Coalescence of Old and New – Armadale House by Cassandra Walker Design

Words by Millie Thwaites
Photography by Dave Kulesza
Interior Design by Cassandra Walker Design
Draftsperson Ausdraft

Contemporary extensions to heritage buildings demand a clear design intent and a sympathy towards the original structure. When successfully executed, these projects make a strong case for the coalescence of old and new architecture. Armadale House sees an Edwardian-era dwelling in Melbourne’s south-east emerge as a grand family home, one that simultaneously embraces its decorative side while crafting a new pared-back identity enriched with all the touchpoints of modern family life.

Having already spent eight years here, client Jess Dempsey and her family had many precious memories attached to the existing home, however, it no longer met their needs. As such, Jess and her husband engaged Ausdraft to execute plans for an extension and swiftly enlisted the help of interior architect Cassandra Walker to bring personality and warmth to the interiority, as well as rework some spatial planning. “Throughout the design process we often talked about a seamless transition,” Cassandra reflects. “We wanted to create a cohesive story – from the moment you step through the front gate to the big glass windows at the back.”

“The extension is highly refined and sleek in its minimal material palette. And while there is a clear delineation between old and new, there is a strong sense of continuity, fed in large part by Made by Storey timber floorboards.”

Many existing Edwardian features in the front of the home were retained and thoughtfully restored. Original fireplaces, windows and ceiling roses bring depth and nod to the building’s historical context.

The scope of work included a generous extension to both the ground and first floors, restoration works to the façade, and minor works within the front of the home retaining many original heritage features. Ceiling roses, original windows, fireplaces, and existing arches have been thoughtfully restored and worked into the design in a holistic way. With bold and subtle contemporary features such as Made by Storey timber floorboards and a soothing grey colour palette throughout, these front rooms illustrate a thoughtful marriage of old and new.

The original layout was “reconfigured to transform three rooms into a luxurious master suite,” Cassandra explains. Here, the clients opted for carpet for its soft and cosy qualities, but a consistent palette of cool grey bathes the calming space, with welcome hints of colour through artwork and a playful neon sign. The original bedroom included a fireplace that has since been removed, yet the archway above remains and is now the entrance to the walk-in robe and ensuite. As Cassandra says, the ensuite is “quite cotemporary but with one particularly strong nod to the heritage nature of the building.” An intricate original window from the main bathroom was retained and refitted to the new ensuite. Elements such as this are critical in achieving sympathetic restoration works; they help to maintain a balance between the existing and the new, nodding to the home’s historical context amongst the fresh, contemporary crispness of a renovation.

“I wanted to ensure there was longevity in what we did, because it’s a beautiful heritage home,” interior architect Cassandra Walker says.

The clients selected Made by Storey’s Peppercorn boards, a premium French oak board from the Touch Collection with smokey grey and nut-brown hues.

The extension is sleek in its minimal material palette. While there is a clear delineation between old and new – heritage skirting boards finish at the threshold and a contemporary profile takes its place – there is a strong sense of continuity, fed in large part by the Made by Storey timber floorboards. Stretching from front to back and laid in herringbone style, the intricate pattern of the boards accentuates the width of the grand hallway and guides the eye towards the back of the building, as do the generous views to the pool and backyard beyond. Herringbone flooring was one of Jess’s “must-haves” within her initial brief; she was convinced they would “complement the classic, Edwardian home, and tie the old with the new in an impactful way.” Opting for Made by Storey’s Peppercorn boards from the Touch Collection, the premium French oak flooring is an essential feature of the home. Wire brushed and finished with a matt lacquer, the flooring emanates hints of smokey grey and nut-brown, creating a rich and tactile backdrop to the rest of the interior.

As Cassandra explains, the flooring was selected early in the design phase and guided decisions surrounding the overall palette and texture. The resulting synergy is most apparent in the kitchen, where cabinetry in a timber veneer custom stained to suit the floors and lightly veined natural stone create a cohesive narrative. “Just as the flooring is a strong design point, so is the natural stone,” Jess notes. The kitchen formed a large part of the brief, with a strong focus on functionality and materiality. “It all needed to be very durable and practical,” Cassandra says. “We selected Super White Dolomite for its robust nature, and for the cabinetry, an American oak crown cut veneer with a custom finger pull design for the drawer panels.” Cassandra workshopped Jess’s initial concept for the design of the cupboards and drawers, landing on a contemporary interpretation of a shaker-style profile which sits well within the refined interiority. Further, a four-metre-long island bench is both notionally grounding and practical.

Large glass windows overlooking the pool and backyard feature a steel arch inlay which not only brings character to an otherwise minimal profile but references the original Edwardian arches in the front of the home.

As Cassandra says, “while contemporary, we wanted to inject some personality into the extension and bring some of the beautiful character of the front of the home to the back. It was about marrying the two.” Resultingly, heritage motifs and details have been extruded from the Edwardian character and incorporated into various contemporary aspects. The design of the windows overlooking the backyard presented an opportunity in which to explore this. “Jess wanted to connect the interior and exterior with as much glass and openness as possible,” Cassandra says. Initially hesitant to use such an extensive amount of glass in a residential context, Cassandra “put pen to paper and started sketching up some different options to see how we could incorporate some more character into those open panes.” The resulting design sees each pane of glass intersected by a steel arch inlay. There is ample connection between inside and outside, however, the wall of glass is softened by the introduction of the curved steel detail. Further, this unique design references the original arches in the hallway and brings an ornate element to an otherwise minimalist profile.

Embarking on a project of this kind requires an appreciation for the building’s historical context, and an awareness of how that can contribute to – and enhance – the building’s future. As Cassandra says, “I wanted to ensure there was longevity in what we did, because it’s a beautiful heritage home.” In Jess and Cassandra’s shared endeavour to create something worthwhile, aesthetically beautiful, and functional, they have transformed this tired Edwardian dwelling into a robust and sophisticated contemporary home fit for family life.