A Wooloowin cottage with a ’60s extension has had a 21st century makeover as Danielle Murtough and Helen Goltz discover.

Who doesn’t love a Queenslander … with the front door in line with the backdoor, the stumps perching it above ground for cooling — and in some cases to avoid floods — and the distinctive verandahs? Bringing them into the 21st century while retaining their historic character creates some challenges and architect Terry McQuillan took up the gauntlet for his Wooloowin home.

Q: What was the original house like?
A: It was an old cottage with a ’60s extension at the rear. The extension had a low skillion roof and very few windows. The rear deck had a set of stairs exposed to the elements to a separate laundry.

Q: What did your family want to achieve?
A: We wanted to open up the house to the back yard, letting in more light and breeze. We wanted to create an internal stairwell to get to the laundry but still retain the existing character of the cottage.

Q: Tell us about the final design?
A: The simplicity of the design highlights the old cottage and creates a break between the old and the new with a breezeway on the western side. Chamfer boards were used to clad both the old and new sections, accentuating the extension more.

Q: I understand you had plenty of helpers?
A: My parents lived with us in the old cottage using a temporary bathroom while the steel frame was being built in the new section. My father built the house and I helped on weekends.

Q: What is unique about it?
A: I wanted to create some special places you usually don’t find in residential settings:

i. I used wall panels and sliding doors to put the bath in a more ‘public’ location — it feels like it is in the backyard because you can open it right up and let the outdoors in;

ii. For privacy, I designed sliding wall panels that close off sections not being used;

iii. The outside connection means the house cools down in minutes;

iv. Second-hand timber was sourced and much of the insulation was recycled from the roof space of the demolished renovation;

v. For Mishka, our Russian blue cat, I built windows low into the internal staircase so she can look out, and viewing places for her on
the deck to watch the world go by.

Q: What was the cost and who was involved?
A: $200 000. My father, Vince, and my wife Charlie and I were the practice team; our landscape architect was Beau Hilliar from Cactus & Hill;
the structural engineers were John Tuxworth, BE Collective; and, the construction team was Vince McQuillan and Vimtek Pty Ltd.

Highlights of the project include:
• The bathroom opens up to the backyard;
• Miskha the cat has special viewing areas;
• The open plan connects the inside and outdoors maximising the light, space and breezes;
• Sliding wall panels create flexible spaces;
• The construction process was a family affair (and the family is still talking).

Have you ever renovated a home? What was the experience like? Let us know in the comments below.

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