How Luke Watson transformed his grandfather’s home into a modern masterpiece
Luke Watson of Brisbane practice Deicke Richards took his grandfather’s two-bedroom weatherboard and created an award-winning family home where brick is the star performer.
Redesigning a home with sentimental attachments can be challenging, but for Queensland architect Luke Watson, who recently transformed his grandfather’s pre-war cottage into an open, light-filled home for his own family, the associated memories were an inspiration.
“We regularly visited my grandparents,” Watson explains, “so I think by inhabiting that house over time and understanding how we, as a family, would have gatherings in the house actually informed a lot of the design decisions.”
In order to create a family home with modern aesthetics and requirements, Watson, of Brisbane practice Deicke Richards, first had to contend with the modest scale of the original utilitarian construction. In particular, the separate living space, dark bedrooms and traditional Queensland “sleep-out” – all with small windows that didn’t take advantage of the light or view.
The new layout allows for open-plan living, has a more logical interior flow and a greater sense of space. Watson’s design also integrated a larger outdoor living area, connecting the house with the garden in a practical and usable way.
“The work that we did was really about re-orientating the house to address climatic conditions and create a greater connection to the outdoor space. We did raise the house a little but only to give it more street presence,” he says.
In terms of materials, Watson wanted to reflect not only the history of the property but also the neighbourhood. So he chose to focus on traditional materials such as timber and tiles (including terracotta roof tiles), adding bricks by Brickworks to give colour, texture and longevity.
“Brick is an enduring, robust and tactile product that can be used in a number of ways,” he says. “We used brick on this project as a way to ‘touch’ the earth and ‘ground’ the house within the landscape.”
Throughout the light-filled home, brick has been used to construct walls, create paths, form columns and line floors, and the result is a sense of continuity from street level through to the large outdoor area at the rear, where it’s mixed with timber.
It’s a material that Watson recommends for high-traffic homes due to its versatility and durability. “Brick is certainly very low maintenance and robust,” he laughs. “Kids spill things on it, adults spill things on it, kids play on it – yet it’s very enduring. Internally, it just needs a quick vacuum or a light mop, and externally it wears as it is, which I love, as it becomes part of the landscape with a patina of time.”
That is one of the reasons Watson avoids covering up or painting bricks on any of his projects. “Bricks have a really beautiful texture and colour to them and although I understand sometimes there’s a reason to paint them, I think the natural beauty of the clay and the colour of natural brick can add another element to your home. I worked very closely with the brick masons on this project to deliver really detailed brickwork.”
So what would Watson’s grandfather think of his reinvented home?
“Well, he had a view on a lot of things! He’d probably think it was ‘bloody wonderful’. I do think he would be proud, because it’s certainly something that they probably couldn’t have ever imagined when they built the house back in 1939.”
Want to see more? Watch Luke Watson talk to Tim Ross about his award-winning home:
The bricks featured in this project are Capitol Red and Hereford Bronze from our Bowral Bricks range. Learn more here.