Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Renovating on a Small Lot

Designing alts + adds on small lots takes a lot of skill; the importance of design is even more critical. If they're not thoughtfully planned, the result is often larger, darker houses that fill the entire site leaving little outdoor space with no aspect. Loss of amenity is the trade-off for greater internal floorspace and ultimately creates ongoing maintenance and energy costs for it's owners.

Our architects were particularly careful about maintaining the building's traditional character, ensuring that the addition would not overpower the existing structure. They've spent considerable time on modelling mass to ensure that the cottage isn't going to appear to be swallowed up by a "tsunami" of a rear extension. Here are some examples of what I mean:

In contrast, here are some other examples of renovations where the additions have not compromised the original buildings. From the road, there appears to be little change - they have not been raised or visibly altered and retain their relationship with the street. The original houses have remained largely untouched, and it's not until you enter through their front doors, that you realise just what lies beyond.

Chelmer House, Owen and Vokes

Raven St House, James Russell Architects

Skinner St House, Bloc Design

I rather like the element of surprise. Don't you?

Because our addition has been carefully planned, we end up with a decent amount of indoor and outdoor space with no loss of amenity to ourselves or our neighbours. The traditional elements of our timber and tin cottage will be retained but the house will be re-designed to become more liveable.


  1. Sounds like you are getting massive benefits using an architect- will your extension be visible from the street? I am curious to know how they will hide it if it is two stories at the back vs one at the front. Do you have a downsloping block towards the rear or are you having a step down into the addition? Very much enjoying all your posts of late. melx

  2. Hi Mel, The original cottage is high-set (but not two-storey). We are not building in underneath - I didn't want to raise the house as it would wreck the scale. However there is enough room in the undercroft for garaging - we chose not to put a garage/carport at the front of the house, as it would overpower the house (the site is only 10m wide.) You will step down into the rear addition, and the master bedroom is located right at the back of the site. I will post some elevations soon, so you'll get a better idea of what's going on.