When Australian architects Paul Owen, Stuart Vokes, and Aaron Peters were hired to update a timber mountain house on the Sunshine Coast, outside of Brisbane, they went small and modern—a complement to the region’s Queensland vernacular style. They installed a new triangular kitchen extension, measuring only 376 square feet, to clarify the entry to the house and create space for informal gatherings.
Historically, Australians often built their kitchens away from the main house, mostly as a way to minimize fire damage, a common hazard for wood-framed structures in this hot, dry climate. The separate kitchen was outdated by the 1940s, but Owen and Vokes and Peters saw a certain elegance in such an arrangement, since it allowed for a veranda between the main house and the kitchen. “Neither inside nor outside, not quite a corridor and not quite a room,” Owen and Vokes and Peters partner Aaron Peters says of verandas. “They’re delightfully ambiguous spaces that seem to be absent in many contemporary homes.”
The extension is clad in panel boards made of fiber cement—a durable, cost-efficient material from Australian manufacturer James Hardie. The cladding is coated with heat-reflective Resene CoolColour paint in Blackjack to reduce heat stress on the new structure. The architects chose black to help the addition recede when seen through the surrounding foliage. By contrast, says Peters, “the original house is painted white to underscore its primacy in the composition. We wanted the new works not to dominate the original house.”
The owners, a semiretired couple who intend to make the house their full-time residence, see the kitchen addition as a crucial social element where their extended family can convene to read the newspaper or sidle up for a chat while someone is preparing dinner. Enhancing the intimacy and warmth of the kitchen is an adjacent stair-stepped lounge area that looks out onto the surrounding landscape. The architects created select apertures to the outside world with the careful placement of eaves, taking the focus off the broad, sweeping vistas and shifting the view onto certain moments in the garden and the odd glimpse of foliage. American oak–veneer cabinetry, Carrara marble bench tops, and a custom surround for an EcoSmart fireplace contribute to the cozy interior.
Shields, who recently completed a PhD at the University of Queensland, was a journalist in Mongolia for a time.
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