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$vuetify.icons.faPhone1300 650 620

When two become one

When two become one

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In this two-part building project, BCG Constructions expertly navigated the complexities of a painstaking heritage renovation, in tandem with an ultramodern rear addition.

Laura Valic

Editor

As Melbourne's first seaport, Williamstown in the mid-1800s was a bustling hub of activity, serving as a natural thoroughfare for prospectors journeying towards the goldfields. Today, the area is a fashionable maritime village, peppered with Victorian-era buildings and beautifully preserved streetscapes that tether the township to its past.

It’s here that a historically significant bluestone manse, built in 1856, was reimagined and transformed. Thanks to the combined efforts of BCG Constructions, architects Pleysier Perkins and interior designers Mim Design, the renewed Park House (as it’s now known) offers a breathtaking fusion of old-world glamour and modern elegance. A sympathetic refurbishment of the original structure and a robust double-storey rear extension formed the construction plans, completed in 2021 after a meticulous 27-month building period.

BCG Constructions director and HIA member Brendan Gonzales had built the homes of several commercial builders and came highly recommended to the client. Brendan says quality construction and detailing were ingrained in him by his builder father from a young age. ‘When I went to work with him, I loved it. I found construction came naturally to me,’ he explains. ‘We often complete jobs on this scale and to this high level of detail, and I’m 100 per cent proud of this one.’

A 1856-built bluestone manse is reimagined
A fusion of old-world glamour and modern elegance

Brendan has a broad background in all aspects of carpentry, joinery and residential construction, taking an almost obsessive approach to building. He formed BCG Constructions in 1994 and has worked on ‘just about everything’, in particular high-end architectural homes and renovations across Melbourne, often getting on the tools when a specialised element is required – or simply because he wants to.

Over the past decade, his business has amassed more than 20 awards, with 2022 serving up a ‘grand slam’ that included the HIA Australian Apartment of the Year, the HIA Victorian Home of the Year and the HIA Victorian Renovation/Addition Project awards. The most recent, the 2023 HIA Australian Renovation/Addition Project award for Park House, secured BCG’s fifth national title. The building team were recognised for their faultless craftsmanship and innovation on the project, which Brendan says was essentially two jobs in one.

‘We were restoring the old manse while building the new rear addition before we joined them together in the middle,’ he explains. ‘We ran the site almost as two separate projects.’

According to the heritage consultant, the original property is among the first group of religious residences in Melbourne – an early example of Georgian architecture constructed with local bluestone. Its design featured deep timber eaves, chimneys stuccoed with slim cornice mouldings and six-pane timber-framed window sashes. However, when works began, it was in shocking disrepair.

A sculptured staircase is complemented by light grey limestone floors
We were restoring the old manse while building the new rear addition

‘It was a huge restoration project because of its extremely poor condition,’ Brendan says. ‘As it was listed with Heritage Victoria, we had to use traditional techniques and materials while documenting everything.’ 

The building was painted at one point in its past, with vines and ivy left to grow unchecked. These were carefully removed by hand before the manse was steam cleaned. A lime-based render (cement wasn’t allowed) and a hard plaster finish was required for the internal walls. Other aspects of the renovation included dismantling and restoring the wraparound veranda, and then replacing rotted timbers with precise replicas of the original details; pulling out the internal timber floors and staircase, architraves, skirtings and door jambs to be restored and reinstalled; replacing the roof with new Welsh slate; and adding all new flashings and cappings in a traditional galvanised finish.

The size of the project can be understood when the stonework alone required the masons to be onsite for more than six months. ‘They painstakingly repaired cracks, replaced damaged stones, made new openings and repointed the entire facade. Their work was exceptional,’ Brendan says. 

Equal attention was paid to the new basement and extension. After a challenging excavation that navigated bluestone ‘floaters’ in the soil, the bored pier and shotcrete walls were embedded with a bentonite blanket to prevent water intrusion. Emerging from this preliminary work are powerful class 2 off-form concrete walls – 350mm thick above ground and insulated. Immaculately finished, these form a dominant feature of this section of the home, and when paired with black steel, the contemporary structure is given as much solidity and permanence as the historic manse.

Brendan says the extension includes huge swathes of specialised window and door styles from Sky-Frame and Alspec for natural light to stream inside. Unexpected design moments, such as a glass link to the secluded rear master suite or bronzed glass shower doors in one of the bathrooms, add to the home’s dramatic appeal. The interiors continue to dazzle with sweeping light grey limestone floors, a double-height fireplace shrouded in domino quartzite and a graceful, sculptured black staircase.

The marble island and black-stained American oak cabinetry add depth to the kitchen
A double-height fireplace in the living area is shrouded in domino quartzite
Calming tones of grey and white add simplicity to this bathroom
Shapely items range from an oval basin to vertical heated towel rails

‘The staircase is made from rolled steel plate, 10mm thick. Certain components had to be craned in,’ Brendan explains. ‘The treads and rises are also folded steel plate welded in place, with slab granite clad over the top.’ 

The fastidious skills of BCG Constructions and all the trades are evident in every perfected element, from the marble kitchen island, black-stained American oak cabinetry and gunmetal detailing to the intricate joinery elements in the ladies’ lounge and library. Achieving the classic clean lines of a luxury home is ‘intensely logistical’, Brendan says. ‘You must have the foresight and knowledge to know to complete tasks in a certain way and order. It’s like a 1000-piece jigsaw of blue sky.’

Open shelving encouraged the clients to personalise their space
A bay window created extra space when adding an expansive dining table
At the end of the day, the award-winning Park House is all about creating wonder, preserving and expanding its heritage, and ultimately, providing functional and comfortable living experiences for the owners, their family and their guests. BCG Constructions can 100 per cent be proud of its contribution to this outcome.

Park House at a glance

Builder

BCG Constructions

Architect

Pleysier Perkins

Interior designer:

Mim Design

Award

2023 HIA Australian Renovation/Addition Project

Partner

COLORBOND steel

Materials:

  • Roof (new addition): Stramit Speed Deck Ultra in Monument
  • External walls: off-form concrete cast in-situ, smooth natural grey in class 2 finish
  • Internal walls: polished plaster Bishops Décor Waterstone; Dulux paint colours in Natural White, Tranquil Retreat, Endless Dusk and Malay Great
  • Windows: Sky Frame-2 plain and Classic thermally broken sliding door DGU’s; Alspec ecoFRAMEplus centre pocket profile
  • Internal stone: Saviour honed (floors), New Elegant Grey honed (kitchen), Super White honed/ribbed (bathroom), Pietra Mist Granite leathered (cellar), supplied by CDK
  • Timber floorboards: Woodcut French Collection
  • Joinery: Eveneer Raveena Oak, Planked; George Fethers, Gully Gum.

First published on 26 September 2023

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