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$vuetify.icons.faPhone1300 650 620

Something special

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After engaging in a nine-month design process, Perth Renovation Group revealed what's possible to achieve in a heritage building. Photos: D-Max Photography

Housing author

Annie Reid
How do you preserve a Class 1 heritage-listed townhouse but give it a modern contemporary makeover? ‘Make it a labour of love,’ says Charl Fourie, director at Perth Renovation Group. ‘And have the creative freedom and budget to do what you want to do.’

But this townhouse isn’t just any heritage project; this one’s for the history books. Not only is it located in Fremantle’s West End heritage area, the oldest part of Perth. It’s also opposite the 1831 Round House, the oldest still-standing building in Western Australia, and is surrounded by multiple buildings now owned by The University of Notre Dame Australia. 
 
‘We knew straight off the bat that we had something special – it’s such a unique property,’ says Charl. The two-storey Samson Bond Store warehouse was built in 1901 by Dalgety & Co, where it was used to store wool and other agricultural products. In the 1970s, it was bought by Lionel Samson & Son, who turned it into a liquor store complete with slanted floors to roll the barrels down. By 1996, it was transformed into 14 luxury townhouses by architect Ralph Hoare, a heritage restoration specialist.

After engaging in a nine-month detailed design process, Charl and his team went on a mission – to showcase what’s possible to achieve in a heritage building. ‘We wanted the end product to bridge the gap between historical industrial design and modern contemporary architecture,’ he says. 
 
 ‘We also had to preserve and restore the heritage materials within the building such as the old beams, columns, floors and trusses, while showcasing them as features within the design. After all, they are what makes the building unique.’

The logistics were particularly difficult. The townhouse started off with four levels and 53 steps to navigate and move materials in between. Many materials had to be walked in by hand or craned through windows.

As the build got underway, Charl and his team completely modernised the floorplan. They inserted an entirely new floor between the existing space of the second and third floor, adding a further bedroom and bathroom. ‘Hence, we had to rip out everything in the building because we had to completely redesign the services that went in,’ he says.
 
For example, they had to find a way to build the staircase over a feature timber beam that originally serviced a gantry crane, from when the building was used as a warehouse. ‘It was weeks and weeks of work trying to work out how to retain this element, while introducing this new feature into the building envelope.’

Within the kitchen, which has doubled in size, the rangehood sits within a box specially coated in custom brass metal. Around it, the metalwork is custom powdercoated to match, creating a seamless look that complements the integrated stainless-steel appliances and timber cabinetry. ‘We wanted that brass to age over time and take on the aged look of the building,’ Charl says. 

Attention to detail is everywhere, including feature lighting fixed inside the retained steel columns, custom leather handles, and a spectacular wall clad in recycled bricks – adding effect while providing the space to store services behind. 

For flooring, they repurposed the home’s existing New Zealand pine floorboards for the additional level. ‘When constructing the new level, we reused every single one of the floorboards and joists that we removed from the top floor,’ he says. ‘Recycling materials did not only benefit the cost and aesthetics of the project, but proves that sustainable construction is possible within high-end renovation projects.’
 

Additional storage also played a large factor, and Charl explored all nooks and crannies to save space where he could. Custom wardrobes were built for the first and third-floor bedrooms, with other smart details, including building in storage underneath the bathroom – all custom.

In the kitchen, a wine cabinet doubles as a service duct that takes all the pipework and electrical cable needed, plus provides space for the air ducts. ‘It looks like a wine bottle collection, but actually it’s covering quite a lot of services,’ Charl says.

 

Storage was also added to the living area on the top fourth floor, which could be transformed into another bedroom and open wardrobe as needs change. ‘We wanted to come up with something that anticipates how people are likely to use this space in the future,’ he says.

As for creature comforts, the townhouse is now future-fit. Charl and the team installed underfloor heating in the bathrooms, ceiling fans and split-system air-conditioning. 

But it’s the home automation that impresses most, operable through apps and smart devices. Charl was one of the first builders to jump onto Zigbee technology, a wireless network that allows smart objects to work together. The home’s significant industrial commercial lighting systems, via Clipsal, are all operable online, as is the sound system. 

 ‘You can pretty much stand in the kitchen and open up your front door,’ he says, laughing. ‘And then change all the lights, change the blinds, and skylight upstairs.’

The longer-term benefit is that while the hardware and services set-up took time, the firmware should only need to be updated online, rather than physically replaced. ‘As software upgrades come into play, it makes the house a lot more evolved with the times,’ Charl says. ‘Now, everything just works off your phone and Google Assistant.’ 

Now this build is the winner of the HIA Australian Townhouse/Villa of the Year award for 2021, all the hard work has paid off for a project that went so far beyond what the team expected.

‘It was more than just a building project – it’s our privileged contribution towards Fremantle’s legacy of rich and unique architecture. We were very proud to be part of the project,’ Charl says.

For more info, visit Perth Renovation Group.

 

Award

2021 HIA Australian Townhouse/ Villa of the Year

Builder

Perth Renovation Group

Location

Fremantle, WA

Materials:

  • Electrical: All exposed sockets and switches in Clipsal Iconic Anthracite
  • Lighting: Nemo ‘Kepler’ pendant from Alti Lighting
  • Cladding: Brick Slip Cladding from Empire Brik Products
  • Paint: Lexicon Quarter and Domino from Dulux
  • Cabinets: Black Venette from Polytec
  • Rangehood: MetalCote
  • Custom benchtops: 20mm honed Grigio Venato
  • Ceiling speakers: Bowers & Wilkins