A new addition to a home in Victoria has revitalised the cottage ensuring its history and classic appeal wasn’t lost.

Designed by MRTN Architects, the extension appears as a shadow-like dwelling cast from the existing structure.


From the architect:

Our clients came to us with a desire to create a renewed connection with the Daylesford property they have owned for over twenty years. They didn't have a grand vision but rather a sympathetic and caretaking approach to the land and a wish to create a permanent home. We were given the option to demolish the existing structure and design an entirely new house. We established the optimal siting for a home was in the existing location, so [we] proposed instead to retain the original Victorian cottage, and only demolish a series of increasingly shoddy lean too additions and reinstate the original front verandah to retain a connection with the history of the site.

Located beside Daylesford Lake, in the foothills of the dividing range; the higher elevation means for a cooler and wetter weather than that found in Melbourne. Shadow Cottage responds to the landscape and climate context in which it is sited. Living areas are orientated to north and to the west as the house drops away to capture views of the towering eucalypts in the nature reserve. To the east is the original Victorian workers cottage upgraded to meet the bushfire standards. The addition doesn't touch the ground lightly but rather hugs close to the ground and focuses attention to the backdrop of trees appearing as a contemporary mountain cabin when viewed through the bush below, in contrast to the prim Victorian viewed from the street.


Conceptually the new addition was designed as a long shadow of the original Victorian cottage, the early morning shadow of the cottage cast into three-dimensional form, a shadow projecting from the cottage and casting down into the nature reserve. The consideration of shadow in the design also led to the oversized eave to the west responding to the suns path and a desire to recede from the sun as it moves into the afternoon sky.

The stained timber cladding clearly defines the new house from the existing, creating the built shadow cast from the outline of the historic weatherboard dwelling. North facing glazing allows low winter light to penetrate deep into the plan and provide passive heating during the cooler months.


The interior is lined with salvaged timber boards and FSC plywood panels imparting a warm glow to the living spaces, which is enhanced at night by concealed lighting that illuminates the folded timber ceiling, a continuation of the black exterior eaves. The dramatic roof overhang provides shading to the windows and leads the eye down to the gully and the trees beyond.


ESD was embedded in the project from its inception and developed collaboratively with the clients. A compact footprint retains the existing frontage and utilises low embodied energy and salvaged materials. Living spaces are orientated to north with generous eaves optimising seasonal solar access. Bathrooms are finished in tiles and pavers that were destined for landfill. Passive comfort is further enhanced through high level insulation, internalised thermal mass, grey water re-use and cross ventilation through thermally broken windows.

Questions and Answers:

What are the key products used?

The addition is clad in stained Silvertop Ash cladding [– an] Australian timber species that is naturally bushfire resistant and meets the BAL 29 construction standard required. The concrete slab floor contains 25 [per cent] fly ash which is a by-product created in the making of cement.


Who are the clients and what's interesting about them?

The clients have owned the property for over twenty years and weekend here regularly making the most of the large garden that surrounds the house. They decided to spend more time in Daylesford and wanted to refresh their experience.

Why is the house called the 'Shadow Cottage’?

The addition was imagined as the cast shadow of the original cottage. In doing so the aim was to respect and not dominate the original heritage workers cottage. We also were attracted to the fact that the addition is much the same location and size as the lean-to structures that were removed. 

The idea of the shadow is also interesting to us in the role it plays as the foil to opening up to the sun. The clearly defined overhangs of the project are designed to allow low winter sun to penetrate deep into the floor plan but in summer they cast a dark shadow across the facade.

What influenced the direction of the design?

A recent trip to Tokyo prior to starting the project was very influential on the design process, especially as the clients have a son who lives in Japan and is an adherent to Japanese culture. A visit to Kengo Kuma's Nezu Museum provided informative in the design. Particularly the deep overhangs and the connection they create to garden spaces.

What were some key challenges?

Interestingly for a country site we were faced with the greatest number of planning overlays that we have had to address for a project: heritage overlay, wildfire overlay, neighbourhood character overlay and environmental significance overlays. Given the site's location adjacent to the Daylesford Lake, a nature reserve, a sensitive heritage and bushfire prone area our design needed to respond to multiple external influences.


What are the sustainability features?

ESD is embedded within the project rather than a bolted-on afterthought. MRTN goes beyond the energy rating, post-occupancy monitoring confirming the dwelling is out performing the simulation. Designed to complement its landscape, its compact footprint feels spacious and contemporary whilst retaining the existing frontage. Every tile is a testament to the client’s commitment to salvaged materials and low embodied energy. North orientated living spaces with generous eaves, optimise seasonal solar access. Passive comfort is further enhanced through high level insulation, internalised thermal mass, grey water re-use and cross ventilation. 

• Minimising footprint & retaining front of existing 
• Permeable landscaping & greywater diversion 
• Re-using water for flushing & washing machine 
• FSC-certified plywood 
• North orientated living & optimised eaves 
• Internalised thermal mass 
• High insulation value 
• Heat pump hot water 
• FSC plywood 
• Tiles diverted from landfill 
• Salvaged bricks 
• High efficiency wood burner 
• Cross ventilation 
• Thermally broken windows 
• Roof angled for future PV