Renovation projects involving old houses can often be a challenging exercise when the focus is on retaining their traditional character. However, the owners of this 1950s weatherboard house broke away from tradition when they wanted an extension to their home, seeking to introduce modern elements into the traditional environment.

Architect Evelyn McNamara designed a flat roofed box, which opened out from the existing kitchen into the spacious back lawn, and gave the family a new and light filled living space. Juxtaposing old and new, the cladding of the new structure was laid on the vertical to contrast with the classical horizontal weatherboards, and the new addition was painted black in stark contrast to the white of the old house.

The original home had a small living room that opened to a deck a few steps above the lawn. The wall with the French doors was removed to create a seamless flow from the kitchen into the new living space. Two steps lead down to the new living room, while the ceiling height remains the same as the old house to enhance the sense of open space.

Interior designer Tomi Williams says the owners wanted Mid-Century Modern design, with an industrial edge. Fuel efficiency and the overall style of the home were the two key considerations when deciding on the type of fireplace. The designer created an artificial suspended hearth and dressed it with a granite slab fireplace surround that runs the length of the new living room.

An Escea DL850 gas fireplace in bold Volcanic Black mimics the square black lines of the new expansion. NZ River Rocks in the hearth reference the soft grey of the granite surround, and nod to the refined colour scheme that runs throughout the house.

Though there was a window above the fireplace – traditionally presenting a problem for flued gas heaters, open fire inserts and wood fireplaces – Williams could run the Escea DL850 flue pipes sideways to bypass the window. Delivering high output as well as high efficiency, the Escea fireplace is a clever choice as it not only heats up the new extension but also the entire open plan area as well. Along with the Smart Heat Phone App, the gas fire adds to the modernity of the house.