Breathing New Life into a Midcentury Home

In the charming coastal neighborhood of Sandringham, Victoria, a simple midcentury house has undergone a remarkable transformation, giving it a fresh lease on life. 

It was a stroke of luck that this sturdy red brick home ended up in the hands of a modern architect who appreciated its unassuming features.

The architect, Sheri Haby, approached the project with a clear goal in mind: to create a comfortable, energy-efficient family home with a strong connection to the garden. 

The original mid-century fireplace in the front lounge was retained, providing a quiet spot for work or music. In the rear, the outdated 1980s kitchen was removed and replaced with a new gabled structure made of brick and glass, housing a spacious kitchen, a cozy lounge area, and a sunny dining space.

One of the standout features of this project is its commitment to sustainability. Despite only expanding the house by a small 18 square meters, it meets the needs of a modern family, offering multiple bedrooms, bathrooms, and living spaces. 

The addition of new double-glazed windows, improved insulation, considerations for thermal mass, and well-planned ventilation all contribute to a home that uses significantly less energy than an average house.

The challenges faced during the renovation were substantial. The original house suffered from drafts and poor insulation, so considerable work was needed to seal it properly. 

This involved removing internal plasterboard to add insulation to the external walls, installing new ceiling insulation, and replacing all windows with double-glazed ones.

The new design respects the unpretentious character of the post-war house by using natural materials. Birch plywood cabinets with a hardwax oil finish bring warmth, while predominantly white surfaces make the home feel more spacious. 

The polished concrete floor acts as valuable thermal mass, absorbing warmth from sunlight and releasing it at night. A well-designed timber pergola shields the house from the summer sun while welcoming the winter light. The need for mechanical heating and cooling is minimal, highlighting the home’s sustainable features.

In a world where historical charm and modern sustainability often seem at odds, this renovation in Sandringham is a shining example of how the two can coexist harmoniously, reviving an old house for a new era.

Photos by Lisbeth Grosmann