It’s completely modern, but still speaks to the history and elegance of the existing 1914 Arts and Crafts Revival style red brick house. George House is a smorgasbord of unique and customised materials that deliver a beautifully surprising urban design in East Melbourne. It removes a bad 80s extension at the rear, replacing it with new living, kitchen, garage, loft and terrace space, capturing breathtaking city views.
Led by Nicholas Byrne, founder, Byrne Architects, the design of George House exudes detail after thoughtful and creative detail. For Nick, the renovation of George House was always going to be about finding the right material that would fit with the ceramic brick of the existing house, which was scale appropriate, but something that, at the time, was contemporary in its role, and provided contrast to the red brick.
Long inspired by the story of the Kolumba™ brick, and how it was designed specifically for the Kolumba Museum by scaling bricks to match the building’s existing structure, Nick initially had Kolumba™ in mind for George House. But when he saw the newest brick product in the Petersen range, Petersen Cover™, everything changed.
“We decided that it would be a really interesting approach to use a shingle and a light weight structure rather than a brick structure, but still have the material relationship with the existing building,” Nick says.
Like the Kolumba™ brick, Petersen Cover™ is handmade in wooden moulds, but is completely different to a brick. Each shingle is fastened to an underlying baton structure by a carpenter, rather than a bricklayer, so that they lie accurately on a building’s surface.
“Choosing shingles was the most important design decision that we made. Petersen Cover™ (C54) has a really unique expression and externally the feeling of the house is like a bizarre medieval tower – it has a unique character to it, which we couldn’t have achieved with other materials. Brick would have been nice but the shingles really set the design apart to something really special,” Nick comments.
Owners Jamie and Natalie Forsyth are quite progressive but didn’t want something modern and different. Instead, Jamie says, “We chose Cover™ because it has a finished texture, with modern application, but still has the old handmade feel, texture and colour, and we thought it would blend in well, and it was different and seemed exciting.”
Installing Petersen Cover™ was initially challenging given it was so new on the market. But, with the help of Melpro, and its talented team of carpenters, and with extensive detailing around the batons from Byrne Architecture, the result is simply spectacular.
“It’s not like using brick at all, it’s almost like a rain screen, so you have a waterproof layer behind it, and then use batons to set them out correctly. Melrpo did a great job, and it all aligned. And because it’s handmade, it’s got a bit of variation to it, so it’s not a real precision art to put together. And it had that handmade feel to it that I really like,” Nick remarks.
It’s the way Byrne Architects has used Cover™ that makes George House so spectacular. Notice how Petersen Cover™ runs all the way to the top of the building – so there is no aluminium flashing sitting up – it actually sits behind the shingle. A beautiful and innovative approach. Then, look at the corner details. A folded skin of zinc comes down the sides dividing Cover™ at the corners because, being handmade, you can’t mitre the corners and have them meet up.
Cover™ is then combined with unique materials to make this home a cut above – charcoal anodised aluminium windows, and zinc caps and flashings. “Zinc has a real lustre to it and it develops a patina over time so that, sitting alongside the shingle, is really beautiful because they both have this natural quality to them which ages off really nicely,” Nick explains.
For Nick, the external façade is the standout, particularly its character in the street and the way the shingle works well with the existing building and in the surrounding context, set on a bluestone laneway. As for Jamie and Natalie, they couldn’t be happier: “It was a great execution to tie the old in with the new. I love the finish and the product, and it’s versatile in the way it can be used …it’s great for wrapping around things, it wraps all around in the courtyard, which is a really nice feature, and we have a garden going there now, so it does have a beautiful feel. And I get a lot of comments from the neighbours – they really like the shingle, too.” Jamie concludes.
Architect: Byrne Architects
Product: Petersen Cover™, C54, 528x170x37mm (also available in 528x240x37mm)
Photographer: Derek Swalwell