December 7, 2022

Victorian workers’ cottage converted into a contemporary family home

The idea that the renovation and modernization of a an existing building is probably greener than building from scratch Slowly but surely gaining ground. It’s because more and more people realize that we have to take into account the embodied carbon emissions (also called initial carbon) in the materials that are used to build things – and more often than not it seems that the the greenest building is the one that is already built and that cities really should be reuse and Upgrade existing building stock as far as possible.

In Australia, the typology of the humble workers’ cottage is an excellent example of the intensive use of this imperative of reuse and renovation. These simple and small houses were originally built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to house working-class families, and many are now protected as heritage buildings and highly sought after by buyers.

We saw a number of impressive examples of Australian workers’ cottages converted into modern homes – some of them with light maximizing extensionsor with a particular inclination towards rebuild with recycled materials. Based in Port Melbourne Blank Canvas Architects undertook the project to revamp a Victorian-era workman’s cottage near the harbour, erecting a rear addition in conjunction with the use of various space-maximizing strategies.

In addition, the project was required by regulation to retain the original features of the facade, including the ornate ironwork of the veranda, as well as to ensure that the rear addition was not visible from street level.

Tatjana Plitt


Go inside House 184we see that one of the two original front rooms has been transformed into a home office with open shelving, coexisting harmoniously with an original fireplace.

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Further down a hallway we enter the rear of the house, which has now been converted into an open plan space comprising the living room and kitchen.

The living room includes a compact sofa, coffee table and pendant lighting. The house has been redone with passive design strategies that emphasize natural ventilation to reduce the need for air conditioning. In addition, all windows and doors are double glazed to reduce solar heat gain. Energy-efficient LED light fixtures have been installed throughout, while new skylights in the upstairs bathroom help reduce energy consumption and bring in more natural light.

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The layout and details of the rear addition have been designed to maximize usable space while forging a strong connection between interior and exterior. As Blank Canvas lead architect Cecilia Yuan explained to us:

“The renovation was for a young family, so it was very important to them to retain as much of the backyard as possible. We had to design very carefully (and find the right balance) to leave enough space inside without too much encroachment on the exterior spaces.We achieved this by completely opening up the rear living space, planning in detail to maximize the small footprint and installing large folding doors across the width of the site, which allowed for an abundance of natural light while creating that indoor/outdoor feel.

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The lovely blue themed kitchen features a carefully designed integrated fridge, freezer and pantry, which allows the kitchen to extend seamlessly into the living room, resulting in a much larger kitchen. The cabinet design also helps the kitchen visually connect with the space under the stairs, which is used as storage space.

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Passing outside, we see that a gable roof from a previous 1990s renovation has been retained and extended onto the pergola balcony.

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A patterned balustrade here references the lace-like ironwork on the front verandah, and the idea is that the pergola will one day be covered in living greenery.

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The bathroom on the ground floor now fulfills a double function. As we enter, we are greeted by a soft ray of sunshine that descends from the skylight.

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Part of the bathroom is dedicated to a European-style utility room, with the equipment hidden behind full-height pivoting sliding cabinet doors, which allow unhindered access to the washer and dryer.

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At the back, there is the shower, which offers a view magnificent enough to feel like an outdoor shower.

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Upstairs we have two bedrooms, one of which opens onto the balcony and the courtyard below.

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The bathroom on the second level uses some of the same space-saving design ideas as the lower level: a glass-walled shower, a floating vanity, and lots of natural light.

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As Yuan warns, renovating an older home may not save homeowners money due to the amount of labor often required, but it reduces material waste and results in a one-of-a-kind home that often has a fascinating history. say. To see more, visit Blank Canvas Architects.