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  • Renovate to accumulate

    Hi Guys

    Renovate to accumulate

    01.05.2004 - Total do-ups are the hottest thing in real estate right now. VICKI HOLDER questions three architects on trends and tips for renovating old bungalows and villas.

    The first thing people look for is light-filled spaces. A lot of old villas are dark, so look at ways to introduce natural light. Then, it’s important to create good indoor-outdoor connections.

    TIP: Adding a veranda, pergola, porch or loggia is expensive, but they encourage that indoor-outdoor flow. Covered verandas are becoming outdoor rooms. When you play with shutters or blinds you can create in-between rooms that open up or close down, adjusting to the weather and seasons.

    A lot of renovation is about turning little cellular rooms into big, open-plan spaces. Most villas and bungalows need to be opened up generally.

    Then there are fashion elements. We’re seeing a return to the lightness of Scandinavian wood finishes, but the popular dark, Asian tropical-resort look is also timeless, and I have always admired that look.

    As far as detailing goes, architects tend to be influenced by off-the-shelf companies like Poliform, Poggenpohl and Bo Concepts, which create kitset-type cabinetry. The trend is towards blocks of furniture. It’s the Henry Moore approach, where cabinetry looks sculptured, as if it is carved out of blocks of timber or stone. I perceive this as a trend and we [my practice] has moved in this direction.


    Renovating character homes is all about correcting the front of the house to keep it looking like it was supposed to look, or should have looked, and relaxing the back, bringing it up to date with open-plan living and dining. You take the back end of the house and take a whole new, modern approach.

    TIP: Use timber joinery to ensure it’s in keeping with the rest. In the formal front section, I like to keep the villa doors, architraves, ceilings and skirtings, but the back you can treat in a more modern way.

    In a lot of old villas, the rooms are already small and people try to squeeze in en suites.

    TIP: There are tricks to make them seem roomier. Create more space by keeping toilets and vanities off the floor, hanging them off the wall. You must do everything to make them visually bigger. Simple, frameless glass showers are another idea.

    There’s a trend away from minimalism at the moment. It has been done to death. It will be interesting to see if architects go towards more detail and decadence. Chandeliers are popular now and single pendants have made a comeback.

    A more blonded timber look is becoming popular and there’s a swing back to carpet, although timber is practical for children and dogs. Colour generally is lightening up again, with greys and earthy colours as opposed to the deeper browns.


    Inevitably, we open up the whole back of the house, putting in bifolds and sliders opening to decks and the garden. The back adopts a more contemporary feel, because of the style of the joinery, so the room needs to be more sleek. We call it the grand room, because it’s at least 4m to 5m wide and about 10m long. It always contains the kitchen, dining and living, all in one big space.

    It’s common for us to incorporate a working scullery with a dishwasher and sinks hidden behind the social part of the kitchen.

    TIP: Try to put kitchens, bathrooms and laundries in the colder side of the house. People tend to want to put their kitchen in the best part of the house, but I resist this because the best part should be for dining and sitting in.

    TIP: Kitchens should be a cul-de-sac not a race track. The back door should not come off the kitchen.

    A major renovation gives the chance to adopt new technology. Typically, villas and bungalows are poorly insulated and primitive. The new part will meet new standards with better thermal and acoustic capabilities, giving durability and privacy. New bathrooms and kitchens should have underfloor heating.

    We’re always thinking of axes in our houses. Things don’t just happen.

    TIP: Wherever you can, introduce symmetry through the house and garden, aligning existing trees to the back of the house.

    TIP: Be aware that you’re not allowed halogens in old timber ceilings anymore. While you can do anything in the new addition with gib ceilings, in the older part of the house, to prevent fires, you must use pendants and standard and table lights.
    The look is for a plantation style with dark floors, white walls, strong contrasts and shutters.

    The Res 1 zone encourages dinky fretwork but not many people are going that way. I believe the Res 1 rules need to be reviewed. They started out as guidelines to give a field to work around. Now they’ve become strict rules, as the council has become a bit zealous about it.

    "There's one way to find out if a man is honest-ask him. If he says 'yes,' you know he is a crook." Groucho Marx