An artist and his wife convert an historic structure into a 1,000-square-foot getaway.
After years of searching for a retreat of their own, a family found this secluded site on the northwest edge of Australia’s Phillip Island. It was a pastoral spec of land two hours from Melbourne and bounded by wetlands. The property featured a 20th century chicory kiln: a cedar-clad concrete structure once used to dry the vegetable of the same name. The clients wanted to convert the kiln into a structure where rooms—even the main staircase—could be adjusted according to changing needs. Architect Andrew Simpson answered this request for “open-endedness,” as he calls it, while respecting historical preservation guidelines for the facade. Complicating factors, the building was not in good shape: walls were crumbling and cross-ventilation to combat the heat was scarce. Simpson resolved these issues by honoring what could be saved and prescribing new, simple features that made the building into a viable home.
Architect Andrew Simpson and the owners wanted to keep the design simple and grounded with “a sense of modest honesty.” In terms of the exterior, “as much of the existing cedar cladding as possible was retained and reused.”
The home’s custom woodwork—including the movable furniture—was made by Orana Joinery and finished with plywood. Chemisys Group supplied the timber door and window finishes, as well as the timber deck outside.
The ground floor’s adjoining staircase, as well as the kitchen cabinets and tables, can be adjusted depending the homeowner's preferences. “The design of the house is an attempt to respond to [French novelist] Georges Perec’s question, ‘We should learn to live more on staircases. But how?’” Simpson says.
Existing windows received double-glazed panes with timber inserts that satisfied preservation requirements and allowed for more cross ventilation. A Fisher & Paykel refrigerator stands in the kitchen.
Existing timber floorboards in the dining room and kitchen were preserved in the renovation. All paint finishes were completed with Dulux, and the owner provided the lighting.
When the firm first arrived on the site, the second floor of the property was so badly damaged that it was at risk of collapsing. The first floor was remade with shotcrete for reinforcement, and two walls of the first floor were “rebuilt in rendered polystyrene blockwork to reduce the weight of the building while providing a thick insulating layer,” Simpson says.
“The only clearly defined room within the house is the en-suite,” Simpson notes of the home’s sole bathroom. A Villeroy & Boch toilet and Caroma basin are both mounted to the walls.
An outdoor bathroom is tucked away, out of sight, in the garden. “The external fencing and outdoor shower were constructed using recycled materials from a collapsed shed near the site,” Simpson says.