A tale of two eras

Inventiveness combined with exquisite execution breathes new life and drama into this character cottage’s masterful renovation/addition in Perth’s inner north.

Photos: Cassari Group


Laura Valic

When you have a love affair with architecture and can’t decide between historic grandeur and twenty-first century design, why not have both? This was precisely the conclusion the owners of an Edwardian heritage house came to when planning their dream renovation and extension in Highgate, Perth.


From the beginning the clients, both real estate agents who had snapped up the federation property as a temporary rental, wanted to create a one-of-a-kind family home because, simply put, once restored they didn’t plan to ever move again.


‘Their concept for the project was to amalgamate both into one so they could appreciate both aspects of architecture in their home,’ says Lorenzo Cassiani of specialised building company Cassari Group, which completed the exhaustive build in November 2017. 


The end result, designed by Chindarsi Architects, is a stunning ensemble of old-world and modern glamour, with varied materials woven throughout. 
But with any period renovation, heritage guidelines dictate the original character must be maintained. Lorenzo says the Highgate project was a particularly large undertaking in this regard. ‘We had completed a few others but not to that scale. This home had a lot more aspects to it than anything we’ve done before.’
The home’s bold red brick face is now fully restored and tuck-pointed
The original tuck-pointed brickwork [serves] as a backdrop to a modern staircase
Passers-by will see the home’s bold red brick face is now fully restored and tuck-pointed, bracketed by fresh grey and white trimming. A new roof in the same grey shade is set off by the existing chimneys and new decorative gable spires, along with new guttering, all custom-made and moulded, since ‘they don’t make those profiles anymore’. Coloured leadlight bordering the front door and complementing the curved bay windows that line the return L-shaped veranda – also rebuilt in its original form – completes the charming picture. 

And that’s just the exterior. Internally, Lorenzo says the floors had to be refinished, sagging ceilings repaired and all period ornaments, such as plaster cornices, ceiling roses and architraves, restored. ‘We also converted one of the bedrooms to a semi-ensuite with modern fittings, stone flooring and polished plaster wall features,’ he says.

However, it’s to the rear of the existing property that delivers on creative intrigue. A folded copper shell forming the roof of the extension frames an upstairs balcony like a geometric C, proudly jutting out over the outdoor entertaining area and suspended pool. ‘The clients just love copper so we incorporated it everywhere we could,’ Lorenzo explains.
custom-designed waterfall island
‘The clients just love copper’
A stunning ensemble of old-world and modern glamour
it’s the perfect representation of combining the old with new
The alteration to the existing property, which slanted down a full storey from the street frontage to a rear laneway, demanded consideration of an unexpected three-storey turret. This rear addition is now divided into three distinct zones: a garage, laundry, cellar and store room on the lowest level; a new kitchen and living area that transitions onto the entertainer’s terrace on the middle level; and a study, master bedroom, ensuite, kitchenette and private balcony above. 

There were a number of challenges to overcome to get to that point. Significant earthworks and grout injection were required for the lowest level, Lorenzo says. A qualified civil engineer with a background in commercial construction before he started Cassari Group with brother-in-law Daniel Chiari in 2010, he was fortunately in a good position to oversee the complex task.

‘We had to take a lot of care that we didn’t undermine the home’s foundations and structure, so we spent a lot of time working with the engineers to ensure we had the right solution to maintain the original home while we constructed the lower levels,’ he says. 

‘it’s the perfect representation of combining the old with new’

Stepping inside the new extension the architect’s vision was to balance the materials of the existing home, not imitate them. Grounded by the beauty of the stained Jarrah timber staircase and master suite flooring, a contrasting cool grey and white palette invokes sophistication. This palette is showcased in the kitchen cabinetry, living room and outdoor terrace tiles, along with the polished concrete cellar floor and custom-designed waterfall island. 

Overhead copper cladding wraps around a structural steel beam while accents of the material are found in wall-mounted lighting and kitchen joinery. Glass pops up in the bi-fold doors connecting the outdoor space and also in an interior partition revealing an external-turned-internal brick wall. In front, a single-spine stairwell with a backlit handrail connects all three levels and, according to Lorenzo, is one of the hero elements of the entire living space. 

‘To me it’s the perfect representation of combining the old with new,’ he says. ‘The original tuck-pointed brickwork of the historical building [serves] as a backdrop to a modern-looking staircase. The 60mm thick treads were all milled from a 300-year old Jarrah tree so the clients are chuffed they have a piece of history that will live long after they’re gone in their home.’
the architect’s vision was to balance the materials of the existing home, not imitate them
A contrasting cool grey and white palette invokes sophistication
Since the tech-savvy homeowners were also keen to futureproof their home, an internal lift and Lutron home automation system were installed. Linked to their digital devices, they can run their sound system, turn the lights on and off, control the airconditioning, security system or pool equipment, at a touch of a button. ‘It may be a historical home, but it’s technologically set up and user friendly now,’ Lorenzo says.

The project has since received plenty of industry recognition, most recently winning the 2019 HIA Australian Renovation/Addition award in May (partnered by COLORBOND steel), which Lorenzo describes as ‘overwhelming’.

‘Given the competitive nature of the awards, I had my doubts we would win, so I was over the moon when we did.’

The business has just past its five-year anniversary with HIA and the awards program has turned out to be one of the most beneficial aspects of membership: ‘They’re a great way of promoting businesses, especially in this tough economy,’ he says.

Highgate Home at a glance

Builder: Cassari Group
Architect: Chindarsi Architects
Location: Perth
Award: 2019 HIA Australian Renovation/Addition Project
Partner: COLORBOND Steel

  • Roofing: Colorbond zincalume in copper
  • Bricks: Midland Brick
  • Flooring: premium grade solid Jarrah in Japanese black, Floors by Nature; 200x600mm matt white tiles, Original Ceramic and 305x610mm Bianco Carrara Gioa natural marble tiles
  • Steel spine staircase: Stallion Stainless/Classical Staircases
  • Insulation: CSR Bradford
  • Windows: Aneeta, aluminium with 6mm SmartGlass Neutral Toughened Glass, Avanti Glass & Aluminium; double-glazed, Sable Bass
  • Concrete island: Concrete Mode
  • Benchtop: polished CaesarStone in white, Bravvo
  • Splashback: Statuario Venato marble, Bravvo
  • Lutron Home Automation and Lighting System, Advanced Residential Technologies
  • Lift: Easyglide, Grant Elevator

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