One of Melbourne's Oldest Prefab Timber Cottages Gets a Second Chance

One of Melbourne's Oldest Prefab Timber Cottages Gets a Second Chance

By Michele Koh Morollo
A historic Melbourne property that was shipped over from England around the 1850s is carefully rescued and restored.

Melbourne architects David Nicholson and Brett Robertson of Robert Nichol & sons worked with an extremely tight site and strict heritage regulations to restore this brewer’s cottage and turn it into their own modern home. 

While researching the building’s history and preparing to submit plans to the local authorities for building permissions, the architects discovered the house’s true heritage value. 

They learned that it's actually one of the oldest remaining timber buildings in Melbourne’s Collingwood Slope District. 

Named the Crisp House after its first inhabitant Edward Crisp—an Irish brewer who founded a brewery on a street near the property—the house was in fact a prefab timber cottage that was imported from England when the early English settlers arrived in Australia in the 1850s. 

"The Collingwood Slope was one of the first subdivisions outside of Melbourne and is where all the industrialists flocked to. Since they needed accommodations quickly, these timber dwellings began appearing throughout the area, only to be replaced later with more substantial brick dwellings. Crisp House is among the oldest remaining timber dwellings in Collingwood, and this is the reason for its high heritage rating," says Nicholson.

Because the 1,938-square-foot house was in such bad condition—with almost all its heritage details stripped—the architects had to completely rebuild the cottage using the original template and material palette for guidance. 

They had the beaded weatherboards reproduced in Baltic pine, replicated versions of the original hung cord-and-weight windows, and reinstated the original timber veranda posts and wooden decorative details on the facade. 

The interior features north-facing skylights, extensive glazing, and large sliding doors that connect to the outside areas. Structural elements were left exposed to enhance the look of the natural finishes of the plywood, oak, cement, steel, and bluestone. 

A large roof terrace that’s hidden behind the angled roof form raises the main outdoor space to a level where it’s easily accessible from the living areas via an external staircase made of wood and steel. 

"Hemmed in by taller buildings on both sides, the original cottage was overwhelmed and neglected for decades—its identity compromised by inappropriate treatments. The new design provides a sensitive and recessive backdrop to the faithfully restored dwelling that originated more than 160 years ago in England," says Nicholson.

Project Credits:

- Architecture, Landscape, and Interior Design: Robert Nichol & sons

- Builder: NDB Home Improvements

- Structural Engineering: Meyer Consulting

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