Fairhaven - Bismark Blue

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A note from the Architect - Cloud-Dwellers

Bismark Blue is a project altering a suburban home built in 1979, constructed using quality materials and craftsmanship as an executive standard abode.  A substantial amount of expressed timber gave a dominant characteristic of warmth, detailed scale, and linear geometries.  With the existing size being sufficient, we accepted the constraint of working within the footprint.  Shortcomings ith the original design had to be addressed.  The planning arrangement did not work well and an excessive amount of area was given over to circulation.  There were blockages at moments that should be about connection, which reduced natural light and outlook, and separated people in adjacent spaces.

Our approach with existing houses is to place value on their best attributes and to strengthen those, eliminate the existing weaknesses, then add new elements that lead to a more balanced overall outcome.  Existing elements become incorporated into new moments of richer qualities and experiences.

Our brief was to renovate the ground floor of the house, which contained all the communal activities,  The kitchen, and surrounding internal walls were demolished to open up this area, letting the perimeter walls become an encompassing outer frame to contain the contrasting new work within.  An impressive original stair that was previously concealed could now be on display.  Cork floors were removed and the slab polished to create a blank canvas.  We maintained the existing openings in the external facade to avoid interfering with the cladding or introducing mismatched opening types.

Within a large open space, the kitchen, dining, and play areas are partly framed, so occupants can either identify with their own pocket of space or feel part of a larger communal space that has interconnected functions.  The first insertion is an L-shaped cabinetry element that captures the dining area to one side of the entry.  As a counterpoint to the warm timber colours, here we introduced a memorable blue called Bismark.  The colour was also utilised on a timber room-divider frame, which slides alongside to further define a tucked-away play space, then returns as an L-shape to capture the kitchen as an element placed against the existing perimeter.

Framed within these blue elements, additional materials act as small-scale insertions that sit in contrast with the perimeter walls.  The kitchen utilises light blue glazed tiles, terrazzo benchtops, and two-tone green laminate cabinetry.  A micro scale link was made back to the original timber, through the use of Tasmanian Oak on handles and display shelving in the room-divider frames.  Along with the new dark trims to the existing walls and the polished concrete floor, new and old materials are been brought into dramatic juxtaposition.

To the right of the entry, an existing living space was retained and renovated.  Large stacking sliding doors were added so the space can either be strongly connected or isolated.  The new room-divider screen adjacent was matched to the living room wall alignment, so the dining could link with it as parts of a continuous space, offering long glimpses and an expansive feeling within the same footpirnt.

Additional smaller alterations make strategic improvements to the house.  Pat of an oversized garage was reclaimed to create a kitchen service area to the house the pantry and appliances.  Custom coloured pendants were carried beyond the main renovation area, extending the new colour language through to original parts of the house.  A laundry and powder room were added in the same palette as the kitchen, and an external stair was added to connect the communal level of the house with an elevated rear yard.

Bismark Blue offers a demonstration of how high-quality design and craftsmanship can be used to successfully adapt houses of this era and typology, helping to extend their lifespan and enhance the daily life of residents.  Renovations of this type can be selective and strategic, achieving dramatic outcomes that balance old and new.  By getting out into suburbia and engaging with the context it reveals opportunities to make design excellence accessible to many parts of the housing market, enhancing the character and amenity of our cities.