Gone green

One had the vision and the other the expertise, and between them two Perth brothers formed a natural partnership and a passion to transform a pre-1900 heritage home, where the kitchen is the star.

Photo courtesy Ron Tan


Laura Valic

Dubbed the 5X50 House for its site dimensions of five metres wide by 50 metres long, this Victorian Georgian style property in North Fremantle, Perth was an old worker’s cottage, circa 1897, in need of a whole lot of love. At some point in its history it had undergone a renovation to the kitchen and dining area, but, in addition to the dated decor, it was sadly lacking in natural light and functionality. 


Many homeowners might have been tempted to get stuck into a renewal project straight away but graphic designer Ryan Lobik and his fiancé Rhyanna lived in the home first, acquiring a good understanding of what worked and what didn’t. Tapping into his creative background Ryan became deeply involved in the design, where the new kitchen and living space was envisaged as the home’s epicenter. 


After translating his ideas into a series of sketches for a modern industrial remake of character architecture, Slavin Architects was brought on to refine and draft the details. It was then the couple approached HIA members Nulook Homes to take the construction lead – for both practical and personal reasons, since one of the owners, Brent Lobik, happened to be Ryan’s brother. 


‘We enjoy building different types of homes and using different materials, always challenging the envelope for what you can do,’ says Brent, a carpenter and builder by trade. The former HIA Apprentice formed the Perth-based building firm with business partner Peter Edwards in 2007 after a number of years working together for a project builder. ‘Nulook Homes completes a small number of projects each year, where we have a hands-on approach to building, site supervision and run through the whole process from start to finish with the owners directly.’


Specialising in unique custom ‘one-off’ builds and renovations meant Brent’s business was an obvious choice for tackling this creative brief. ‘Ryan had a vision of what he wanted to achieve. Being on board with that, and seeing his passion to not only restore the existing part of the home but acquire that connection [to the modernised renovation], was the really fun part of building for me.’
Photo courtesy Ron Tan
Photo courtesy Ron Tan
The result is a dramatic, edgy interior that plays with raw materials and bold colour choices against period architecture. The kitchen’s striking joinery – American Oak plywood lacquered in black – is teamed with integrated Miele Appliances to maximise space in the home’s narrow footprint, including a fridge, induction cooktop, washing machine, and conventional and steam ovens. Contrarily, large pot drawers instead of overhead cabinets or shelving were chosen for storage but the exclusion ensures a clean, minimalist look. 


While many modern kitchens incorporate a contrasting material for the benchtops as a style statement, the couple instead opted for a Dekton Sirius stone benchtop in black to blend in with its surrounds. This choice helps to ensure that it is the tiled island bench in a forest green hue that is the standout feature in the open plan room, serving also as a food preparation and seating space.


‘Even though the green tile is a stark point of difference it works quite well against the stonework,’ Brent says of the exposed sandstone and brick arches and walls uncovered during demolition. 


Getting the connections right on the island however was a finicky process, requiring a lot of planning and ‘consultation with the cabinetmakers and tilers before construction got underway’.


‘Because the tiles were 100x200mm and had individual pre-made corners, as well as exposed 90 degree corners, we had to lay the tiles out to ensure the kitchen integrated [properly] and there weren’t any cuts on the bench. A fair bit of setup was needed so that when we did eventually get to the cladding, the tile integrated with the corner pieces.’


The time and effort taken resulted in a flawless finish, a testament to the collaboration and workmanship by all parties, in particular the kitchen installers, Raw Edge
Photo courtesy Ron Tan
Photo courtesy Ryan Lobik
A Blanco sink and Dorf mixer tap, both in black, help to tie in with the other dark elements in the room, from the cabinetry to the exposed structural steel beams and cables that crisscross along the ceiling and support the roof. The brief requested more natural light and cross-ventilation, so Nulook Homes lifted the roof’s pitch over the kitchen and living room, which now extends beyond the edge of the home over the rear courtyard. Several Velux skylights and large bi-fold doors framed in black offer plenty of light and air flow as well as that desired connection to the outdoors. 


The overall effect is one of warehouse spaciousness. ‘It is my view that buildings such as this inhibit a spirit that you don’t get with new builds and therefore deserve mindful consideration and respect when adding to [them],’ says owner Ryan.


The build was not without its challenges. Site access was an issue and materials had to be brought in manually through a side gate from the neighbour’s property. ‘The houses were boundary to boundary so we couldn’t achieve compaction by bringing in a big plank compactor…everything was done with smaller machines,’ Brent says. ‘Steel beams in smaller sections were welded onsite and manoeuvred into position using a small spider crane.’


Being an older home, upgrades to the mains and gas line were also necessary for the new appliances.


Despite some of these issues impacting on the timeline, the project was completed in 2018 after seven months and Brent says his brother couldn’t be happier with the finish. The 5X50 House also took out the 2019 Perth HIA Renovation/Addition Project award in the $200,001–$300,000 category


‘When you do go through some challenging times that makes all the sweat and long hours worthwhile,’ Brent says. ‘To see the creation of something that’s not a run of the mill renovation come to fruition is really rewarding. You just try to do what you can to the best of your abilities, and to get recognised from amongst your peers is very satisfying.’


Another reward too is being able to spend quality family time together in an entertainer’s dream space enjoying the fruits of their labour for years to come.

5X50 House at a glance

Builder: Nulook Homes
Designer: Ryan Lobik, Bonsai Branding (owner) and Slavin Architects
Location: North Fremantle, Perth
  • Bricks: Austral Bricks Federation Limestone and Midland Brick masonry blocks
  • Windows: Custom-made powder coated, Steel Co
  • Cabinetry: Form plywood painted with black lacquer and American Oak, installed by Raw Edge
  • Flooring: 20mm wide engineered pre-finished Oak boards, T&G Flooring
  • Benchtop: Dekton Stone Sirius
  • Tiles for island: 100x200mm Vogue Ceramica in Oliva, Attica Stone & Tiles
  • Appliances: Miele
  • Sink: Blanco anthracite
  • Tapware: Dorf Epic Sink Mixer in black.

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