19 of the Best Aussie Mullet Renovations That Turn Things Up in the Back

These quaint heritage facades hide clever extensions and additions that are ready to rock.

There’s a beauty in keeping the character of a neighborhood intact. But a home should serve its current residents, and in the case of these historic Australian homes, that means renovating at the rear. Read on for some of the country’s best "mullet renos"—traditional in the front, modern in the back.

In Melbourne, a Quaint Victorian Facade Gives Way to Swaths of Marble and Rich Wood Paneling

Project 12 Architecture renovated this heritage listed, double-fronted Victorian terrace home with a sympathetic two-story extension at the rear. The driving force behind the changes was to create spaces where family members could choose to be alone, or come together.

"The end result is a spacious, private home that overcomes the challenges of a densely packed, inner-city suburb," say the architects. "It’s a forever home that will continue providing for everyone’s needs as they change over time."

Set on a tight, five-meter-wide plot in Annandale, an inner suburb of Sydney, the 100-year-old cottage that Carter Williamson Architects was tasked with renovating posed a challenge: The firm needed to maintain the heritage exterior within a row of eight homes from the same era—while giving the interiors ample living space and lots of light.

The renovated rear portion of the home is connected to the front bedroom and new bathroom via a split staircase leading up to the main bedroom and a studio, and down to the living space. A tiled and plant-filled courtyard divides the dwelling’s public and private spaces, with one side bordering the main living area and the other adding a window to the bathroom and the stairs.

From the front, this Melbourne heritage home just looks like a simple, suburban Australian cottage with a standard gable roof. But the back? Well, the back tells a whole different story.

The modernist extension is a brutalism-inspired beauty, featuring a charred wood–and–glass volume split neatly into two halves. It’s two-faced architecture, if you will—but together, the two sides tell one beautiful design story.

Jeffrey Bokey-Grant gives his family’s traditional cottage an award-winning remodel that adheres to the original footprint. The original brick worker’s cottage is estimated to have been built in the 1920s. "The house had since been victim to neglect and a series of questionable improvements over the course of its life," says Bokey-Grant.

The balance of old and new achieved in the project impressed the jury for the Australian Institute of Architects 2020 awards, which commended Bokey-Grant by saying, "JJ House is exemplary as an approach for altering and establishing a sense of individuality in the recognizable housing stock of our suburbs."

After purchasing two abutting Victorian townhomes in the diverse Carlton neighborhood—home to Australia’s Little Italy, and an abundance of authentic Italian eateries—homeowners Michael and Angela Kelly brought on Riofrío Carroll Architects for a renovation with a singular priority: a kitchen that would serve as the focal point for their new family home.

In a typical Australian mullet renovation, the historic facade was preserved, and the townhomes were torn down to build anew. Michael, Angela, and a group of friends gathered the bricks from the demolition and cleaned them by hand to reuse in the new construction. Now, the bricks in the perimeter act as a chronological road map of the home.

Victorian terrace homes may be the norm in Melbourne, but Ripple House by FMD Architects stands out with a geometric addition that expands the floor plan for a couple nearing retirement and their two dogs.

"All the spaces have strong visual connections to the garden," say the architects. "As you enter the house, the windows have been stepped to allow a view from the front all the way down to the rear of the garden." The main bedroom and bathroom are also directly connected to the green space, whose tree canopy actually helps keep the homeowners cool.

Joey and Jane Scandizzo had always been set on retaining the facade of their Melbourne home. However, the existing Victorian-style cottage had been updated over the years and lost its character as a result. Local firm Kennon+ set out to restore the facade to "as close to its existing condition as possible." This meant sourcing the wrought iron, decorative filigree so typical of Australian Victorian cottages and crafting it to match the original detailing of the home.

The back of the home and its soaring glass-and-concrete addition create a strong connection between the indoor and outdoor spaces, and the rear garden and the pool feel like "a secret refuge."

After 15 years of living in a one-bedroom flat above their specialty violin shop in the Melbourne suburb of Collingwood, the owners were tired of trekking downstairs to their workshop in order to use the building’s only bathroom. The homeowners approached Tsai Design in 2019 with a simple enough brief: to reconfigure the flat and add enough space to accommodate two bedrooms, outdoor access, and of course, a bathroom on the same level.

Tsai Design was able to double the home’s footprint via a rear addition that includes two bedrooms and two bathrooms. (The original home was 645 square feet, and the extension added 614 square feet.) The firm then introduced plenty of natural light and three separate exterior decks that add up to 270 square feet of outdoor space.

Sydney architect Joe Agius has always had an interest in courtyard homes—having experienced them on travels through Europe, North Africa, and China—but never thought he would have the opportunity to design one for himself in his home city. When he and his wife, Kate, began to look for a home to renovate for themselves and their two teenage sons, however, they came across a substantial Italianate terrace in a heritage suburb that offered an opportunity to bring this dream to life.

"Having committed to the courtyard idea, we had to then refine it and study the many plan configurations possible around it," says Joe. "We looked to the traditional riad courtyard houses of Morocco—houses with lush, shady courtyards which have a strong sense of interiority, coupled with severe exteriors to street. We then layered other ideas such the notion of an ‘adaptable house’ and the somewhat contradictory idea of being able to open the entire living area direct to the sidewalk."

When it came time to renovate his own Port Melbourne home, Dominic Pandolfini of Pandolfini Architects had a clear goal: "Despite the constraints of a long narrow site, we wanted to create some generous spaces that had a sense of drama," says Pandolfini. To do so, he retained the front façade of his 100-year-old home.

The firm then combined a palette of steel, concrete, and oak in the elegant, double-height rear addition. Tall steel-and-glass doors open to the backyard and bring some understated drama.

When the homeowners of this 1930s bungalow realized they needed more living space for their growing family and long-term house guests, they turned to Steffen Welsch Architects for a creative, sustainably minded solution. "The original Californian bungalow was advertised as ‘quiet at the end of a cul-de-sac.’ We wanted to change that," says Welsch.

The firm fashioned a rammed-earth wing that curves off the back of the house and curves along the edge of the narrow city lot. The new home is divided into four zones, with the existing bungalow now dedicated to children and guests with two bedrooms, a playroom, and bathrooms. "Every zone has its own outdoor space," said Welsch; the front room opens onto the front yard.

At first glance, this charming cottage on a corner lot continues the rhythm and character of the traditional streetscape. Upon closer inspection, a two-story addition full of light and contemporary details reveals itself.

In order to create space for new shared living spaces and an upper floor master suite, BG Architecture inserted a gabled roof volume behind the original home, then clad it in metal and perforated screens for privacy from the alleyway.

In the Melbourne suburb of Pascoe Vale, BENT Architecture drew on the form and feel of a caravan tent to expand a 1960s home and bring in natural light and ventilation.

To make the addition feel as if it’s part of the garden, Bent Architecture separated it from the main house with a green courtyard. This layout provides plenty of air flow and brings light from the north into the primary bedroom.

Tom Robertson Architects deftly tack on a timber-clad volume to this historic home in the suburb of Princess Hill, so as not to compete with the home’s original character. "This was more respectful of the beautiful heritage house," says Robertson.

Robertson restored the existing rooms in the front of the original house and redesigned the back of the home to have a much more modern, indoor/outdoor living experience. Measuring at 1,938 square feet, the house features a large open-plan living area, a private roof terrace, along with a quaint study, and three bedrooms.

The ornate facade of the renovated, 6,130-square-foot Haterlie was restored, while the architects demolished the mid-20th century additions to the center of the property and a section of an old "stable" near the rear boundary.

Inspired by 15th-century Italian villas, Andrew Simpson Architects and Renata Fairhall Garden Designs created a series of overlapping additions that that blur the boundaries between architecture and landscaping. "The geometry creates varied spatial experiences—expansion and contraction horizontally and vertically—reinforcing the series of stepped courtyards," says Andrew Simpson.

When clients approached Bryant Alsop to remodel their 1904 Victorian, they didn’t want the redesign to be slavish to period detail, nor did they want to tear down the house and build anew. "They wanted something unique," says architect Sarah Bryant, who founded the firm in 2008.

The new rear two-story addition adds over 2,000 square feet of living space without sacrificing the backyard. The repetition of the curved elements, such as the tall, cement-rendered columns that band the exterior, are a subtle reference to the scale and proportions of the Victorian style.

When Gardiner Architects was approached by the owners of a California-style bungalow in Melbourne, the project team was struck by how the family of five know all of their neighbors and are active in the community. As a result, they came up with a plan to renovate the home so that it serves the way the family lives: with a connection to the neighborhood.

The first order of business was to break down old ideas of formal spaces versus informal spaces. "The entry to a Californian bungalow is typically through the formal front door," says the firm. "Moving away from this, we supplemented an additional entry off the side lane. The old idea of coming in the front door, where you find the ‘nice room’ that the children aren’t allowed in, that has the crystal cabinet and granny drinking sherry is broken down."

In the suburb of Cremorne, architect Michael Artemenko, co-director of FIGR Architecture Studio, utilizes a fuchsia-painted hall to link up the preserved portion of his semi-detached Victorian worker's cottage to a light-filled rear addition. The building’s heritage facade was restored to its former glory, leaving interesting period features intact. From the outside, the house looks like a snapshot from the past.

The journey through the dark tunnel to the new, light-filled addition is both a texturally interesting and atmospheric experience, where the contrast between old and new, dark and light, can be felt.

For this 484-square-foot rear add-on, dubbed the Tetris Extension, architect and photographer Jaime Diaz-Berrio paired up with architect Mark Allan of Crosshatch to combine strong, interlocking shapes to incorporate a new bedroom, bathroom, and central living lounge. The house’s original Californian bungalow facade was retained, so the modern extension is not visible from the street, and only reveals itself as the user walks through the old house.

Although the orientation of the site was not ideal as the extension faces south, the strategic location of the addition and high-level kitchen window draws sunlight deep into the space in winter, while the deep window reveals restricts sunlight penetration in the summer months.

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