Victorian era – a place in the country

GIVEN ITS VENERABLE AGE and picturesque garden setting, any renovation work to this house needed to be sensitive and unobtrusive. After all, the building is part of the architectural heritage of the area — a beautiful rural pocket in central Victoria where vestiges of gold rush splendour still remain.

A magnificent existing courtyard wall, built from local stone, has become the focus for the new wing. Enclosed on three sides, the courtyard extends from the house for quite a distance before meeting with the far wall at the north-facing end of the garden.

The clients decided to make the most of this sunny, sheltered spot by having the new living areas face directly out to the courtyard. In the extension they wanted to make provision for casual living, formal dining, and a bar and billiards area to be shared and enjoyed with their teenaged children and friends. Besides opening out to the pergola-covered courtyard terrace, these living spaces also had to link to the existing kitchen and formal living room.

In his design resolution, architect Michael Rigg has taken into account the heritage flavour of the existing house — both inside and out. The interior had been carefully decorated with details and colours true to the Victorian era, and the exterior still features a number of original period details.

Michael linked the old to the new via a long strip of glazing in the ceiling. Using a vaulted structure, he repeated the lofty ceiling heights and deep cornices seen in the existing rooms to help give the new wing an air of old world solidity. The glazing visually divides the new from the old, creating a sense of there being two separate pavilions. With its walls of glass and multi-paned windows the extension recalls the grand conservatories of England’s nineteenth-century country manor houses.

There’s certainly no shortage of light in these new living spaces, and the glazed ceiling throws additional light back into the existing kitchen and vestibule. Exposed existing brick walls near the bar and dining area contribute to the indoor-outdoor atmosphere.

Michael has arranged the rooms as the clients requested, using an open fireplace to create a partial division between the formal dining area and the billiards table. A sandstone border around the perimeter of the whole area links the interior to the sandstone-paved terrace.

Michael also made clever use of some original structures. An existing outdoor toilet, all brick, has been converted into a commodious cellar accessed via a glass door at the side of the extension, An existing garage has been reroofed, partially rendered and converted into a large office complete with a bay window.

With this extension, the architect has altered the orientation of an older-style house very much for the better. The new wing has brought much comfort and amenity, without diminishing the charm of the original house. And the living spaces are now focussed on the courtyard, and the beautiful old garden sheltered within its stone walls.

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