A well-considered intervention in Fitzroy North by Clare Cousins Architects respectfully preserves and celebrates a Victorian terrace’s 125-year history, while rearranging its spaces to suit contemporary life, maximising northern light and maintaining privacy for its family of five.

“The existing site configuration struggled to balance the opportunity for northern light with the requirement for both privacy from the street and garden access for living spaces,” recalls Clare Cousins, director, Clare Cousins Architects.

A highly considered reorganisation retains as much of the existing fabric as possible, creating a new envelope that sits behind the heritage facade, which is almost identical to the existing footprint, yet breathes new life and function into the home.

Fitzroy North Terrace

“In doing so the interface between garden, street and private realm is redefined,” says Clare.

It’s exceptionally clever design.

Rather than adding to the footprint, Clare Cousins Architects reworked the old bones, removed redundant space and simply shuffled rooms around to make them work better, today and for many years to come.

The entrance remains in the middle of the terrace’s long, side facade on its corner block. Entering the home from this point provides a welcome and instant introduction to the distinct, red brick extension, which clearly delineates old and new.

Fitzroy North Terrace

Inside, the location of the kitchen and living spaces on the ground floor have been switched so that the former sits more in the heart of the home, just off the entry, and the latter is more closely connected to, and looks out onto a micrograden on the street side and re-energised garden at the rear. So instead of entering the old long narrow hall, you enter, and see via translucent glass the heart of every home; the kitchen.

With the new fabric sitting behind, and distinct from the existing facade, the latter now acts as a filter between the street and the interior.

“Large apertures in the new building envelope enable dual aspect openings, delivering light and ventilation deep into the heritage plan, without compromising on privacy,” comments Clare.

One of these openings looks out onto the liminal space created from the separation of the existing facade and new envelope, which is now a microgarden viewed from the living room.

Looking out from the living room, the site is bookended by a rear utility room, also accessed from the street via a sliding metal door, which works as a multipurpose bike storage, home brewing beer space and a pop-up art room. A rooftop vegetable garden above that space includes a secluded seating area and pizza oven, given privacy via a brick screen, making for a relaxing escape.

Upstairs, four bedrooms remain, switching the main bedroom from the front to the rear to give the parents an ensuite and garden aspect, and creating two smaller children’s bedrooms at the front. The main bedroom now sits off the lower split level of the first storey, offering privacy and seclusion. And a new study nook and galley laundry make efficient use of excess space on the upper landing.

The natural material palette is sympathetic to, yet distinct from the heritage facade. Reclaimed bricks, mortared with red oxide, speak to the neighbouring surrounds, and create a new rear facade that reads more as a complete surface than as individual bricks.

Extensive use of bullnose bricks softens the new facade, Clare recalls. “Bullnose details soften the junction where old meets new, and add edges to windows. Then upstairs, brick fins offer depth to blinker views from the main bedroom to the street.”

The natural palette continues inside with timber-lined floor and walls delivering warm and inviting spaces.

Ash Grey brick tiles are a robust, tactile floor solution, both inside and out, pairing well with the natural palette of timber and reclaimed red bricks. Being low maintenance, they’re ideal for the busy family, delivering a seamless solution on the newly reconfigured downstairs spaces and the outdoor terrace adjacent to the utility shed. Their neutrality provides a subtle background against which the family’s favourite shade of blue pops in the kitchen counters and lounge setting.

“The Ash Grey brick tiles are a practical and robust choice for a busy young family and will look great for years to come.”

Clare Cousins Architects is to be congratulated for successfully transforming a heritage building into a fully functioning home. Fitzroy North Terrace celebrates its heritage and preserves its beauty, while providing more efficiently designed, light-filled spaces that will more than serve this family for many years to come.

Fitzroy North Terrace was shortlisted in the 2023 Victoria Architecture Awards for Residential Architecture – Houses (Alterations and Additions) and received a Commendation in the Houses Awards for both the Alteration and Additions over 200m² and Heritage categories.

Project details

Project: Fitzroy North Terrace

Architect: Clare Cousins Architects

Builder: Frank (Victoria) Pty Ltd

Tiler: Creative Ceramics

Landscape: Eckersley Garden Architecture

Product: Ash Grey Brick Tiles

Images: Tess Kelly