Before and after: The transformation of a 'poorly planned' home

It's called "House to Catch the Sun" - and indeed every aspect of this renovated abode is now filled with natural light. But it wasn't always so.

When a family with two kids moved into their new home in Brunswick, the existing house was a typical, single-storey, poorly planned worker's cottage with a lean-to in the eastern corner. The north sun only reached the site over adjoining houses.

There was another challenging aspect: the orientation was topsy-turvy, with the services ironically boasting the best siting on the block.

"Our starting point for this [renovation] project was driven by responding to site conditions and the brief," says Melissa Bright, director of Make Architecture.

"The name of this project probably gives the key idea away, but it was about bringing in natural light. Our clients were desperate for better light and ventilation. Our starting point was to re-establish the main living spaces facing north."

The brief called for a new kitchen, living and dining, along with a new bathroom, en suite and bedroom. There was also work to the remaining bedrooms and a new shed.

Fitting all of that onto the long, narrow block was a challenge. "We are driven by creating living spaces with great amenity, particularly through light, natural ventilation and a relationship to the outdoors," says Bright.

The owners were environmentally and socially conscious. As the length of the block faced north, it had an ideal orientation for passive design principles. "We worked hard to ensure the impacts on the neighbour to the south were minimised by keeping the building height low but mediating the spaces with double-height pop-ups," says Bright.

The new addition pulled living areas to the rear of the site and punctuated the low building mass with prominent "sun-catchers" to bring light and spaciousness in the interior.

The architects also wanted to provide the family of four with spaces to "break away" for privacy, but still remain connected on the relatively small footprint.

To re-establish the living spaces to face north, the extension was placed along the southern boundary to maximise northern light.

A spacious, sunny central courtyard became the external point of connection for the new zones, framed by the kitchen, living and dining spaces.

A stretched linear kitchen bench and home office joined the dining space to the living room, emphasising length and size. Sliding glass doors and windows throw open the spaces to the outdoors.

The kitchen essentially becomes intimately attached to the garden, acting as a verandah. Frankie, the family's new dog, loves running in and out of the living and dining zones into the courtyard.

Vertical sun-catchers were designed as double-height, pop-up volumes: "Louvre windows act as a thermal chimney, removing hot air while providing good natural ventilation," says Bright.

A raw materials and finishes palette featuring durable elements such as concrete, concrete block, painted shiplap cladding and exposed timber structure added a textural dimension to the home.

The property has been shortlisted for several awards, including the 2017 Houses Awards and the 2017 Australian Interior Design Awards.

Its light-filled, airy and expansive leafy outlook was a transformation that defied its constrained site, making it extremely livable.

"It is really lovely to receive feedback from clients after they have moved in," says Bright. "They have sent a number of updates with photographs of the house as it undergoes changes. We believe it has changed the way they live. They have been amazed at the thermal comfort due to the passive design principles at the core of the design response of their home."

This story Before and after: The transformation of a 'poorly planned' home first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.