Dramatic reno blasts ‘70s Kew pad out of the past

WITH seven bedrooms, four bathrooms and a pool, this two-storey double-brick house in Kew was certainly a dream home for the professional couple who bought it in 2011.

But as much as they loved the space, they weren’t blind to the shortcomings of their solidly built 1970s “mansion”.

- Advertisement -

On a steep block, the house had a pool that was isolated and an elevated backyard only accessed via a long corridor on the first floor that ran past the bedrooms.

And that wasn’t the only problem.

“The seven bedrooms were the size of modern-day closets, the bathrooms were cramped and the living areas were enclosed and dark,” the owner said.

“So our bigger dreams were of modernisation, space and light.”

They turned to architect John Liu, from Inbetween Architecture, to help them turn the house into a stylish, practical abode that would also work for their two young children.

A year later, the house has been dragged from the 1970s and transformed into a modern house with four bedrooms plus a study, four bathrooms, light-filled living areas and plenty of storage.

“We were led through this process by the team at Inbetween Architecture who showed boldness and courage to turn our house upside down,” the owner said.

Here, we look at some of the home’s top design ideas.

Upstairs living

Mr Liu said the eureka moment of the design process was when he decided to turn the house’s conventional layout on its head, placing the living areas upstairs and the bedrooms and bathrooms downstairs.

“Previously, there was a lot of doubling up of spaces, with living areas and kitchens on both levels,” Mr Liu explained.

The ground-floor level — which is darker and has lower ceilings — was a natural choice to house the family’s three bedrooms with ensuites and a rumpus room (there is also a guest bedroom and bathroom upstairs).

“Bedrooms are spaces that don’t need as much natural light and another advantage was that being sandwiched between two concrete slabs (on the ground and first floor) keeps the bedrooms cool and removes the need for any airconditioning,” he said.

Flipping the house also enabled the upstairs to be opened up to create a light and airy living/kitchen/dining space with direct physical and visual connection to the backyard and the pool.

Skylights with feature shafts

As the original house was very dark, the owners were keen the new, improved version be flooded with light.

But Mr Liu was concerned that including a bank of skylights in the ceiling upstairs might actually make the space overly light, not to mention hot in summer.

His compromise was to include three feature skylights with tapered shafts over the living area and stair void.

“The shafts are angled to permit penetration of the morning sun while blocking the harsh afternoon sunlight, giving out a lovely diffused lighting instead,” he said.

The skylights are the owner’s favourite thing about the reno, without question.

“The soaring cathedral-like skylights have not only brought light in, but have created space above without impacting on the roofline,” the owner said.

Built-in cabinetry

The couple was keen on a minimalist look, so opted for a bank of floor-to-ceiling joinery in the dining area to keep clutter behind closed doors.

The timber-veneer doors (George Fethers’ Retoned Nero) were the brainchild of interior designer Aldona Pajdak, of Aldona Pajdak Interior Design, who collaborated with Mr Liu on the home, working on the overall interior direction, joinery design and finishes.

“The black-and-white colour scheme is not one that we would normally use, and the clients did need some convincing, initially, but because it’s such a bright space, we thought it could take it,” Mr Liu explained.

Study nook

The owner originally requested an area in the walk-in pantry, behind the kitchen, where she could pin school notices and bills and “dump her keys and handbag”, according to Mr Liu.

“But we thought, ‘She is going to have such a beautiful living area, why would she want to hide in the pantry?’” Mr Liu said with a laugh.

The solution was to design a nook with a desk and shelves in the main living space that could be hidden behind retractable doors when not in use.

Extended kitchen benchtop

You can sometimes have too much of a good thing; and, at 4.5m, the proposed island bench, in Caesarstone’s Raven, was considered by Mr Liu to be a little too large.

The alternative was to lower a section, in contrasting Organic White, to form a space to sit at.

“It’s kind of like a contemporary interpretation of how people used to have a small table in the kitchen,” Mr Liu said.

And it’s proved a hit with the family, who eat most of their meals at it, despite having a large dining table nearby.

Laundry hampers

A cute, not to mention practical, addition to the laundry are the three under-bench hampers, which enable the couple to sort their dirty laundry into white, coloured and dark clothes.

The hampers are on casters, so they can be wheeled over to the washing machine opposite.

Circular wooden handles from Tasmania’s In-teria Studio, which are also used in the living, dining and kitchen areas, create cohesion throughout the house.


The existing concrete staircase was kept and the stair void enlarged to allow more natural light to the ground floor and draw people upstairs into the new living space.

A new glass banister was installed and the carpet on the treads replaced with solid tallowwood timber flooring, which was also used throughout the living areas upstairs.

Pool pavilion

The pool was a big drawcard for the couple, but they soon discovered it was unbearably hot — and almost unusable — when the harsh summer sun hit.

A pavilion with a skillion roof solved the problem, creating shade not only on the new deck but also on the nearest section of the pool.

The deck was also slightly elevated to enable the retractable pool cover to fit underneath, while bench seating provides storage.

“It’s now a lovely, usable space,” Mr Liu said.


The 1970s exterior was brought into the 21st century with the removal of an ugly archway and the addition of cement render, double-glazed windows and glass balustrades.

Foam cladding, added before the render, provides extra thermal qualities to the house.

“We kept it simple (outside) because I think it creates even more of a wow factor when you go inside,” Mr Liu said.




- Advertisement -