastical architecture.

After: By reconfiguring various interior spaces, the team created a "void" of volume on all three levels, which allows light to freely penetrate the interior living spaces. A study with a built-in desk features preserved architectural features, like the stained-glass windows and the ornate door. 

Before: When design blogger Geneva Vanderzeil and her partner, architect and interior designer Ben McCarthy, bought this run-down 1871 cottage in Brisbane, they combined their talents to execute a total overhaul, starting with the main living spaces. The DIY duo raised the house, removed the deck and back wall, and added an extension so that all of the living spaces could flow seamlessly together.

After: The kitchen was designed around a salvaged table that doubles as an island and eating bar. "As soon as Ben saw this bench, he knew it could have lots of different uses," says Geneva. "This long kitchen is about as simple as it gets, but it works so well in the open-plan living space."

Before: Being avid art lovers, Harry Kapoulas and his wife, Boel, wanted to create a "joyful" home out of their existing midcentury residence, which was originally designed by architects Payne & Hunt in the Sydney suburb of Cronulla. The couple worked with interior architect Yasmine Ghoniem of Amber Road and artist Sonia van de Haar of Lymesmith to renovate the two-level, 2,690-square-foot house in a way that reflects their upbeat personalities.

After: The interior of the Polychrome House pops with color and pattern, from the Chinese Black Slate Crazy Pavers on the floors to the bespoke murals on the brick walls. "Most might consider it a clashing palette," says van de Haar. "But we felt that it was a true material choice which honored the era to which the house was born."

Before: After a redesign by local firm Fabrikate, the owners of this 1920 bungalow in Thebarton, Adelaide, have a home that they feel reflects who they are as self-described "foodies" and "coffee addicted–, gardening book–nerds who like piles of cushions and random pops of red."

After: Fabrikate co-opted the original exterior terrace into an indoor living space to give the kitchen more breathing room. The stove was kept in place in order to retain the position of the gas and venting. Sleek black storage cabinets are topped with Essastone Concrete Pezzato weathered stone on the perimeter and custom terrazzo on the island.

After: Bright-red laminate shelves hold the family’s coffee supplies inside the custom blackbutt cabinetry.

Before: The owners of this heritage-style house in North Fitzroy, Melbourne, reached out to architect Rebecca Naughtin to make their small home more conducive to their favorite pastime: cooking. The original kitchen was too cramped and couldn’t accommodate their approach. "The brief for the kitchen was highly detailed," Naughtin remembers. "I was handed a spreadsheet with all of the utensils that needed to be accommodated, including appliances I was not so familiar with," the architect quips.

After: Naughtin extended the existing structure an additional 430 square feet along the property line in order to create an elegant galley kitchen. A 16-foot-tall wall of glass windows gives the rear of the home a courtyard-like feel, while glazed doors encourage an indoor/outdoor flow.

Before: For this remodel of a Sydney terrace house, local firm Carter Williamson parted ways with standard finishes and a disjointed floor plan in favor of more cohesion throughout the layout. 

After: The interior spaces showcase a repeating rhythm of curved millwork and cabinetry, as exemplified by the living room’s new wraparound bench, which is made of Tasmanian oak. The closed cabinets feature a narrow, vertical board detail, while the floors are clad in terrazzo.

After: In the dining room, the curved cabinetry makes space for the table, while an arched doorway emphasizes the repeating motif. The passage is also "a visual cue that you are moving from the old part of the house into the new," says principal architect Shaun Carter. "When you walk through that threshold, you are in a new environment which we have created," he continues. 

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