Heritage terrace living room

Space and light

Innovative modern design and construction breathes new life into this heritage terrace.


Philip O'Brien

St Vincent Place, Albert Park, is a heritage precinct in inner-city Melbourne. Established in the 1850s, it comprises single and double-storey terraces as well as detached properties overlooking a large landscaped square, in a style based on similar streetscapes in London.

HIA member Jeffrey Beaton, of Beaton Projects in Victoria, was given the daunting task of modernising one of these nineteenth-century terraces. And, in doing so, he faced more than mere heritage constraints. In addition to internal renovations, the clients requested a swimming pool, a home theatre, sauna and wine cellar as well as a separate studio and garage. All this on a narrow property of just 186 square metres in size.

What eventuated was more than 500 square metres of building spread over two levels and a basement, plus a rear self-contained studio facing the back lane. It’s a perfect blend of old and new, filled with transparency and light, which breathes new life into a heritage residence.

‘The clients were a family who had lived all over the world but now wanted to make Melbourne their home,’ Jeffrey says. ‘They sought a house with modern interiors, plenty of space and light, with room for visiting family members to stay.’

The property is in the middle of a group of three brick and stucco terraces built in 1871-72, a time when the wealth from the Victorian gold rushes prompted demand for increasingly ornate architecture. Classical revival in style, the terrace was constructed with elaborate stucco mouldings, circular balustrade parapets and a wrought-iron verandah supported by thin classical columns.

‘A major challenge was to modernise the terrace in a way which was sympathetic to this heritage,’ Jeffrey says. ‘All facade elements were required to be repaired or restored in accordance with the colours, materials and finishes approved by Heritage Victoria.’

The clients chose Nicholas Murray Architects and then approached Beaton Projects as the selected builder during the design phase. All three parties kept in regular contact during design and construction.

While the existing verandah was replaced, the balustrade and handrail – leading from the entry level to the first floor – was stripped, repaired and French polished. The existing heritage archways and ceilings – including decorative roses – were cleaned, restored and repainted.

The front two rooms downstairs were redesigned as formal spaces; one a study/sitting room, and the other, an adjoining dining room with a new fireplace to match the restored one in the front room. Behind these are the kitchen, pantry and family room separated by a light-filled internal courtyard, with a six-metre high grow wall and water feature.

Elevated rooftop swimming pool

‘The placement of the pool

on the first floor was an

innovative design solution’

‘Being narrow with two heritage buildings on either side, this property is typical of many nineteenth-century terraces where lack of light is a real issue,’ Jeffrey says. ‘The courtyard gives light to all the rooms downstairs.’

Upstairs are the three remodelled bedrooms, with the master suite looking out onto a full-length verandah. The rear bedroom faces a deck, outdoor living area and an above-ground, solar-heated swimming pool.

‘The placement of the pool on the first floor was an innovative design solution,’ Jeffrey says. ‘It increased the light in the downstairs rooms. This was achieved by installing two glazed panels in the bottom of the pool, thus creating a natural light source which allows the northern sun to penetrate deep to the lower levels of the building.’

Indeed, the 60-tonne swimming pool presented considerable challenges for construction. ‘To bear the weight it was supported by an expressed steel cradle at each end,’ he says. ‘But any elevated pool has the potential for leakage. So we made sure that, in consultation with the engineers and architects, we addressed that issue prior to commencement.’

If construction of a first-floor pool was one challenge, excavation to create a below-ground basement presented an even greater one: ‘This meant excavating down between two adjoining properties that had nine-metre walls,’ Jeffrey explains. ‘A piling rig had to be installed with all the logistics of getting the soil and excavation machinery in and out by the lane at the rear.’

The result was an additional living space for the family, featuring a cinema and music room as well as a wine cellar, sauna, a full bathroom and serviceable laundry area. In addition, a 50,000-litre concrete underground rainwater tank was installed to supply water for the toilets, laundry and landscaping.

At the rear of the property, in between a second outdoor courtyard and the back lane, is the garage. And above this is a studio with an ensuite, offering accommodation for extended family and guests.

The project was a perfect fit for the skill set that Jeffrey has to offer; he has extensive experience in complex builds involving heavy excavation and heritage restoration. Trained as a carpenter and builder, he became managing director of Beaton Projects in 1996 and worked in Sydney for 22 years before returning to Melbourne in 2011. Beaton Projects is registered in both NSW and Victoria and still undertakes select projects in Sydney.

Beaton Projects has been a member of HIA for nearly 20 years and makes regular use of membership amenities such as contract and legal services as well as the opportunity to network with other members of the industry.

‘They sought a house with modern interiors, plenty of space and light, with room for visiting family members to stay’

The St Vincent Place terrace won two HIA–CSR Victorian Housing Awards in 2017: Renovation/Addition over $1.5 million and Renovation/Addition Project of the Year.

‘We’ve never really chased awards but other people convinced us to enter,’ Jeffrey says. ‘To our surprise, we were successful straight away.’

In particular, given the site constraints and logistical restrictions, the judges praised the quality of the finishes and the attention to detail in the construction.

‘When the owners moved back in they were thrilled,’ Jeffrey says. ‘Their desire for a light and spacious house has resulted in a wonderful blend of old and new – the grandeur of the nineteenth-century building fabric combined with the convenience of the contemporary additions.’

Heritage terrace

Design details

Builder: Beaton Projects
Designer: Nicholas Murray Architects
Project: St Vincent Place Terrace


  • Front walls: Ardex polished cement render
  • Front door, timber posts, window frames and front fence: Dulux ‘Spanish Eyes’
  • Cast iron elements: Dulux ‘Regency White’
  • Verandah decking: Jarrah tongue and groove timber boards
  • Internal walls, skirting, architraves, cornices/roses, bulkheads and doors: Dulux ‘Whisper White’
  • Flooring: Mafi engineered timber boards, brushed oiled natural
  • Kitchen and laundry supplied by Michael’s Appliances

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