Renovation & Restoration – Elm Grove – Introduction

Posted by on Dec 17, 2012 in Blog, Project Diaries | 4 Comments

I love all aspects of my work; last week however, was one even better than most: I commenced work on a new project. This is where the magic happens, clients tell me their long held wish list, and my mind runs at a million miles an hour with ideas and excitement, as I get lost in my imagination and begin to visualise the possibilities.

Renovation and Restoration:

A little old 2 bedroom Victorian cottage needs my help. It’s on a small, narrow, heritage listed site, with the worst possible orientation. Yet despite all this, I couldn’t be more excited, it’s a difficult site indeed, but that’s my specialty; I can’t wait to solve its challenges. Furthermore I’m very passionate about heritage projects. Restoring these beautiful old homes saves them for future generations to admire, giving them a sense of how we once lived. This is also recycling on the grandest of scales, giving it the love it needs to last another 100 years, whilst making it fit for today’s living standards, with a modern extension to the rear.

Whilst the likes of Grand Design do a wonderful job taking you through such projects, you only see the construction phase, and it’s condensed into an hour. Instead I will dedicate some of my blog posts to taking you with me throughout the entire process: design, planing application (yes councils, yes I may get angry again), through to supervising the construction. It will give you a closer look, via drawings, photos, and videos at what’s involved and how I work with my clients to turn their old cottage that’s literally falling apart, into their dream home.

Step one involved a full day on site measuring the house to create an existing floor plan, showing me what I have to work with. For this project a planning permit is required for two reasons: the site is very small, and the house is heritage listed.

A difficult site:

My saying is: not all blocks were created equal. Difficult sites present me with a great challenge, which is what I love. My resourceful, inventive designs overcome the constraints to create unique, beautiful, yet practical home without any compromise.

I will cover in detail the difficulties I face as they present themselves throughout the process; this is a brief run down to set the scene:

Small and Narrow:

– Given the close proximity of houses on small blocks to their neighbours, the council requires a permit to ensure our proposal does not create any loss of amenity to the adjoining properties. The space to work within, to not impact the neighbours is limited, posing the greatest design challenge.

– Small and narrow blocks represent the ultimate test for an architects’ creativity. The challenge is to make the most out of the limited space available. Every square centimetre must count; there is literally no room for wasted space.

Heritage Listing:

A heritage listing protects this culturally significant building from being demolished, and makes sure that any renovations are sympathetic to the original house. As a result our proposed second floor cannot be visible from the street, requiring it setback well down the length of the site, creating further limitations on the space we have to work with.

North faces the street:

The north facing side of the house is the only side that receives sunlight all day. We therefore want to position our living spaces and yards to face this way. In this case however north faces the street; only the front room of the original house gets direct sunlight the whole day. Furthermore, the house itself is blocking sunlight reaching the rear.

Stay tuned, as the next blog on this topic will cover my initial design sketches working to meets the clients wants and needs, whilst finding solutions to overcome the problems the block presents.

I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I do.

In need of some work…


  1. Karen
    December 17, 2012

    Oooh i can already tell this is going to be stunning! It’s like being a fly on the wall of an architect’s life…

    • Darren Naftal
      Darren Naftal
      December 17, 2012

      Glad to hear your excited to see it all unfold. Me too! Looking forward to sharing the experience with others. Thanks Karen.

  2. simon
    December 18, 2012

    Not sure what limitations a Heritage Listing places..

    How much, if any, of the existing dwelling can be demolished with the heritage listing? Could you keep the facade (incl street visible part of the roof) & knock down behind it (as they did with the Mansion development on Queens Rd)? Widen the dwelling & build out to the fence line?

    Even saying that, I quite like the tiling on the roof.

    • Darren Naftal
      Darren Naftal
      December 18, 2012

      Hi Simon,

      There are different heritage listing for different houses, according to how significant they are considered. At the very least just a front facade must be kept. In this case the house is considered significant, meaning we have to keep at least the front two rooms. Even without a heritage listing I would be encouraging my clients to do this. To have that old world charm out front, contrasted with the modern living at the rear, is the best of both worlds. It’s just the sort of scenario I want for myself.

      As you suggest the new extension will extend to the boundary wall, but this must only begin from past the front two rooms. The second of those existing two rooms at the front, can only have a window with that existing setbacks, so you would not want to extend to there anyway. I’ll include floor plans in the next blog update of this project, and this will further help to explain.

      I like the old tiled slate roof too. The tiles are flat, which I find so much more attractive than todays thicker tiles.

      Thanks for your questions, and please keep them coming. I want all reading my blogs to be able to learn more, and welcome asking for clarification.




Leave a Reply