Deep ideas but not deep pockets

Triumph of design and budget proves all you need is a little patience.

In this year’s Building Designers Association of Victoria competition, Ingrid Hornung won an award in one of the toughest categories: an alteration or addition that cost less than $200,000.

She achieved it not by doing flash for little cash, or by shrinking scale or scrimping on finishes, but by working every angle of the budget as hard and as practically as she could.

She also did it by giving a lot of time and thought to adding a rear extension of a kitchen, living and main bedroom suite to an underwhelming 1940s semi-detached brick maisonette in the old housing commission streets of Heidelberg Heights.

This was the house that health counsellor Suzanne Hurley and her partner, dance teacher Shaun McLeod, didn’t set out to find but, in 2001, it was the one they could afford. For $150,000 and at the beginning of a steep upsurge in real estate prices, Ms Hurley says, ”it was incredible that we could even get into the market”.

Having been warned by property experts not to overcapitalise on the long house on the deep block, they knocked out a wall to make the cramped three-bedder into two bedrooms with an open study, added a front deck and for years learnt to live in a house ”with a bizarre arrangement of rooms” that got direct sunlight for only a few hours in the afternoon.

When the financial opportunity arose to do a renovation to better accommodate their two growing girls, they approached Hornung with ideas that included a two-storey rear addition.

”As we got into the nitty-gritty of the budget,” says the one-time meteorologist, who became a mature-age architectural student, ”it became obvious that budgetary limitations were going to form part of the brief.”

Oddly, this was not a problem for Hornung, whose approach is to devote more time to thrashing out the wish-list, ”which usually includes a shopping list of rooms”. She finds that working hard at the brief is often a money saver in the end.

Energy efficiency is a given in her work ”and energy-efficient houses are smaller. Being efficient with space is also being efficient with money”. This does not mean, however, making mean houses. ”Design is most exciting when you get to do something efficient, practical, functional and beautiful.”

Her emphasis is not stylish sensation. Rather it is ”creating people spaces”.

Without touching the original house, because ”minimising the spend on fixing up the original house is another money saver”, the designer created the 65-square-metre extension as two interconnecting rectangular pods with skillion roof-lines that are oriented to the northern exposure along the side boundary.

”I love skillion roofs because it gives movement and stops rooms from feeling like boxes,” she says. The high side of the sloping roofs is 3.6 metres.

Above the dining table and especially in the otherwise small main-bedroom en suite, the sense of height becomes ”exciting”.

Another money-conscious choice is embodied in the external materials. Colorbond cladding is laid horizontally but only above the verandah line. Underneath is a skin of chunky, vertically battened and unadorned radially sawn hardwood, which gives a warm, contrasting finish.

These materials are what they are. ”And I’m a big fan of that,” Hornung says. ”The Colorbond will never need painting.”

The combination is almost Australian rural and Ms Hurley says they sometimes sit on their deck ”feeling just like we live in a country residence but without the views”.

While they lost some of their backyard on the build, Hornung gave them back three outdoor sitting areas: a return deck with a three-metre by four-metre north-side inset (which has become a viable outdoor room); a back deck beyond the bi-fold doors; and an inner courtyard that maintains light to the original bedrooms and bathroom.

When the couple moved into their new digs, they spent a year living with bare plaster walls while trying to decide on paint colours. In the kitchen/living room, these became a rich chocolate-and-orange combination.

The designer appreciated the patience of clients who would do such a thing and who, throughout the whole process, ”didn’t have to nail it all down straight away”.

That’s her style, too – to take the time to get it all right. ”The most successful designs are always the ones where we can take the time to do things organically,” she says.

Deep consideration, rather than deep pockets, is what puts the feel above the look of this house. ”The feel is more what I’m going for,” Hornung says. ”It’s not rocket science. Building design is supposed to be about creating human places … places for people to live in.”

Written By Jenny Brown for – Original Article Here