Inner city Melbourne is known for its space-conscious, eclectic, diverse, quirky, as well as post-industrial building designs. And this renovated house in sought-after Fitzroy North is no exception.

According to architect Antony DiMase, director of DiMase Architects, “When I was first approached by our clients for this project – they were living overseas working in international aid. Over the years I have received a number of ‘too good to be true’ enquiries from overseas clients – all wanting us to log in to something to find out about an amazing opportunity.”

“This was clearly different,” says DiMase, who goes on to say that he was “excited from the moment I received the enquiry. The clients had just purchased a house in North Fitzroy on a corner location and their plans were to move back to Australia and settle into North Fitzroy. A good decision – I thought.”

“I already knew the house they had purchased and knew that it is a house with graceful style, much of it was in original style it has a beautiful garden facing two street and a generous verandah to the front on two sides.,” he says.

“The siting of the house- known as Roseleigh- was unusual in that there was no backyard as such – the rear part of the house was a carport and most of the open space is located along the side and front of the house – meaning that the public and private areas were different to most houses of the area.”

“Our approach was to maintain and refurbish the existing fabric of the house. The only demolition that we proposed was the old lean to kitchen area and we felt it was important to retain as much of the house as we possibly could. The new addition provided at ground level a new kitchen, laundry and bathroom facilities. While upstairs the house has a new master bedroom and ensuite,” he says.

“To the rear of the property we maintained the car space, storage and services. The original building was not altered in any substantial way other than painting, new storage units, lighting and other careful interventions to simply bring the spaces back to life in a way that is true to the original building.”

“A new opening connects old and new and there is a seamless transition between the living, dining and kitchen areas that while they are separate spaces they are also connected to each other,” says DiMase.

“The new building is a carefully crafted building that performs a number of tasks in this constrained location. The form and expression of the new addition seeks to sit comfortably next to the existing brick dwelling, the laneway to the rear and be prominent so as to make the most of the corner location.”

“The shape of the building is carefully considered – we chose an asymmetrical gable roof that kept the height of the new building low to the laneway side. This meant we did not impact the amount of sunlight our neighbours received during the day. It also meant the shape of the new contemporary addition building reflected the shapes and forms of the original house.”

“By stepping the new addition towards the street we were able to create openings to the street and create a new courtyard that opened up from the kitchen area. This private open space will be enriched become as the garden that the owners put in place is given time to mature,’ says DiMase.

“The choice of materials was carefully selected – we choose zinc cladding for the exterior and we purposefully used the same material for the roof and walls of the upstairs addition.”

“The natural zinc cladding allows for a crisper detailing around windows, gutters and fascias – and we felt this was an appropriate way to link the craftsmanship of the original building with the new addition.”

“We also know that over time the zinc will take on a patina as it weathers that will enrich the facade. It is also a material that is designed to last and we know that all things considered the new addition will be around for a long period of time.,” he says.

“Downstairs, we recycled the existing bricks from the original house and reused the material for both the brick paving and external walls. And internally we used tiles, polished concrete and laminate for the joinery,” says DiMase.

“Our aim was to make the spaces feel light and connected – and we made sure that the materials sat comfortably in the environment we created rather than become a feature in themselves.”

“As a practising architect,” he says, “it is never easy to find the right balance between old and new. And in this project, we were given the extra challenge of our work being in plain sight of the entire community.”

“We felt that the appropriate response was to design a building that is contemporary in its expression and respectful of the original building and to its immediate neighbours,” DiMase concludes.