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Natural progression

A heritage restoration and passion project in eastern Melbourne morphed into a dream home for Technique Construction Group’s managing director Scott Davies and his family.

Natural progression

A heritage restoration and passion project in eastern Melbourne morphed into a dream home for Technique Construction Group’s managing director Scott Davies and his family.

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Laura Valic

With its leadlight panes and embellished trim, this charmingly restored red brick Edwardian cottage in Canterbury, Melbourne appears as though frozen in time, an illustration of the solid homes built in our major cities during Australia’s Federation housing boom. Lining the streets in leafy inner and middle ring suburbs, many of these newer house styles moved away from the clutter and complexity of Victorian architecture, favouring instead elegant simplicity, and brighter interiors compared to their predecessors. 

While many Edwardian homes embraced fine ornate details and the industrial advancements of the day – hot water, electric lighting and indoor toilets – homeowners who are drawn to them nowadays often find their smaller, closed off rooms unsuited to modern life. Such was the case for HIA member Scott Davies, who lived ‘crammed together’ with his wife Liz and three children in this cottage while they planned an alteration and extension for more space and amenity. 
Lead light panes and embellished trim characterise this charmingly restored red brick Edwardian cottage in Canterbury, Melbourne. Photo: Stephanie Rooney
A contemporary alteration and extension provides for more space and amenity in this family-friendly home. Photo: Stephanie Rooney
Their ideas included: retaining internal heritage features, a new basement (gym, cellar and theatre), a glass bridge connecting the main house to the study that would sit above a rear garage, plus an aspect to the backyard and its river red gum tree. Importantly, they wanted a two-storey extension with multiple living zones and bedrooms that was modern yet sympathetic to the period. In doing this, Scott says, you get ‘the best of both worlds’. 

‘If you keep heritage details, such as high skirting boards and ceiling roses, then add modern light fittings and furniture, you create a soft transition into a contemporary addition,’ he says. ‘You can appreciate the original structure and the time it was built, but it’s not as stark as you enter the new part of the home.’

After a career completing heritage renovation/additions, Scott has a firm understanding of what it takes to successfully transform these properties. In his early 20s as a carpenter contractor, he learnt how to restore heritage homes to their former glory under the tutorage of an older Scottish builder, and with a developing passion and skillset, he consciously pursued this niche building work for several decades. Today, his company Technique Construction Group takes on about six custom contracts per year, relying on a team of 10 carpenters, apprentices, as well as a core set of trades and artisans.

‘We pull the whole house down almost to the ground except for the front facade and rebuild them back up,’ Scott says. ‘All the guys enjoy the pressure these projects bring. Whether it is tight access, uncovering old wells underneath slabs or finding the existing house isn’t as structurally sound as first thought – every property has its challenges.’
Several walls were stripped down to expose the original brickwork into the extension. Photo: Stephanie Rooney
Pairing heritage details with modern fittings offers a subtle transition into a contemporary addition. Photo: Stephanie Rooney
This was certainly true for his Canterbury family home. After a detailed brief was provided to architect Heather Wright it took two years for the plans to get approved. ‘In addition to several reports on the design due to the heritage factor, we also had a vegetation restriction with the backyard tree. [That required] arborist assessments, root management and investigation work…we had about six reports on the tree alone!’

A HIA GreenSmart Professional, Scott is conscious of environmental impact during construction which meant the tree was an important consideration while undertaking the basement excavation. The mature red gum also became a focal point for the addition above, with double-height windows and the upper floor glass bridge ensuring its scale and movement would be captured from within. 

‘At the closest point we’re 700mm away from the tree so excavating the basement and the pool threw up challenges,’ Scott says. ‘We had a water retention system designed to feed the root system – the last thing we wanted was to starve it of moisture and affect its longevity while building.’

Clever engineering ensured the original house remained standing during the complex excavation, while carefully planned logistics manoeuvred materials from the busy street onto the tight work site. A four-metre fall from the rear to the front of the block meant around 350 cubic metres of soil had to be shifted out and the backyard levelled, but it had a welcome benefit. 

‘By keeping the levels at the back of the property we were able to raise part of the basement out of the ground where it connected to the original house. That enabled us to install windows for ventilation and light without much of a compromise,’ Scott says.
A career of completing heritage renovation/additions means builder Scott Davies has a firm understanding of what it takes to successfully transform these properties. Photo: Stephanie Rooney
‘We insulated every floor, wall and roof space, and added automated windows up high which act as a thermal chimney to let out hot air in summer.' Photo: Stephanie Rooney
He also chose to strip down several walls to expose the original brickwork, and carry that through to the new addition. Hints of reclaimed pressed red brick can be seen internally and on the exterior, juxtaposed against thick black structural steel beams, reclaimed Yellow Stringybark shiplap cladding and contrasting Colorbond steel cladding in grey. 

‘Part of our brief was to use as many natural or recycled products as possible,’ Scott explains. ‘We wanted to add rooftop solar PV panels, but the design didn’t allow for it, and the tree would have cast too much shade to make it worthwhile.

‘We insulated every floor, wall and roof space, and added automated windows up high which act as a thermal chimney to let out hot air in summer. We’re not forced to turn on the cooling system and the internal brick walls do retain some warmth in winter. It’s a lovely aspect of the home; all rooms feel comfortable to live in.’ 

The house was completed in 12 months, with the delighted and ‘relieved’ family finally moving in by Christmas in 2018. Scott says he and his wife enjoy cooking and entertaining in their new kitchen, the chic black and marble design including everything they could ask for, from a lovely outlook to integrated appliances and lighting, plenty of storage and a side scullery. 

‘I was very passionate about the project and the architect did a fantastic job,’ Scott says. ‘We have a good group of trades who consult and share their expertise, which makes the process as a team much easier.’  

Their exceptionally crafted dream home is special for another reason, since it also won the 2019 HIA Victorian Renovation/Addition ($1-1.5 million) accolade. 

‘All the awards are special for the team, and the guys need a pat on the back more than anyone,’ Scott says. ‘But with this one I get to see it every day. You have to pinch yourself sometimes, it’s a pretty amazing project.’
The chic black and marble kitchen is softened by timber joinery with integrated appliances, and offers plenty of storage including a side scullery. Photo: Stephanie Rooney
This exceptionally crafted dream home won the 2019 HIA Victorian Renovation/Addition ($1-1.5 million) award. Photo: Stephanie Rooney

Camterbury House at a glance


Technique Construction Group


Heather Wright Architects




Roof: Colorbond 
Exterior: Reclaimed pressed red bricks, Eco Bricks; Colorbond standing seam cladding, Custom Steel claddings; reclaimed Yellow Stringybark shiplap cladding, Urban Salvage; AFS Rediwall Interlocking PVC Concrete filled panels, AFS Systems
Windows: custom aluminium double-glazed ‘Argon Gas Filled’, AWS Window Systems; custom aluminium louvre screens, Artweld
Decking: Modwood composite decking; bluestone paving and cladding, Graniteworks 
Fencing: Ironbark period fencing, Old Malvern Pickets; powdercoated galvanized steel pool fencing, Artweld 
Flooring: Porcelain floor tiles, Beaumont Tiles; engineered sustainable growth European Oak, Tongue & Groove
Kitchen benchtops: marble and reconstituted stone, Peraway Marble 
Bathrooms: marble mosaic feature tiles, Byzantine Design
Joinery: Markaren Joinery
Heating and cooling: ducted reverse cycle airconditioning, All Climate Solutions; hydronic and gas fireplaces, H20 Heating.