The happy co-inhabitation of old and new / by megan norgate

 Left to right: Aged brass sliding door furniture; Salvaged brass door handles

Left to right: Aged brass sliding door furniture; Salvaged brass door handles

There are many schools of thought when it comes to renovating and extending period homes.
One is to provide a stark contrast between the contemporary and original build and many council heritage departments support this idea. This came out of a reaction to faux victorian or edwardian extensions that were popular a few decades ago, and an idea that any contemporary additions should be easily distinguishable from the original building.
I like the authenticity of this idea, but on a slightly different spectrum. I believe the old should be old, and the new should be new but they should have an intimate conversation with one another. For me the key to cohesion is in the details, the small signifiers in the interior finishes that reference both the past and the future of a building.
How do you bring a sense of nostalgia to the blandness of contemporary finishes?  Or lift the heaviness of period features so they can dance lightly with the new build?

HIGH QUALITY MATERIALS AND FINISHES
We have all been in a home where the 1980's renovation is falling apart while the original 20th century features still stand strong. Materials such as timbers, stone and metal are timeless and can provide a continuum between the old and new.

LINKING FLOORING
If you are extending consider sourcing either recycled floorboards to match the original; replacing all of the floors with the same material (and sending the existing for recycling); or if you do change the type of timber board, using the same width boards and having the whole floor stained or oiled in the same finish.

LINKING DOORS
If you have unpainted timber doors in the old house consider using timber veneer doors in the new.
In the renovation above of a californian bungalow, the original doors had been replaced with poor quality cavity doors in the 1960′s. I sourced these salvaged 1940′s solid timber doors from Select Salvage and had them dipped to remove the many layers of old lead paint. These are not a traditional Californian Bungalow style but the simplicity of three long panels meant they could be trimmed to fit and worked well with the contemporary spaces. For door furniture I sourced salvaged brass 1940′s handles, that despite the beautiful aged patina they had, were a very classic line that is still used today in contemporary door furniture.

LINKING FITTINGS AND FIXTURES
As some rooms would have both old and new doors in them I wanted the door furniture to be of the same material, so I selected new brass door furniture that echoed the lever shape of the salvaged ones. I then had the difficulty of having to find several pieces of sliding door furniture that would tie in with the original aged brass pieces. The solution was to use pretty awful but readily available bright yellow brass door furniture and age it by hand using very fine steel wool to remove the lacquer and a special solution to darken the brass. For the exterior sliding doors I found beautiful aged bronze handles made in New Zealand by Halliday Baillie.  Brass and bronze are wonderful materials for door furniture as they are 100% recyclable at the end of their life and some high end products from companies like Chant, use recycled material to make their products. If left un-laquered brass will develop a beautiful patina over time. Chrome door furniture requires carcinogenic and highly toxic chemicals used in the chroming process, and the chrome does wear off eventually.

Back to the subject of this post, relationships between the old and new. I used salvaged period and new door furniture in the same space unifying them by the materials they were made of. These small details show that the building is one, that the new respects the old, and the old is willing to move with the times.

COLOURS
This idea can also be utilised in the choice of paint colour and wall coverings. In this californian bungalow I chose softened classic early 20th century colours for the original bedrooms, such as soft blues and mushroomy pinks, washed right out with lots of light grey so that overall effect was still light and modern. In the contemporary space I used warm neutrals so you did not feel a sense of cold or emptiness when you transistion into the extension, which are often lighter and more open plan than the original building.  In the front hall, which is visible from both the new and old part of the house, I selected a contemporary wall paper by designer Penny Maskell. Designed in Tasmania and hand printed in Melbourne, this gum leaf and abstract flower design is new in style but classic in it’s subject of native flora and fauna. In this case I used the gum leaf as a nod to the three enormous gum trees at the base of the property that would have been around when the house was originally built and have watched it ever since. The new extension frames these trees in large picture windows, so the unremarkable front entrance, with its lovely wallpaper provides something in the way of a little promise of what is to come beyond the hall.

Back to the subject of this post, relationships between the old and new. I used salvaged period and new door furniture in the same space unifying them by the materials they were made of. These small details show that the building is one, that the new respects the old, and the old is willing to move with the times. A theme that will always defy the ages is the natural environment, and natural materials. Using recycled architectural features and materials in your extension will help to soften the hard lines of contemporary building and add texture and depth to the spaces.