green building design

YARRAVILLIA PROJECT by megan norgate

brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne

This project began in 2015 with the small scope of a new wheel-chair friendly bathroom design. Emboldened by the initial design process the clients, Claire and Hayden, decided to consolidate their long-term plans for the house into a full scale-renovation. The family of four had bought their dream inner-suburban home in an ideal location - tucked down the end of a cul-de-sac that snaked around Cruickshank park in Yarraville. The house is a familiar post-war cream brick 1950's Bungalow with big park views. Their design brief was one that was wholly aligned with the BNE approach:

"To create a beautiful, sustainable, thoughtful, wheelchair-friendly family home that meets many people's different needs. To restore and protect all of the original fittings where possible and to reuse what can be re-imagined. A super kitchen for the domestic chef, great living spaces both inside and out and lots of storage" - Claire

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brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne

Claire and Hayden loved the proportions and quirks of the house. In good original condition, it contained an over-sized front room, once used for ballroom dancing by the first owners. Overlooking the lofty gum trees of the park and opening onto a suntrap crazy-paved patio at the front, the home embodied the modernist design ideals they are so fond of. With two young sons under 10, they needed a robust and uber-functional space. Owen, their eldest son, uses a wheelchair for mobility, so the house was designed for ease of movement and to facilitate various daily activities. This home needs to work a bit harder than most, providing a space for entertaining, play, places to store specialist equipment, to work from home, foster creative projects and to support the people that provide daily care for Owen. 
Brave New Eco collaborated closely with Claire and Hayden, to understand their family's functional needs and to create an environment that was a consolidation of the many narratives that inform their life. The outcome is a deeply optimistic, nostalgic and playful environment, speaking volumes of the character, tenacity and good taste of the people that inhabit it.

Brave New Eco collaborated with Greensolar Designs to resolve the design - a sustainable, passive-function, double-storey extension containing a kitchen, dining and sitting room opening to the north and east.  Upstairs a "parent's zone" with bedroom, study and ensuite looks out to treetops in every direction. The extension was clad in recycled red and cream brick and leads on to timber decking and a pergola connecting the house to a converted garage workshop studio. 

In the open plan kitchen/dining, a rich retro palette of browns, oranges and yellows is combined with soft greens for a warm organic effect. Herringbone patterned terracotta tiles in tones of earthy brown were handmade in New Zealand and provide a warm surface underfoot as they absorb the winter sun. A large sliding door in sunny 'margarine yellow'  separates the old part of the house from the new. 

A single space heater warms the extension and, next to it, a built-in desk is designed for Owen to use. The deco style curved front patio corner was replicated in a curved series of windows into which an oval dining table fits snugly.  Above it, Pop and Scott's "Starburst Dreamweaver" pendant never looked so at home.

brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne
brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne

The olive green kitchen hides it's utilitarian heart behind beautiful surfaces. Mossy green tiles are used for the splashback and the high benchtop, concealing the serious work zone with an integrated stainless steel bench, triple sink and cooktop. Overhead shelving is suspended in aged bronze finished steel and D handles were custom made to match. Rounded blackbutt timber shelves speak to the curved forms found throughout the house. Every drawer and cupboard system was custom designed for the items it would store and each space is in full use. 

brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne

The moment you step into the front entrance the home states its intention not to be bland with a joyful paprika coloured entranceway. The entrance opens out to a wide hallway lined with storage and a solid Australian hardwood staircase.

brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne

A schoolhouse style red and blue laundry features salvaged laboratory taps and vintage bakelite red cupboard pulls. A custom-designed hardwood tilt-down drying rack sits over the bench, and a double-sided linen press is accessible from both the laundry and the hall.

brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne

The 1960's pool inspired main bathroom used mixed shades of matt blue mosaic tiles. Beautiful raw brass tap-ware was purchased in 2015 and quietly aged in storage, adding a touch of luxury. The curved edge of the hardwood vanity eliminates hard corners in the small space so carers can move around the bathtub easily. The vanity is designed for Owen's chair to tuck under with the semi-recessed basin accessible from all sides. Claire says of the new bathroom: 

"Our son now has a very lovely bathroom that he can access in a shower chair. He can transfer easily from his bedroom out of his wheelchair through all the widened doorways and wheel straight into his shower. It's great! Plus the bathroom also works as a great family bathroom without a 'medical' or 'disability' flavour that often accompanies these kinds of bathrooms"

brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne
brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne

Inside the original rooms a brutalist relief wallpaper, anodised metal sun-disk style wall lights and curtain relief plaster pelmets were among the quirky and unique features the clients wanted to preserve. The wallpaper was painstakingly repaired and painted over in mauve and soft pink tones taken from the twin tiled fireplaces. Pelmets and lights were removed and refurbished in an exercise in patience by the owners and the dedicated trades of Macasar builders. Claire and Hayden's collection of vintage kitsch, mid-century, and industrial objects had been stored for years waiting for their forever house. Claire, who worked for many years in fashion, has a keen eye for colour and form and Hayden had amassed a vast collection of industrial relics and objects in a nearby junkyard. The eclectic colour scheme was intuitively drawn from both the existing home's materials and the owner's belongings. 

brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne
brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne
brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne
brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne
brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne

Timber double-glazed timber windows were designed to be derivative of the original steel framed windows, that were beautiful but beyond restoration. Hardwood ramps were added to the front and back, the original bricks cleaned and sandstone paving restored. A 5-kilowatt solar array and evacuated tube solar hot water system was installed on the new roof. A custom-made angled hardwood front door was made with textured glass side panels to light up the entranceway. 

brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne

The clients summary of their favourite aspects of their new home is: 

"The kitchen and the new living space are so functional and tranquil. The kitchen has so much attention to detail, great appliances, its a delight! The joinery is exceptional. Both the bathrooms are really functional, easy spaces and so beautiful. We are really happy with our bold colour scheme and everybody who visits love the colours throughout, we feel enveloped by warm earth tones. The old living space has new life and is even prettier than before. Upstairs is great and feels like a getaway. Everything is easy, everything is beautiful and feels organic. There is lots more light coming inside, it looks amazing. There is much more space for everyone in our family to escape and good spaces for us to come together as well. It's hard to pick a favourite - but the best thing is the gorgeous home we now inhabit, which we feel very connected to, proud of and thankful for. The outcome was beyond our initial expectations but as the project evolved, we grew with it".

brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne

Photographs by Emma Byrnes

COLLINGWOOD COMPACT by megan norgate

brave new eco sustainable interior design megan norgate
brave new eco sustainable interior design megan norgate

This project is the home of clients totally committed to living resourcefully in small spaces. These guys walk-the-walk and talk-the-talk - willing to do everything they can to reduce their energy use and create a low impact lifestyle for their family. 
I first met Zoe and Cameron when they came to chat with me at a 'Speed date a sustainable expert' event a few years back. When they got back in contact they had been working with Matt from Greensolar Designs to resolve a small extension design (building out to a boundary wall on one side) containing a third bedroom, light-well and a study. 

After realising they could add two extra rooms and that the modestly-sized Collingwood cottage could really work for their family long term, they decided that they would need to include a renovation of the kitchen, bathroom, laundry, study, living room, and bedrooms. BNE was engaged to design these alterations including lighting, interior + exterior finishes, window + door furniture and soft furnishings. It was a pleasure to collaborate with Matt to create a modest, hyper-functional, super-cute home.

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Above: The kitchen contains an induction cooktop, new highly efficient appliances, and beautiful matt black Paperock benchtops made from recycled bamboo and paper. Joinery was kept simple, with a combination of laminex and Vic ash veneer.

We started with the notion that a reconfiguration of the interior zones and good joinery design was the key to the small-spaces working for the family. We re-arranged their current furniture to better utilise the open-plan living spaces so they could test out a new layout whilst the design was being developed. In order to keep the kitchen small and simple, a metre wide extension to the boundary wall was suggested, allowing a walk in pantry to be included to allow for bulk purchasing and overflow appliances. 

brave new eco sustainable interior design megan norgate

Above: The ventilated plywood-shelved walk in pantry was designed to house the Thermomix and toaster - keeping the kitchen bench space clear.

brave new eco sustainable interior design megan norgate

Above: Built-in robes and drawers were added to each room, with handmade hardwood handles by a local joiner. A study was designed with space for books and two desks, one standing and one sitting. 

The interiors were painted throughout with non-toxic paints and timber sealants, retrofitted with LED lighting, eco-rated joinery materials were used and no MDF was used for mouldings or doors. 

megan norgate sustainable interior design
brave new eco sustainable interior design megan norgate

Above: The bathroom and laundry were reconfigured to allow for a large linen press for household storage. Handmade timber vanities were installed and custom mirror surrounds made with the left-over timbers.

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Above: The bathrooms are compact but work a treat. Matt porcelain tiles in soft green and charcoal, combined with matt white penny rounds are durable and provide interest in the small space. 

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Above: Built-in-robes included drawers and a "play and study" nook in the children's room to reduce any need for extra pieces of furniture and keep the rooms open and spacious.

Water tanks, fully retrofitted insulation, a PV array, solar hot water, secure bike storage, and security window screens and doors for cross-flow ventilation complete the project making it an outstanding example of a sustainable retrofit home, not only in energy use but in encouraging sustainable lifestyle habits for this family and any future inhabitants. 

brave new eco sustainable interior design megan norgate

Above: Brave New Eco also completed a landscape design featuring decking and built-in productive garden beds, composting systems, and adjustable exterior shading.

All photographs by Emma Byrnes.

 

 

LOVE YOUR WORK- JOIN OUR SHARED STUDIO! by megan norgate

brave new eco sustainable interior design megan norgate

***** UPDATE TO THIS BLOG POST! Are you a designer working as a sole practitioner or with 1-2 other people? Would you like to work in a productive purpose designer collaborative community? We have desks available in our design studio- and are looking for other designers or sustainability professionals looking for an exceptionally beautiful and functional working environment. Landscape, industrial, interiors, architecture, graphics all suitable practices. Read all the details about the studio here. *****


BNE has completed some workplace fit-outs in the last couple of years, alongside our residential work. Just to give you a taster we thought we would show you our own awesome creekside design studio in Northcote. When we found this studio we knew it ticked all the items on our wish list for the ultimate workspace. It is a sustainably retrofitted industrial building with a unique bonus - a 100 year lease on an acre of creek frontage - and a deck off the studio overlooking the native trees and Ceres environment park. 

brave new eco sustainable interior design megan norgate

Seeing the adapative re-use and development of this industrial park on the edge of an important urban wildlife corridor is so encouraging. Erin and Henrik Ender, the architect and designer owners of Big Bang studios have not only developed this land but have contributed positively to the surrounding ecologies and community, activating the area socially and restoring a neglected and polluted creek frontage. They have also created an extraordinarily productive work environment, in which, you can step out at any time during the day onto the deck and have a few moments with the birdlife. We feel very privileged to be able to work from here, and our studio is multifaceted - part office, part maker-space, and part sanctuary (and occasional party venue).

brave new eco sustainable interior design megan norgate
brave new eco sustainable interior design megan norgate

Our workspace is perfect for our needs, as comfortable and homely as it is a functional professional environment. Our own studio design is a pretty organic and ongoing process but for our commissioned workplace designs we take a more refined approach - creating resolved and inherently resourceful, 'feel-good-to-be-in' workspaces. Below we have summarised just some of the considerations we use to embed sustainable objectives into these projects. Using a human and environment-centered approach, we focus on both the health and productivity of the users and the resourcefulness and adaptability of the space.

brave new eco sustainable interior design megan norgate
brave new eco sustainable interior design megan norgate

DIVERSITY AND ORGANISATIONAL CULTURE: Our designs are specifically curated for a business or organisation's individual structure, needs and personality. We lean away from bland corporate environments to create spaces that communicate the identity and ethos of a business and reflect the diverse personalities of the people within it. This may be by using locally designed/made elements, creating meaningful connections between object, maker and community. We may commission artworks or support art projects that communicate relevant themes. These gestures positively affect end-user perceptions of the work environment, enhancing comfort, amenity, connection and quite simply, making a person feel at home at work. 

FUNCTIONAL COHESION: Functional amenity is created through logical and intuitive ease of movement, by using ergonomically optimised furnishings and joinery and by providing adequate and accessible storage. Interior design is a potential place to solve workplace problems around productivity, distraction and communication.  Each workplaces way of operating needs to be firstly understood, and then ultimately improved by the process. Creating a healthy, pleasant workplace includes finding out what employees need from their environment to do their jobs well then responding to these needs within the design.  

SUSTAINABILITY OF MATERIALS: We positively select for sustainably sourced materials, furnishings and fittings, that are either good environmental choice certified, energy efficient, low VOC, locally made or contain recycled materials. We take into consideration the life cycle impacts of a product.

ADAPTION AND RE-USE: We always start from a point of optimising the potential of existing features and resources of both the building and the existing furnishings. High quality, appealing and essential existing elements are often integrated with new furnishings. We aim for our workplaces to be future-proofed by designing in the flexibility to adapt to changing needs and growth over time. This may be through the use of modular or flexible systems or spaces and/or through selecting furnishings that allow for partial replacement, repair and upgrading. The value, enjoyment and longevity of our spaces is enriched by making classically appealing design choices in high-quality materials. Where possible we source second hand or upcycled furnishing and materials. We avoid applying a blanket solution to a whole environment and draw diverse elements together for flexibility, personalisation and interest.  This diversity and quality creates interior spaces that withstand robust use and resist becoming outdated.  

HEALTH AND WELLBEING: Evidence-based design methods are used to create pleasing and productive spaces that support human health and happiness. This involves the careful consideration of sound, lighting, indoor air quality, colour and artwork from a psychological and physiological health point of view. Improvements in indoor air quality can be achieved by minimising the use of materials that off-gas chemical pollutants, and by the beneficial installation of plant life to absorb remaining indoor pollutants. Providing pleasant visual aspects for users is possible with the use of carefully selected artwork, natural materials and textures and colour to create visual interest. 

PLANTSCAPING: Indoor environmental quality (IEQ) can be dramatically improved by introducing plant life. This is due to the remarkable capacity of indoor plants for air purification through phytoremediation. Plants can absorb and metabolise airborne contaminants such as particulate matter (fine dust), and the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released from our furnishings, paints, adhesives, building materials, paper, textiles and plastics, found in high concentrations in well-sealed indoor environments. A University of Technology Sydney study on plants and indoor air quality found significant improvements in recuding stress and negative feelings with the introduction of plant life (up to 50 and 58 per cent respectively). Brave new eco specialises in plantscaping environments, specifying appropriate quantities and types of plant life in low care systems. You can read more about using plants in interior environments here.

brave new eco sustainable interior design big bang

All photographs by Emma Byrnes.

BUNGALOW UPCYCLE by megan norgate

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We first visited this 1950's cream brick bungalow on a generous 800sqm block back in 2013 for a sustainable design consultation. At the time the house had an overwhelming list of issues to be resolved, it was in disrepair, dim, dated, and freezing in winter. Most confoundedly, in the 1970's, a self-contained granny-flat had been built only 4 metres from the back of the house. This addition made both buildings feel hemmed in and blocked the home's connection to the generous garden. With a south facing backyard, the home lacked in northern sunlight. To the owner's dismay, the design professionals they had met with so far had lumped it in the 'too hard' basket advising them to demolish both buildings and subdivide the block into townhouses. Such is the fate of many period homes on large parcels of land close to the CBD! The clients loved the deco style charm of the cream brick, and despite the unfortunate configuration, wanted to make the most of the considerable resources contained in two substantial and solid brick buildings with hardwood features.

brave new eco megan norgate sustainable interior design emma byrnes

Our design concept was to turn the problem on its head and make it the solution. We proposed that rather than demolishing the granny-flat and building an extension, we keep the entire footprint of both buildings and consolidate them to create one large, unified, ecologically sustainable home. This design was resourceful both materially and financially by drastically minimising the amount of new build required instead capitalising on the scope of the existing structures. We suggested an approach based on maintaining the charming original features of the principal building and upgrading the rear buildings interiors and thermal envelope extensively so that they read like new spaces. This project required a lot of imagination and a willingness of the owners to do something unconventional. To our delight, they embraced the idea wholeheartedly.

The buildings needed a total reconfiguration, refurbishment and thermally efficient retrofit. During this process, we were able to solve many diverse problems at once. We provided access to all day winter sun to daytime living areas, by placing them in the rear building. The design created a functional layout and abundant visual and physical connection to the garden. We collaborated with building designer Logan Shield to design structural upgrades to replace a substandard lean two passage currently connecting joining the main house and minor dwelling to function as a sitting room and sun trap. A new cathedral roof to the rear building allowed for the addition of north-facing clerestory windows. 

brave new eco megan norgate sustainable interior design emma byrnes
brave new eco megan norgate sustainable interior design emma byrnes

Vintage danish metal pendants were used in the kitchen along with led strip lighting under cabinets. Locally made lights were used by Giffin Design and Anna Charlesworth. Up/ down LED wall-lights were used throughout to allow for ceiling fans.

brave new eco megan norgate sustainable interior design

Creating a visual and practical connection from the residence to the rear garden was prioritised, sliding doors were added to the east courtyard and west decking- making the most of the generous productive gardens. The existing window openings were used to avoid the need for patching of exterior brick-work and the windows upgraded to high performance timber-framed double glazed models. West and south facing windows were reduced and north facing glazing increased. Flexible use of the spaces includes the potential work from home scenarios. Maximising the thermal efficiency of the buildings and upgrading to sustainable technologies involved rainwater tanks, photovoltaic systems and solar hot water. We updated the heating to two zoned efficient space heater systems and added ceiling fans. 

brave new eco megan norgate
brave new eco megan norgate sustainable interior design

Designed in collaboration with Geometrica, an exceedingly simple timber clad structure formed the new sitting room that would slide in under the eaves and require minimal built alterations to integrate with the existing rooflines. This room opens onto outdoor living spaces to the east and west allowing the owners to follow all day sun and providing cooling ventilation. Early on we envisioned a space for reading and morning coffee and bobby coffee table and pampa rug from Pop and Scott made this space come together. 

brave new eco megan norgate sustainable interior design

The new living areas are separated from the rest of the home by a beautiful barn-style blackbutt timber door that was handmade onsite. Providing the heat zone separation, this also slides away when not in use, tucked neatly against the shelving like a feature wall panel.

brave new eco megan norgate sustainable interior design
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The old granny flat is now unrecognisable- entirely transformed into a warm, light, open plan, living/dining and kitchen plus a new laundry/ mud/ drying room and second bathroom. We carefully selected classically appealing details that do not reproduce the mid-century period style but instead provide a contemporary interpretation of it, building a cohesive relationship between old and new. The existing Australian hardwood detailing (Blackbutt) was continued throughout the new spaces to minimise any jarring transitions. Door and window hardware is consistent in aged brass.

brave new eco megan norgate sustainable interior design
brave new eco megan norgate sustainable interior design

We sourced and repurposed salvaged timber railway lockers and fluted glass doors.  A combination of vintage and locally made custom furnishings was used to create a timeless mix of style and form - unified by quality and materiality.

brave new eco megan norgate sustainable interior design emma byrnes

The colour palette draws on earthy deep textures and colours reminiscent of the late mid-century period 1950-1970. A neutral base of white, charcoal, warm blacks and concrete is warmed up with varying shades of warm tones come from timber, terracotta, brass and treacle-coloured tiles. Accents in deep green provide contrast. Surface materials create textural interest, with the existing exterior brick creating a new internal wall, slim plantation timber lining boards to the cathedral ceiling, mosaic tiling, raw terracotta and recycled composite surfaces. We considered durability and practical function in each space with a place for everything and robust surfaces that will age well with use.

 

 

 

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All photographs by Emma Byrnes

peacock st project by megan norgate

brave new eco sustainable interior design
brave new eco sustainable interior design

This gorgeous home was completed at the end of 2015 and we have finally found the time to take some pictures.
The lovely young family who live here wanted to upgrade the efficiency of their Californian bungalow and create better spaces for family life. Central to our design approach is a philosophy that believes a home should be an authentic expression of it's inhabitants' values. We were guided by the clients' tastes and preference for classic early to mid 20th century style and design. The clients were trusting in our interpretation of this and a rich palette of burnt oranges, deep teal blues and soft greens was used.
The original house was poky, dark, lacked any visual connection to the garden and as avid gardeners, the clients were keen to open the home to the productive vegie gardens and northern sunlight.  The home had many wonderful, pre-existing art deco-style features however previous renovations had added poorly configured small rooms onto the back; resulting in a house that lacked natural light, felt closed in, and cost a fortune to heat in the winter. We sought to remove the sense of being enclosed by opening the whole house up internally through the centre. This was achieved by turning a small dark bedroom into a centralised study/play area that leads on to a new kitchen and dining. In collaboration with Geometrica building design we revised the layout and added a tiny 32m2 extension into which a new kitchen, walk-in pantry, bathroom, laundry and dining-room went. This area was opened up to a large outdoor deck and pergola to the north and made to feel wider and more expansive than it really was with a high pitched ceiling and a deep window seat running along the north side of the room.

brave new eco sustainable interior design
brave new eco sustainable interior design
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We softened potential bottle necks in the kitchen by using a curved floating bench clad in recycled hardwood. The kitchen joinery was custom made out of recycled messmate timbers, EO laminate and oiled in natural oils. In contrast to the labyrinth of rooms one previously had to walk through to get outside, we sought to place the outdoor spaces as the focus, so that the building and the garden are mutually beneficial to one another. Taking a holistic view of the living envrionment, landscaping was resolved concurrently with the building design and interiors, and we used the renovation as an opportunity to resolve garden storage and neighbouring over-looking issues. In an Brave new eco home- any established tree is considered an asset and we configured the interior layout so that the huge mature gum tree deep in the back yard is visible as soon as the front door is opened. The kitchen is visible from nearly everywhere in the house so we hid the work spaces behind an island bench return. A cold-store walk in pantry large enough for a workbench and the fridge to go in was designed and in order to keep this room cool, a long ventilation pipe was run through the length of the slab and opened to the cool under-house air (air drawn in is cooled by the slab). A sliding door shuts this area off from the rest of the kitchen when it is not in use and keeps the busy mess out of sight. We refurbished vintage copper pendant lights for the kitchen and handmade Manuka honey-coloured tiles add a touch of warmth.

brave new eco sustainable interior design
brave new eco sustainable interior design

A new living room was created and a gas space heater installed to zone the heating into the highly insulated extension. Recycled deco double doors were used in the lounge room so it could be closed off when watching TV and a new sliding door with beautiful fluted glass was used to separate the extension from the original house (that includes the bedrooms and primary bathroom.)

brave new eco sustainable interior design

The main original house was separated from the extension for the purpose of space heating. The main bathroom was also renovated, made larger by extending into the hall space. We recycled the existing bathtub and chose a soft pewter finish for the tap-ware to avoid the use of chrome. Hand made fish-scale tiles were chosen for over the bath and an art deco drinks trolley was repurposed as a bathroom vanity. 

brave new eco sustainable interior design

As often happens on our larger renovations we establish a long standing relationship with the client and are therefore still adding furnishings to this project over time and as they are ready. We have recovered vintage chairs and had linen curtains, lamps and cushions made with custom printed fabrics from Ink and Spindle. Driven by the concept of finding items that the clients connect to on a personal level - we have sourced a second-hand Jardan couch, a vintage blackbean sideboard and artwork from various Australian artists. It gives us such pleasure to see our clients feel a sense of belonging in; being expressed by; and feeling connected to the story of creating their home. 

Photographs by Emma Byrnes.

renovate, retrofit, re-imagine: a permaculture approach to a suburban home renovation by megan norgate

brave new eco sustainable interior design

Recently I have revisited the process I went through when we renovated our own home, in an article written for Australian permaculture magazine Pip - the Design issue. 
Eight years ago we bought a dilapidated 1940’s Californian bungalow in Melbourne’s inner northern suburbs. It was in a semi-derelict state and had a heritage overlay, flood level restrictions and a long narrow bloc. However the site was extremely special as it backed onto the Merri creek wildlife corridor. The real value for us was not in the bricks and mortar but in the proximity of the majestic, mature gum trees, running water and the deep buffer of native vegetation on either side of the creek, creating a peaceful sanctuary in an urban environment. We began the process of retrofitting and renovating the home by thinking of it as part of a permaculture system that would integrate the built, interior and biological environments and in turn create an urban existence for our family that allowed us to connect to nature and our local community on a daily basis. There are some key ways of thinking about design from a permaculture perspective based on the ethics and principles as defined by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren - and below I have outlined how I applied some of these principles in our process. 

brave new eco sustainable interior design

OBSERVATION: As we designed the renovation it was important to observe the building over a full seasonal year by spending time on the site and noticing the patterns of the elements - sun, water, wind - in order to harness them for use in our home. 

brave new eco sustainable interior design
brave new eco sustainable interior design

CAPTURING ENERGY: All buildings have some potential for passive function that can be realised. In order to make the 1940’s weatherboard home thermally efficient we took the whole building apart piece-by-piece and back to its structural frames. We then wrapped it in insulation and put it all back together again, sealing every little gap as we went. The process has a sense of the loving act of mending the holes in your favourite coat. The extension was built on a suspended concrete slab that allowed us to introduce a thermal mass capacity into the home. We located new windows to open up the home to the winter sun, shade ourselves from the summer heat and to capture cooling breezes. We re-oriented the room layout so that all living areas faced north, flooding the spaces with natural light and allowing the winter sun to reach its long fingers inside. 

brave new eco sustainable interior design

PATTERNS OF USE: By reconfiguring the layout of the existing home and extending it, we resolved the spatial design around patterns of use. This design solution creates healthy and resourceful living so that the home functions with the ‘path of least resistance’. Our common utility areas butt up against the social areas so that no one feels like they are in purgatory while doing washing in the laundry. When it’s raining, we can walk barefoot in the house under a clear roof off the deck to hang washing outside. Living in the new home our daily tasks and rituals are now performed in an ergonomic, logical and enjoyable fashion. The best ‘storage vessel’ for the heat and energy of the sun is the human body. Ideally we can wake up to the sun, eat breakfast with it streaming through the window and then relax at the end of the day while watching it set.

brave new eco sustainable interior design
brave new eco sustainable interior design
brave new eco sustainable interior design
brave new eco sustainable interior design

RESOURCEFULNESS: During the construction process, we sought to produce the minimum amount of waste possible by first looking at what we had around us, and making the most of existing and discarded materials. Demolished materials such as cabinetry and architectural features were collected and stored for reuse, resold, or collected for further recycling. We repaired or partially replaced what we could - salvaging undamaged weatherboards; collecting the old hardwood skirtings and architraves; and sourcing additional salvaged timbers, doors, and fixtures. We consistently placed value on the marginal - the little details and elements of a design that brought character and resourcefulness to our family home. Every cupboard handle, every window winder, every material junction is where you have the opportunity for the greatest change.

salvaged brass door handles and timber doors were used

salvaged brass door handles and timber doors were used

brave new eco sustainable interior design

TIME: The design process requires great consideration, testing and evolution over time. For every week we spent in design consideration the project continued to improve. This also allowed for a nuanced design solution in direct response to our community relationships and collaborations. Clear and honest communication between the whole team was so important to ensure we shared our vision and considered everyone’s concerns. This slow and evolving approach to design reprioritises the experience and connection between people over the goal of a rushed completion date. Our home has been allowed to beautifully ‘cure’ over time, retaining the potential for future adaptations . By using materials that are only fully realized when their natural patinas show up over time, it is then that our home starts to come alive. In our house, I try to choose special pieces that are worth keeping, appreciating the skill and materiality of highly-crafted objects that ultimately create heirlooms.

Secondhand light fitting and furnishings have been used throughout

Secondhand light fitting and furnishings have been used throughout

BREVITY: I had to curb my enthusiasm for collecting stuff and taking up more space. Our cupboards were intentionally designed not to be too deep in order to avoid things disappearing into the dark zone of being too far away. We created one large central space that opened up to the same amount of outdoor decking. It has become a home where we can welcome our extended community, it can be used as a shared resource and has allowed us to host community groups and events. We also welcome help-exchangers and the neighbourhood children at spontaneous hours of the day. Our bedrooms and utility rooms are modestly sized and shaped for their intended use. Bathrooms and the laundry are long and thin to maximise wall space, access to light and minimise unnecessary circulation space. High loft beds in the kids bedrooms create more floor space for them to play. The hallway was made just wide enough to run a desk along its length and create an office area without dedicating a room to that purpose. The roof space has been lined and fitted out with pull down ladders to store seasonal gear. We also have cupboards that run to the ceilings above normal head height so desks and beds can fit underneath. These design outcomes maximize the use of our precious vertical space.

LIVING ON THE EDGE: Typically, the edges in nature contain the most dense diversity and activity and this includes human inhabited spaces. We paid special attention to articulating the spaces on the edge, from the outside to in, from public to private, from down to up. These transition spaces are where people interact the most with one another, and blurring these boundaries can create opportunities for dynamic relationships and communication. We removed any high fences from the front yard so we could talk to our neighbours and passers-by on the street whilst working in the garden. We created a small door in the back garden fence so that the younger children next door could come and go without needing to be walked along the street. Our delight never ceases when our littlest and most curious neighbours pop up in our garden and kitchen. We created a pergola structure to reach the boundary. It provides both summer shade to the north-facing windows but also houses a vertical recycled hardwood screen, creating some privacy and a vertical surface to grow grapes, berries and honeysuckles. Between the backyard and the creek we took down the tall paling fence and replaced it with a low open wire fence. This allows us to observe the creek beds' native vegetation and wildlife. Another two houses in the area have since followed suit, and now our chickens forage periodically on the creek-side saving us cutting back grasses and weeds and providing them (and us) an abundant source of food.

brave new eco sustainable interior design
brave new eco sustainable interior design
brave new eco sustainable interior design

STACKING FUNCTION: We sought to integrate diverse design problems into one solution, maximising the use of the available space. We created play-nooks under the loft and in the fireplace alcoves (these will later become study nooks and book shelves when the kids get older). We use the laundry as an indoor drying room as well as a bulk-goods store. We have located our solar hot water tank inside an otherwise useless space at the top of the stairs so we can dry wet boots, make yogurt and maybe even hatch eggs in the warm cupboard. 

INTEGRATION: I sought out ‘responsive’ materials, finishes and furnishings, by selecting items with a tangible context that relate to the region or have a historical or emotional relationship to us. This enabled me to explore an authentic regional and personal design vernacular. Our home is lovingly filled with hand-me-downs from our family and objects that we have collected, made, salvaged, and found over the years. This means our home does not have a particular look, but is more an accidental collection of personally significant things, gently curated into a pleasing combination of usefulness and decoration.  

brave new eco sustainable interior design

A YEILD:  Our home has produced outcomes far beyond aesthetic and economic results. We have fresh healthy food, happy children, meaningful friendships and connection with our community. There isn’t a person that worked on this house that didn’t speak warmly of their experience, despite having to carry everything in down steep muddy paths. We would sometimes stop work to gently relocate wildlife that kept moving into the building site, such as the little ring-tail possum found asleep in the middle of a cloud of bulky insulation one morning. The peripheral yields have been the learning received from and between everyone involved in the project, the guests we have hosted in our home and through the open days and tours I have run. Our home design has fundamentally changed the way we all live and contribute to the community. We thankfully get to live, work and go to school all within walking distance. We are very privileged to live here and to have access to abundant nature within the cultural amenities of the urban life. We experience diverse wildlife daily; we are visited by kookaburras, blue tongue lizards, tawny-frogmouths and the odd tiger snake.
This home has reiterated the importance of urban wild life corridors and shared productive space. We have an opportunity to re-design our suburbs in a context of neighbourhood scale resilience and autonomy, creating homes and landscapes that contribute to this end.

 

All photographs by Emma Byrnes

Why sustainable retro-fit are always part of our work by megan norgate

The owners of this inner north Victorian weatherboard have installed insulation, solar hot water, photovoltaic panels, rainwater tanks, efficient heating and ceiling fans since having a home sustainability consultation with Brave New Eco.

The owners of this inner north Victorian weatherboard have installed insulation, solar hot water, photovoltaic panels, rainwater tanks, efficient heating and ceiling fans since having a home sustainability consultation with Brave New Eco.

The majority of Australians live in housing stock that was built with little or no consideration of energy efficiency. The average home over 10 years old would rate at between ZERO to TWO stars. In a rating system that now says new buildings should be a minimum of 6 stars you can see our existing housing stock is in a sad state, and is going to become increasingly expensive  and uncomfortable to live in as energy prices and temperatures continue to rise.

Any renovation of change you make to your home is an oppurtunity to improve improve the thermal efficiency. With appropriate updating and retrofitting older and existing homes can be brought up to their full potential and be very comfortable and economical to live in.

The complexity of this task is that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution as all houses are different and are often made up of a variety of materials, Every project we work on entials a ecologically sustainable retrofit considerations. We aim to the confusion and guess work out of where to start, what to do, what to use and in what order. Our design process begins with an inspection of the home and property to gather important information about the orientation, existing technologies, current thermal and insulative qualities, lighting, passive heating and cooling potential. We spend time discussing the way you live, , how long the occupants intend to live in the house,  how to increase comfort and health in the house, and what human and economic resources are available. With this information we are able to outline the potential of your home from a sustainability perspective, and what is going to be relevant, practical, feasible and effective for your particular situation. 

WHAT WE LOOK AT:

  • Passive solar design - potential for passive heating and cooling
  • Zoning
  • Draft proofing and retro fitting insulation
  • Auxiliary heating and cooling
  • Hot water heating
  • Renewable energy
  • Rainwater harvesting and grey water use
  • Energy efficient appliances
  • Lighting, power saving technology
  • Cross flow and passive stack ventilation
  • Adapting spaces to facilitate sustainable lifestyle
  • High performance windows and coverings
  • Energy efficient Appliances
  • Non-toxic materials

Retro-fits of existing spaces may not have the glamour and excitement of new sustainable buildings or stylish eco renovations, but they have more positive impact on our environmental footprint than either of those things. This is simply because they already exist!
It it the biggest gift you can give your home, to transform it for living in the 21st century. I like to think of it as up-cycling our housing stock into a new, more efficient product.
On top of that, once you properly insulate your home and upgrade your technologies, your comfort and enjoyment of that space will increase exponentially. So many of the retrofit changes are simple, and so effective and many of my clients cannot believe they have not done them sooner. Positive changes that can be made on any budget.  Retrofit investments will be reflected in the value of your home in the future. As electricity, gas and water prices rise renters and home owners are becoming increasingly focused on the real cost of living in a potential house.
The most important factor about seeking expert advice about your home, is that it is impartial. If you do your research by talking to the suppliers of green products, they are likely to say your house needs their hotwater/ solar/ rainwater/ ventilation/ shading/ insulation system. We work to identify which investments are appropriate and will have the most satisfying impact on an environmental, economic and comfort level.