A Former Vegemite Warehouse in Sydney Is Transformed Into a Colorful Family Home

This warehouse conversion by Ian Moore Architects also features an equine genetics laboratory and an enormous garage filled with classic cars.

In recent years, a number of Sydney’s beautiful warehouses have been lost to demolition—which is why architect Ian Moore was elated to win a competition to adapt an enormous warehouse in the inner-city suburb of Redfern. The brief called for a four-bedroom family home with self-contained guest accommodations, a home office to be used as an equine genetics laboratory, and a large garage for a collection of classic cars.

The building has served as everything from a Vegemite warehouse to an advertising agency over the years. The street-side windows have external operable aluminum louvers for privacy and sun-shading.

The clients—a couple with two young boys and a large dog—both work from home and spend a significant amount of time in the warehouse. She works as an equine geneticist from a laboratory on the lower level, while he spends a lot of time tending to the automobiles in the garage.

A terrace (with a lawn for the children and dog to play on) runs the full width of the living space and is accessible through large glazed doors.

Built in the early 20th century, the two-story warehouse had been used for many years as a gas meter factory, and for a short period of time as a Vegemite warehouse. It was then converted into an art gallery, an architect’s office, and a residential apartment in the 1990s, and it was used by an advertising agency before the clients purchased it.

The exterior aluminum cladding, the new steel structure, and the window and door frames are colored grey to differentiate these elements from the original structure.

"The renovations had not been particularly sympathetic to the original building," says Moore. "The original brick walls were sheeted over, a number of different floor levels were introduced, and only one wall in the entire building aligned with the existing roof trusses. Concrete columns and a large steel truss had been constructed that did not align with the original trusses and even clashed with original window openings. A number of the large roller door openings had been bricked up, and a very unsympathetic rusting steel canopy was added over the street entry."

The courtyard and pool are adjacent to the entry stair and half a level above the street, so that no excavation was required. This brings the courtyard closer to the upper level living areas, while still allowing the guest suite on the lower level to feel connected to the courtyard. 

During the renovation, the entire 1990s addition was removed to reveal the original structure, and the whole home, including outdoor space, was constructed within this shell. The residence is split over two levels, with the main living spaces and bedrooms arranged on the upper floor—essentially creating a single-story home. The separate guest accommodations and services, including the laboratory and garage, are located on the lower floor.

The equine genetics laboratory occupies the southwest corner of the lower floor. It has its own bathroom and small kitchen so that it can operate independently from the home. The three workstations—each with a Corian surface—are separated by glass screens to prevent cross-contamination of samples being tested.

The warehouse has always had two street addresses, which allows the house and the laboratory to have separate entrances and identities. The garage occupies the northern half of the lower level with rear lane access, and it’s connected to the house via a tall pivot door behind the stairway.

The garage—a clean and well-lit space with an epoxy floor—takes inspiration from Formula One pits. It can accommodate 10 cars—eight on four two-car stackers, plus spaces for the family car and a racing car.

At the top of the stair is an open living space—with large timber roof trusses—that runs the width of the building and opens out to a terrace. The more private bedroom spaces are arranged across the southern face of the building.

The master bedroom has a view back across the courtyard to the living space and the terrace beyond.

"They wanted to retain the industrial feel and large open spaces of the original warehouse, but with modifications to make it acoustically and thermally comfortable," says Moore. "They specifically did not want any luxurious finishes and asked that there be no marble, timber, or black finishes used in the renovation."

Paint was removed from the original brick walls wherever possible, leaving an irregular patina. The smooth, clean finish of the new walls contrasts with the color and texture of the bricks.

The color scheme for the interior was developed to code what is original, new, or reworked. "The original brick walls were revealed, and the new walls were painted white and carefully detailed with shadow lines where they meet the original walls and trusses," says Moore. "The clients’ favorite color is orange, and I introduced as much orange as I could in one element with the very large modular sofa." Playful use of color can also be found in the red stopcock taps and hangers in the bathroom.

A large orange modular sofa introduces color into the interior. This warm palette is echoed to great effect in a nearby sculpture, and in other furniture throughout the living space and outdoor area.

The original timber trusses are a dominant element in the living space. They had been painted white during an earlier renovation, and the design team decided to repaint them instead of stripping them back to raw timber. A new corrugated steel ceiling has been inserted between the trusses. Small perforations in the steel absorb sound into the acoustic insulation installed above.

The taps and showers are from the Pipe collection by Marcel Wanders for Boffi. "I have always liked this product but never had an opportunity to use it," says architect Ian Moore. "When my clients said they wanted to retain a feeling of the original industrial character of the building, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to use them."

The red stopcocks used for the taps and towel holders are also part of the Pipe range by Marcel Wanders for Boffi.

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The flooring—composed of gray cork sheeting tiles—was chosen as it’s an easily maintained color. "Originally, the main stair was to have been gray as well," says Moore. "But, when we discovered that the cork also came in International Safety Yellow, which was an exact match to the stair nosing that we were using, it was quickly decided to make a bigger statement."

The flooring was a major new addition. While it appears to be concrete, it is actually gray cork sheeting, laid in large tiles. The material is natural, fully recyclable, soft to walk on, cool in summer, warm in winter, and is able to withstand moisture.

The stair treads are finished with bright yellow cork tiles. "The clients were comfortable with the introduction of as much color as possible," says architect Ian Moore.

Outdoor space with real grass was a critical component of the project so that the boys and dog had somewhere to play. The two exterior spaces—a large internal courtyard and a terrace—were formed within the original shell of the building, and are essentially outdoor rooms.

The terrace also has a space for outdoor dining. The bright yellow chairs continue the warm palette of the interior furnishings and echo the treads of the stair.

The internal courtyard contains a small lap pool and is accessed off the half-landing of the main stair, allowing both the upper living areas and the guest suite on the lower floor to feel connected to the outside.

The outdoor spaces—including a courtyard with a small pool—were formed by simply removing the original roof toward the end of the construction, allowing dry working conditions for the majority of the construction period.

"The internal courtyard is critical to the design, as it allows both natural light and ventilation to the spaces that surround it, as well as providing a very pleasant view into the landscaping and the sky," says Moore. "The rear terrace forms a direct and almost seamless extension of the living space, with the large glazed doors sliding away to allow free movement between inside and out."

The clients had a very clear brief for the outdoor areas. The courtyard was to have at least one large palm tree, which would be clearly visible from the living space, and it was important that the space could be viewed from above and also below from the street entry.

The focal point of the terrace is one large potted frangipani tree. The planted edge against the brick wall works to visually soften the space.

A comfortable interior environment was paramount, as the clients had lived in the space for a year before the renovation and it was freezing in winter and boiling in summer. "We introduced significantly improved thermal insulation to the roof, high-performance glazing to all windows and sliding glass doors, and installed external adjustable aluminum sun control louvers to all north- and west-facing windows," says Moore. "There are also large banks of operable glass louvers around the internal courtyard which, in combination with the existing windows around the perimeter of the building, allow significant natural cross ventilation through the space in summer."

All the original windows were restored and reglazed with high-performance glass. The original openings were reinstated, and the large timber trusses (and the entire warehouse shell) were strengthened to meet the latest earthquake code. 

All spaces have Boffi Air ceiling fans. In the winter, heating is provided by hydronic radiators, which are fed from a solar hot water system and a heat exchanger.

"I had admired this warehouse for many years, and I loved bringing it back to life by simply highlighting everything that was great about the original building," says Moore. "I particularly enjoy working on adaptive reuse projects, and I lament the number of great buildings, such as this, that have been lost to demolition in recent years. Hopefully I will get to work on more projects like this in the future."

Lower-level floor plan of Redfern Warehouse by Ian Moore Architects

Upper-level floor plan of Redfern Warehouse by Ian Moore Architects

Site plan of Redfern Warehouse by Ian Moore Architects

Related Reading:

20 Spectacular Warehouse-to-Home Conversions

An Old Grain Warehouse Is Transformed Into an Industrial-Modern Home

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Ian Moore Architects / @ianmoorearchitects

Builder: Elliott Projects

Structural Engineer: Benvenuti SC

Landscape Design Company: Outdoor Establishments

Interior Design: Ian Moore Architects

Photographer: Rory Gardiner 


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