Spence Construction - kitchen

Old house new views

This build starts with a cosy cottage and adds glass walls and sea views with a contemporary addition up top.

Photo courtesy Build Professional


Ian Bushnell

This project is all about the view. Even the kitchen, at the very back of the structure, has clear line of sight to the ocean through the open-plan upper level.

The owners of a weatherboard beach shack in Lorne, on the Great Ocean Road by Victoria’s south-west coast, wanted an elevated extension to capture the ocean vistas. But they didn’t want to lose their beloved shack in the process.

In response, a finely crafted timber and glass box was designed by Austin Maynard Architects to rise up behind the shack and hover over it, not protruding beyond its ridge line.

Executing the award-winning design was Spence Construction, a 40-year HIA member renowned for delivering high-quality commercial and residential projects throughout Melbourne and south-western Victoria.

The new 61-square metre space sits over heavy timber piers and comprises an open-plan kitchen, dining and living room, accessed via a spiral staircase. Downstairs interlocking polycarbonate sheeting was used as a lightweight cladding to create a usable space. In fact the 35-square metre lower area became so comfortable that the planned rumpus room became a bedroom, with the strategic addition of curtains and sliding doors.

For this project the owners wanted a comfortable space in character with the bushland setting and with sustainability principles in mind.

The new addition is internally lined with silvertop ash, with matching kitchen joinery and flooring. It exudes character and responds to the seasonal changes and hours of the day.

It was a 10-month build, completed with a core three-man crew and characterised by prefabrication off-site in Spence’s workshop and in-house joinery.

Spence Construction - kitchen
The kitchen features a solid Silvertop Ash island and a leathered stone-finished splashback
Photo courtesy Spence Constructions
Spence Construction - Victoria
The angled beams brace the structure and provide extra support to the cantilever projection
Photo courtesy Spence Constructions

Everything – from the steel beams, timber piers, panels, portal ceiling frames and kitchen joinery – was manufactured off-site, with the walls and roof framed and detailed onsite and the house pieced together like a Meccano set.

Shane Theodore who has since become a director at Spence Construction was the site foreman and lead carpenter on this job.

‘Incorporating our own steel work, joinery and carpentry gives us better control over the project with a greater understanding of the build,’ he says.

The first task was to clear the old laundry extension, salvaging the decking for reuse in the airlock between the new and old buildings.

‘By re-laying the weathered decking internally, it was only a matter of time for the external decking to grey, creating a consistent finish across the deck and into the linkway,’ Shane says.

The biggest challenge was fathoming how to work above the original house, and this called for scaffolding to be erected over it.

‘We couldn’t build scaffolding off the original building but instead had to straddle the building with steel beams which gave us a suspended platform to erect the scaffold,’ Shane says.

The building design led to some exceptionally tight spaces to work in, especially aligning the eave over the existing roof.

A narrow rear lane allowed for a small crane for the steel work and glass, although the majority of work involved a lot of manual handling.

‘Fabricating off-site where every piece was cut, pre-drilled, sanded and sealed undercover enabled a shorter time period for the timber to be exposed to the elements. The timber portal frames were then erected piece by piece,’ Shane says.

Spence Construction - Victoria


Spence Construction


Lorne, Victoria

‘The steel structure had all the support, it really stood up itself once you bolted it together.’

Shane explains that the striking glulam cypress beams supporting the first floor were stood vertically and bolted into steel base plates. The angled beams both braced the structure and provided extra support to the cantilever projection.

The other challenge involved the design of the ceiling’s timber-frame portal structure in the kitchen and living area. The use of the strong beams allowed for the open space, and large windows, unbroken by structural elements.

Four timber portal frames support the structure. The frames were designed and fabricated in the warehouse, then pre-sealed and taken to the site to reduce any weathering effect before the roof went over.

‘The wedge-shaped living room tapers to a point at the kitchen wall,’ Shane says.

The unobtrusive kitchen blends with the surroundings, almost disappearing into the wall, with the cupboard doors all cut out of the same timbers, so they line up with the grains.

It was designed as part of the living space, so it was important that the joinery was finished to the same high level, says architect Natalie Miles.

She says Spence Construction put a lot of thought and effort into the kitchen joinery.

‘The great thing about that project was working with Spence because they did a fantastic job,’ Natalie says.

The kitchen features a solid silvertop ash island, behind which there is a leathered stone-finished splashback and benchtop, wall oven, a small pantry in the wall and corner shelves.

Distinctive features in the living space are the steel spiral staircase, exposed timber portals and the hanging iron fireplace with a custom-made steel floorplate.

Spence Construction - Victoria
The new addition is internally lined with Silvertop Ash
Photo courtesy Spence Constructions
Spence Construction - Victoria
This project is all about the view
Photo courtesy Spence Constructions

‘But most impressive of all was that after the scaffolding came down and the rooms were furnished, the warm inviting space, which was both unique and comfortable, framed a view from the new vantage point beyond my expectations,’ Shane says.

From a sustainability point of view, the space is energy efficient and requires a minimum of heating and cooling.

It is insulated with standard batts and all the windows are double-glazed with thermally separated frames. A hood above the northern windows shields the building from summer sun while allowing full potential of the winter sun.

Spence used low-VOC finishes on the ceiling, floors and walls, and the property has a large water tank to flush toilets and water the gardens.

For Shane, the most enjoyable part of the project was an opportunity to work extensively with timber, to create a building where the structural bones of the building are still exposed at the completion of the project.

He says it’s a really relaxed space that gives you the feeling that it’s a lot larger than it really is. The owners truly love their new and improved house, and Spence has done further work for them since.

Spence Construction also continues to work on other projects with Austin Maynard Architects, who won the Residential Architecture award for the Lorne design at the 2017 Victorian Architecture Awards.

And the original shack? It’s mostly as it was, with a lounge, bedroom and hallway at the front, but the old kitchen has now been replaced with an ensuite bedroom and a laundry room with beautiful encaustic cement tiles.

So the owners have retained their much-loved space, and gained a stunning addition, with views, comfort and sustainability on top.

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