Blue Sky House: National Capital Development Commission designed home transformed

BLUE SKY HOUSE: Innovative design brings light and openness to a once cramped cottage built more than half a century ago. Photos: Ben King Photography.
BLUE SKY HOUSE: Innovative design brings light and openness to a once cramped cottage built more than half a century ago. Photos: Ben King Photography.

Sitting within a leafy suburban cul-de-sac of Ainslie, an inner north suburb of Canberra, this original 1960s cottage occupies a 959 square-metre block.

The house has good orientation to the north and a garden you would find in a storybook.

The house was a design completed by the National Capital Development Commission and had been virtually unchanged with the exception of a bathroom and laundry update.

It had been well looked after but was in need of a makeover and extension to suit a 21st century lifestyle.

The client brief was to enlarge the living space to suit a family of four and create a larger master suite, making sure all spaces were well lit and connected to the front and rear gardens.

Architect Rob Henry had a firm budget and the owners wanted to ensure the exterior of the existing cottage remained relatively untouched.

"We had to push any additional living space into the rear yard so as not to interfere with the regulated trees and front garden. This meant removing the existing carport, so a new parking space and storage had to be included in our plans," Rob said.

The main entrance needed to be closer to the driveway on the eastern side. Where the original living spaces were became a larger dining area and a kitchen zone double the size of the original.

Keeping the kitchen in the same space, made it easier to deal with existing plumbing points. To ensure it remained functional, walls and joinery were strategically designed to act as placeholders for the pantry and fridge and allowed for circulation to wrap the perimeter of the space and move through it. The addition of a skylight let much-needed light into the centre of the space.

An extension to the rear allowed for a new living space and deck off the back yard, as well as a new master bedroom suite.

"We didn't just want to tack something on the back of the existing home and it was also important to ensure there was proper separation between the old and the new."

A circulation area between the kitchen and the living and bedroom space allowed for seating at the kitchen bench and an easily accessible and much-needed linen cupboard.

Overall, the addition added an extra 64m2 of space bringing the total living area of the house to 167m2, which is still compact, but fits the needs of the family.

"We took inspiration from the existing hipped truss roof and flipped it on its head. This allowed us to create a striking modern form that sat in juxtaposition to the original cottage, but still completed the existing lines," Rob said.

It also created a space to place highlight windows, directly facing north to get much-needed light into the space from over the top of the cottage.

Adding in additional trapezoid highlight windows to each side, created the illusion of the roof hovering behind the cottage.

A single piece of fixed glazing was installed above the bedroom joinery, allowing light to filter into the space over the top of the ensuite.

The exterior cladding matches the existing, by use of lightweight v-groove panelling and corrugated metal.

The clients took the blue tone that was on the existing trim of the cottage and not only painted the exterior of the addition in this tone but brought it into the house in the kitchen joinery and tiles.

New insulation was added into the existing cottage and all windows were upgraded to double glazed aluminium.

Further sealing ensured the home's energy efficiency met modern standards.

Through careful planning, design and attention to detail, strongly underpinned by an understanding of site and the existing house, the architect has ensured the lifespan of this family home for another 50 years.

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