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Stable ground

Photos: Kathrine Lu Photography

Stable ground

Photos: Kathrine Lu Photography
{{ tag.label }} {{ tag.label }} $vuetify.icons.faTimes
Keen to take on a complex build in Sydney’s inner city, Red Cedar Constructions converted derelict stables, built nearly 150 years ago, into a bespoke family home.

Kerryn Ramsey

Content Writer

In the building industry, working with friends and family is always a calculated risk. For HIA member Trent Clark, Director of Red Cedar Constructions, he’s well aware of this. In 2020, he won a building tender and worked on this project for six months before realising the owner/architect was a friend of a friend. Fortunately, the builder and architect had an instant rapport and worked seamlessly during the 13-month build.

‘The coincidence was hilarious as it was just two degrees of separation,’ recalls Trent, whose colleagues and friends are close friends with Qianyi Lim, co-director of Sibling Architecture and owner of the property. ‘I guess it was meant to be.’

Red Cedar Constructions worked seamlessly with Sibling Architecture
Kitchen cabinetry in spotted gum plywood from Big River Group sets the tone

During the build, the Red Cedar team and Qianyi worked tirelessly to solve complex issues, which were plentiful. It involved revitalising an 1880s brick horse stable into a contemporary family home. In addition, the complex comprises a weatherboard worker’s cottage, which will be redeveloped next year. While Qianyi Lim, her partner and baby have settled in at the converted stables, her sister Xinyi will eventually move into the cottage.

Located in the Sydney inner-city suburb of Forest Lodge, the 377-square-metre block is surrounded by eight overlooking terrace houses. The bonus, however, is that the property verges into a bushland regeneration zone. This provides a real escape from the hustle and bustle. When both properties are complete, the cottage and converted stable will have a common outdoor space, sharing easy access to the bush reserve. 

Original bricks are contrasted by modern tiles in the bathroom
Extensive glazing was an integral part of the stable complex

Originally used to keep horses for the Harold Park Paceway, the 1880s stables were in a dilapidated state, having not been in use since the 1990s. When Trent, Garrett Clark (project manager), Ben Bardsley (foreman) and the team took on the major demolition, they needed to be sensitive of the heritage aspect. Original bricks were kept for re-use and a few horseshoes found during the demolition were placed in situ in the concrete. ‘That was pretty cool,’ Trent says. ‘Bespoke details like this always add character and personality.’

Additionally, all the external stable walls were saved and remain today. ‘We successfully integrated the stable walls into the build,’ he adds. ‘Three of the walls form a U-shape and act as the rear boundary and part of the two side boundaries.’ 

Looking back, Trent admits that the project was almost overwhelming in the early stages. ‘It was a complex layout, particularly with the original structural elements. There were quite a few difficulties when executing Qianyi’s vision.’

Native creepers growing on a trellis will wrap around the exterior
Original bricks were kept for re-use in the bathroom

One of the most complex issues of the build was constructing the underlying structure. ‘It’s a huge steel skeleton,’ Trent explains. ‘The team worked tirelessly to make sure the shop drawings were correct, translating to an easy install onsite.’

The finished concrete slab, which was poured early in the project, had to be fully protected during the build. The team constructed the whole home over the top of it, finishing the surface with a full grind finish to show the aggregate once all the other stages were completed.

Extensive glazing was an integral part of the stable complex. ‘Any areas without glazing below the line of the window heads was all tiles. We wanted to have a slick detail where the windows aligned every 100mm to every tile. That was problematic because these 100x100mm tiles needed to line up perfectly. The solution was not to order the windows and doors too early.’ 

A custom trellis screen adds visual impact
Form and function come together here

The tiles had a six-month lead time as they were imported from overseas. Another issue was that the original walls had moisture problems. ‘Qianyi didn’t want to lose the effect of the existing bricks, so we treated the walls with clear natural sealer,’ Trent says. ‘We were prohibited from treating the outside of the walls because they face the public reserve next door. But we did manage to make it waterproof.’ 

Above all the window heads, there’s a raised timber detail on the FC sheet, giving the effect of standing seam panels. This detail is simple yet clean and aesthetically pleasing. 
To complete the look, the stable’s raked roof in Colorbond’s ‘Monument Matt’ creates a strong silhouette. The roof has the likeness of two wings and is affectionately known as the ‘butterfly roof’. 

Over time, native creepers growing on a trellis will wrap around the exterior, providing privacy from onlooking terraces. This trellis was an evolution of rolled tubes, welded steel and different gauge steel wire. ‘The outcome speaks for itself,’ he says.

Clever planting provides privacy from onlooking terraces
Trent admits the project was almost overwhelming in the early stages

Trent and his brother Garrett launched Red Cedar Constructions nearly 20 years ago, and now employ a staff of 15. Garrett manages all the projects, staff and contractors, while Trent looks after the business and admin side of the company. When two brothers work together, there’s always the possibility of clashes but, according to Trent, they have found their groove. ‘I wouldn't have it any other way,’ he says, laughing. ‘We just have to make an effort to stay in our own lane.’

From the outset, Trent and his team had no qualms about taking on this difficult build. All that was required was an attention to fine detail. ‘The finished build makes a real statement,’ he says. ‘It was a satisfying project from start to finish.’


Sibling Architecture


Red Cedar Constructions


Forest Lodge, Sydney

At a glance

Builder: Red Cedar Constructions
Architect: Sibling Architecture
Location: Forest Lodge, Sydney

  • Roofing: Lysaght Longline Roofing in Colorbond ‘Monument Matt’
  • External walls: Fibre cement sheeting from James Hardie in Dulux ‘Monument’; Vogue tiles in ‘Papaya’ and ‘Ultramarine’ from Classic Ceramics
  • Internal walls: Spotted gum plywood in ‘Osmo Oil’ from Big River Group; plasterboard; Vogue tiles in ‘Papaya’ and ‘Ultramarine’ from Classic Ceramics
  • Windows: Sashless windows from Aneeta; powdercoated aluminium window frames from Alspec
  • Doors: Powdercoated aluminium door frames from KOR Glass & AluminiumCS Cavity Sliders doors; Designer Doorware hardware
  • Flooring: Polished concrete flooring; spotted gum plywood in ‘Osmo Oil’ from Big River Group 
  • Lighting: Ai Lati Cip and Sottosopra wall lights from LightCo
  • Kitchen: Custom stainless-steel benchtop and sinks from Styline Kitchens; cabinetry in spotted gum plywood from Big River Group; Smeg oven and cooktop; Qasair rangehood; Vola tapware; Fisher & Paykel refrigerator; pinboard by Woven Image
  • Bathroom: Caroma toilets and basins; Kaldewei bath; Reece tapware in ‘Brushed Nickel’; Vogue tiles from Classic Ceramics in ‘Rosa’ and ‘Turchese’.
  • Heating and cooling: Ceiling fans from Lucci; hydronic in-slab heating.
  • External elements: Custom trellis screen.

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