Soft Revival – Drummond St by Whispering Smith

Words by Kate Donaldson
Architecture by Whispering Smith
Photography by Ben Hosking
Interior Design by Whispering Smith
Landscape Design by Whispering Smith, MBJ Building + Landscapes
Joinery by MBJ Building + Landscapes

A tender reimagining of a Gold Rush-era residence, Drummond St by Whispering Smith offers both complementary restorative work and gently contrasting contemporary additions to an ornate heritage home.

Drummond St marks a deeply personal project for Whispering Smith as a renovation for Director Kate Fitzgerald’s mother and with a brief evolving from this intimate connection of aesthetic sensibility. The original structure was built in the 1880s by a Scottish draper and integrates many emblematic features of the late-Victorian era, including stained glass, flourished mouldings, arches and decorative brickwork. These adornments were later paired with an eclectic “faux heritage” extension to the home in the early 1990s. For Whispering Smith, the incumbent weaving of old and new presented a challenge to achieve both sensitive reparation and considered intervention.

The simple, unfixed pieces stand in each room as temporary visitors, conscious of their own mobility and gracefully detached from the enduring heritage structure.

Each elaborate or sculpted heritage moulding has been carefully and lovingly restored by Whispering Smith. Through reparative attention and care, the extant design elements become elevated focal points within the crisp, white rooms and the character of the home is preserved within the revival. Sophisticated material accents such as brushed nickel and marble are introduced modestly throughout the project as elegant counterpoints to the refined formal gestures of the rooms.

Typical of late-Victorian homes, delicately trimmed doorways, windows and fireplaces are centrally positioned in the walls and can become cluttered against robust fixtures. Instead, Whispering Smith introduces slender fittings and cabinetwork that are graceful companions to the carved interior geometries, and which reflect the light, translucent atmosphere of the bedrooms. Where furniture meets the ground, it is cleverly raised on slim legs above high skirting boards as a gesture of perceivable separation and clarity.

Drummond St demonstrates the resonant power of small, light-handed design moves in a heritage setting. By honouring the identity of the existing structure while subtly connecting it to modern functionality, Whispering Smith breathes new life into the antique home.

To recalibrate the early 1990s extension, Whispering Smith attentively adjusts openings and works with the existing brick walls to provoke a correction in the way spaces flow together. A skylight has been added to the kitchen to draw light onto sculptural marble-top benchwork while a reimagined floor plan also brings garden views and rare winter sun into adjunct new and old areas.

An introduced material palette of black steel joinery and timber battens build texture and tactility against white brick partitions, while the clumsy “faux-heritage” arches have been replaced with unfussy, relevant-era plasterwork. The opportunity to revive the 90s extension also allows for necessary improvements to energy efficiency and weatherproofing through reglazing and a gently protruding steel awning. The soft colours and affectionate material connections softly reframe the heritage façade within a contemporary context while retaining the dignity of the found conditions.