A 1950s House Transformed (But Not Extended) With A New Kitchen + Floor Plan
Moving from the lounge room to the backyard of this Thornbury, Melbourne home previously required passing through five doors. Now, it’s just one.
This transformation is owed to architect Gab Olah, who recently reconfigured the home for better function and flow — without extending its footprint.
The original 1950s brick veneer home was structurally sound, but didn’t capitalise on its full potential. Gab explains, ‘The original living room had fantastic windows allowing views straight through the building, but the old pergola drooped low to block out views of the sky (including what would otherwise have been fantastic northern light) and the garden.
‘The kitchen was tucked away with no connection to the backyard or living areas, and the original bathroom was suffering from mould and moisture issues that had begun to affect the integrity of the subfloor.’
Gab significantly altered the home’s layout and structure to overcome these issues. This involved removing an existing lean-to, opening up the living areas of the house to the backyard, relocating the laundry, and centralising the kitchen.
‘This was primarily achieved through the removal of walls, with the wet areas largely kept in place to minimise extensive re-plumbing,’ says Gab. ‘A generous kitchen is placed centrally. It has the best views — out to the garden via a new glazed sliding door, to the living room, and to the front door.’
The material palette was driven by the client’s strict budget and desire for an unfussy home. Gab explains, ‘I’d known the client for years and understood they wanted a functional home that could be lived in — where they could entertain and have kids parties – rather than a precious space. They’re okay with a bit of chaos, and the house needed to be okay with it too.’
Gab selected radiata plywood as the main material for its familiar and warm qualities, with a strong expressive grain. ‘It is also far cheaper than other varieties of plywood,’ he adds. ‘Plywood wraps the most hardworking parts of the house — the spaces where domestic labour happens — and frees up the rest of the floor plan to create the openness the client was yearning for.’
Additional materials are restrained, functional and economical. ‘We balanced a few flourishes, such as custom stainless steel bench tops and shelves, with some economical choices such as sticky back vinyl flooring from Bunnings, tapware from IKEA, and some low key classics like white Johnson tiles, Darkon lights, and a Hay rice paper pendant,’ says Gab.
Having removed the former lean-to, the renovated house now has a smaller footprint, but an openness and generosity that feels larger. As they say, bigger isn’t always better!