Easy entertaining

Clever design and workmanship turned this period residence into a bright and airy modern home, with integrated recycled materials offering a tribute to its past.

Photos: Adam Gibson


Ian Bushnell

The owners of a 100-year-old semi-detached brick house in a heritage precinct of West Hobart wanted an extension that would let the light in, retain the warmth of winter sunshine and be connected to the back garden for entertaining.

Builder Ben Langford, of Langford Projects, says the eastern end of the house was very dark and gloomy, with a kitchen, bathroom and laundry receiving only a little light through a set of French doors.

‘They’re a young couple and like to entertain but the house was definitely not designed for that sort of lifestyle,’ he says.
Health professionals and shift workers, they also wanted to come home to a bright, welcoming environment.

Feature panelled wall
The AirSmart airconditioning system also acts as an extraction fan in the bathrooms

Preston Lane Architects, with whom HIA member Ben has been working with for a couple of years, came up with a clever design that took advantage of the northerly aspect, created a welcoming space and drenched it with natural light, utilising skylights and large windows.

In the old part of the house a new master bedroom was created, with a new ensuite, bathroom, and concealed laundry, while the end room was opened up to become a skylighted living area that stepped down about half a metre to an extension.

This extension provided a new kitchen and dining area, with its brick and polished concrete slab base ensuring plenty of thermal mass for winter warming. It also opens out onto a back ground deck and the garden.

Ben says anything that could be salvaged from the demolition of the rear, eastern facade was recycled, including 2500 convict-made red clay bricks hand cleaned by the owners, which went into the extension base and back stairs, and Tasmanian oak floorboards where possible.

The house was cut off at the line of the old French doors and the extension now steps down onto a suspended slab, built off a steel frame sitting on the brickwork. A steel and timber frame for the external walls, and a steeply angled roof, is key to the play with light and volume which creates the impression of more space than there is.

‘You come into the old section and step down those three or four steps into the new area. The floor level goes down and the ceiling level is raised, so it feels like you’re walking into this really grand area,’ Ben says.

‘It gives an amazing feel. Everyone walks in there and says, “Wow, this is magic”.’

The vaulted ceiling allows for a ‘snorkel’ – at the top of which is a skylight letting natural light pour in

Ben says the vaulted ceiling allows for a ‘snorkel’ – at the top of which is a skylight letting sunlight pour in and bounce off the walls to create a larger feel about the house.

A large window on the northern side, double-glazed for warmth and quiet, also contributes to this, while an operable louvre system regulates the sun and shade, and provides privacy from the nearby neighbours.

A large custom-made glass pin door allows for even more light and air flow, and connects the house to the garden, which can be clearly seen from the living room. Aluminium plate awnings overhang the extension, configured to the summer and winter sun angles for Hobart.

Ben says the clients wanted to have the feel of the garden being in their dining room. ‘You open that door up and it’s one big entertainment area, flowing outside down onto the deck into the garden.’

The design is a simple construction solution, according to the architects, but intricate enough, says Ben.

‘It wasn’t your standard truss or rafter roof, there was a lot of structured steel work that had to be made up onsite, with all the angles.’

As well, the constrained access meant every piece of material and equipment had to be carried in from the street down a 2.5-metre wide laneway. With no room for a crane, the timber and steel elements for the frame and roof had to be carried in by hand, piece by piece, and bolted in place.

The clients wanted to have the feel of the garden being in their dining room
Fresh white joinery with Tasmanian oak

But the biggest challenge was putting old and new together, ensuring all the levels were correct and the junction was seamless.

‘Trying to tie a perfectly new, level, architect-designed extension on the end of 100-plus year house was probably the hardest part,’ Ben says.

‘At the end of the house we had three different rooms originally – and the walls were out of level, the floors were out of level and there were different [ceiling] heights.’

It meant pulling up floorboards, playing with the floor system, packing and planning floor joists, and putting new bearers in.

Exposed brickwork marks the junction and is a strong design feature in itself.

The external walls are vertical cladding while inside is plasterboard and a feature panelled wall. The rest is clean, white surfaces, accentuating the brightness and sense of space, with some Tasmanian oak shelving providing a little contrast.

For insulation, Knauf Earthwool batts were installed in the ceiling, walls and existing floor area, while Proctor wall and roof wrap was used to reduce the risk of condensation.

Exposed brickwork is a strong design feature in itself


The owners, with an eye to the future, also opted for an integrated automated control system for lighting, security and heating that could be run off a mobile phone.

Phillips Hue light fittings have been used throughout to enable app-based control which syncs with Google Home, smart fire detection systems, a smart door lock and AirSmart climate control.

Ben says the use of LED lighting and the energy-efficient AirSmart airconditioning system means there will be cost savings over time. The inconspicuous system uses slimline linear grills for a compact look, and allows the temperature in each room to be set individually. It also acts as an extraction fan in the bathrooms.

‘It’s a very neat system, very efficient and the clients are happy with it,’ he says.

All-in-all Ben says the five-month build proved rewarding for the crew.

‘Bringing something out of the dust and demolition to what it is at handover is quite amazing,’ he says.

For the clients, the project has achieved its purpose, bringing light and space into their home for them and their guests to enjoy.


Design details

Builder: Langford Projects
Designer: Preston Lane Architects (Rachel Englund)
Location: Hobart


  • Flooring: Tasmanian oak in clear satin finish and burnished concrete
  • Doors: custom Tasmanian oak door frames, Designer Doorware Neo Blade Pull in black powdercoat, Centor sliding door tracks, Lockwood pivot system, August Smart Lock Pro in ‘Dark Grey’
  • Walls (internal): Easycraft Easygroove wall panelling in Dulux ‘Calandre’; Dulux ‘natural white’
  • Windows: Capral glazing channel and 325 Narrowline Double Glazed System, Velux FS Fixed Skylight, Viridian narrow fluted glass
  • Lighting: Philips Hue Cher suspension light, Lucide tube spotlights
  • Insulation: Knauf Earthwool batts
  • Heating and cooling: Airsmart ducted airconditioning

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