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Crossing the divide

From timber-clad terraces to soft shades of grey, an extensive renovation and addition turned this tired house into a modern family home.

Crossing the divide

From timber-clad terraces to soft shades of grey, an extensive renovation and addition turned this tired house into a modern family home.

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Comprising soothing dark bathrooms, two timber-wrapped balconies and bespoke architecturally-designed features throughout, this renovation addition in Bellevue Hill, Sydney is a dazzling showcase of the current inclination toward marrying monochrome and lumber in contemporary homes.

Originally a single-storey home atop an undercroft basement on a sloped site, the roof and walls of the first storey were removed to facilitate a complete renovation of the main living level. 
In the lower undercroft basement space, the existing rumpus room and pool change area have also been updated with modern and high-quality fittings, ensuring the homeowners’ growing family attains the low-maintenance lifestyle they requested in their brief. This was an important factor for the client, according to builder and HIA member Andrew Payton of AJP Constructions, and it drove many of the decisions surrounding material selection. 
‘[The clients] were a growing family who wanted more room for their children to grow up, and zero to minimal maintenance, so we made sure we went through the materials selection with them and the architect early on,’ Andrew says. ‘We recommended materials which we knew wouldn’t need a lot of upkeep, such as the Colorbond matte standing seam exterior profile – which offers durability that is second to none – and the Iron Ash, which we gave a penetrating oil finish that will naturally silver over time.’
The roof and walls of the first storey were removed to facilitate a complete renovation of the main living level
‘We’ve done a few bathrooms with a dark look, and even a dark ceiling, and surprisingly they are quite calming.'

The three existing bedrooms and study at the entrance of the house have been tastefully updated with sleek and soft finishes. A large and functional laundry has been included while the living, dining, lounge and kitchen spaces have been opened up to create a large family hub in the heart of the home. This focal family area opens out, by way of powder-coated aluminium-clad sliding glass doors onto one of the two new balconies, both of which are afforded privacy and character with enveloping Iron Ash timber screens. 

Permanence and preservation also motivated more subtle material selections, such as opting for laminate finishes rather than paint finishes for wardrobe doors in the kids’ bedrooms and easy-to-clean large format tiles in the wet areas. 

Fortuitously, the large format tiles in the bathrooms – a stylistic choice made by architecture firm Sago Design – enhance the all-encompassing calming atmosphere created inside by the almost exclusively charcoal colour palette, an increasingly popular choice among homeowners, Andrew says. 

‘We’ve done a few bathrooms with a dark look, and even a dark ceiling, and surprisingly they are quite calming. The architect told me that a lot of people are going that way – instead of a big white sterile bathroom – because it’s a nicer environment to be in.’

Blackbutt timber stair treads
Featuring two timber-wrapped balconies

Upstairs, the addition is made up of an extra bedroom and a luxurious master suite. This parents’ retreat includes an ensuite complete with dual showerheads, an extensive walk-in wardrobe, and a generously sized bedroom, opening out onto a private terrace which overlooks the existing pool and backyard.  

This top level addition was constructed with cross-laminated timber (CLT), an engineered product created by gluing alternating perpendicular layers of timber together, resulting in a large and sturdy panel. ‘The extension was built using CLT which is all prefabricated off-site. It was one of the earliest – if not the first – first-storey additions made of CLT in Australia,’ Andrew explains. 

With much of the works being carried out off-site, the meticulous level of attention to detail delivered throughout the home was particularly integral during the planning phase. 

‘A lot of the design work had to be done upfront by working through the normal challenges you get on a building site,’ he adds. ‘It has to be done at the front end because once all the panels are sized and everything’s made, it’s too late – you don’t want to cut anything onsite or have anything that won’t fit.’ 

As with many renovations, you often don’t discover hidden obstacles until you start the process. After an initial survey, Andrew says they found the existing building was out of square by 50mm and the CLT panels had to be cut to suit the existing walls. 

‘We had to spend days making sure our set out and our measurements were correct,’ he says. ‘[It required] a lot of coordination with the structural engineer, the architect and then with the steel fabricator. This was something we hadn’t done before so there was a lot of triple checking.’

But the team was up for the challenge, and it paid off in the long run with a significant reduction in both time and waste onsite.

‘Originally it was designed out of conventional steel and timber, but having seen the benefits of using CLT previously I knew it would be a good project to use it on. The costs backed it up and it made a considerable time saving on the duration of the build.’

The balconies open out onto a private terrace which overlooks the existing pool and backyard
The existing building was out of square by 50mm and the CLT panels had to be cut to suit the existing walls

When it comes to manifesting an architect’s design, putting new ideas forward might not come naturally to a lot of builders, but Andrew Payton is a doer. Having completed his apprenticeship in New Zealand where he worked predominantly on large, architecturally-designed homes – not unlike those he constructs now – he founded Sydney-based AJP Constructions in 2011.

Described by those closest to him as ‘passionate and driven’, his aim is to push sustainability, efficiency and technology adaption in that market.

‘I do believe a lot buildings have been built in a similar way for the past 30 years…there’s a lot of room for improvement and increased efficiencies to deliver a better quality product in a tighter time frame, which is what homeowners want,’ he says. 

‘We are starting to use Building Information Modelling (BIM) technologies which incorporates really well with CLT by using 3D modelling at an early stage to identify road blocks and problems in the project and also eliminate a lot of waste and time onsite. 

‘When you’re planning in a computer environment it might take an hour to fix an issue while you could spend half a day trying to fix that same issue onsite because you’re reacting to the problem rather than looking at it proactively.’

It’s clear Andrew operates in a technical and methodical fashion on all of his projects and for these clients, his methods were exactly what the project called for. The impressive result of this renovation and addition might not have been possible had it not been for his thorough calculations, forward-thinking and willingness to plan extensively before hitting the tools.  

Bellevue Hill Addition at a glance


AJP Constructions


Sago Design




  • Exterior cladding: Colorbond matte monument standing seam profile
  • Exterior window hoods: custom fabricated aluminium with powder coat finish 
  • Exterior feature timber: Iron Ash timber with cutec oil
  • Main entry door: custom Blackbutt timber door with cutec oil by Nicco Joinery
  • Exterior cladding: Cemintel Barestone with expressed junctions
  • Kitchen benchtop: solid stainless steel 
  • Island benchtop: Super White stone
  • Interior feature screens and stair treads: Blackbutt timber
  • Lighting by Tec LED
  • Joinery by Space Joinery