Highgate Hill QLD
Jayson and Melissa Blight
Cox Rayner Architects in collaboration with Twofold Studio
Elvis & Rose
Think classic Queenslander and you probably visualise an imposing high-set, timber-clad home with broad stairs reaching to a shaded front verandah. However this traditional housing style has been expressed in many forms, from grand country homes to modest workers cottages.
This narrow 1890’s cottage in inner-Brisbane nestles into the ground on its long eastern boundary and then exposes itself as a propped Queenslander to the west. The long, narrow site (about 10 by 50 metres, north facing to the front) gave the opportunity to double the floor area by creating an extension leading seamlessly to hard landscaping that weaves to the back boundary. It is terminated with a pool protected by a ha-ha, a recessed landscape design element usually employed on grand estates to separate grazing stock from formal gardens without obstructing the view!
This is home to Jayson and Melissa Blight and their children Mia and Jenson. The designing couple – Jayson is a director of Cox Rayner Architects and Melissa runs interior design practice, Twofold Studio – has created an extension that redefines the narrow inner-city lot while respecting the cottage’s historic fabric.
The Blights rejected the common approach of raising the house and building under – “I actually liked the way the house sat with the natural ground,” Jayson explains – opting instead to utilise the depth of the site. Their design also sought to optimise northern and southern light penetration while dramatising the new spaces and accentuating their surfaces.
The existing cottage was remodelled to accommodate a lounge, library/study and master bedroom, while two new bedrooms, a family bathroom and breezeway form a courtyard infill leading to a kitchen and dining pavilion. Underneath are a garage, store, fernery and another bathroom.
An original brick fireplace continued its task of anchoring the old building. It marks the centre of the extended house, and the starting point for the new work. The fireplace’s quarter-bonded brickwork also provided the inspiration for an exploration of patterning using derivatives of this pattern.“We used it as the cue, it being the hearth and the central part of the house,” says Jayson.
He describes the loggia brickwork as “a deconstructed English bond”. Half-brick perforations alternate with open perpends (that is, the gaps between the vertical brick ends are not mortared) creating a little-andlarge rhythm to the openings and adding another layer of texture to the project. “Some of the brickwork is incredibly light and delicate in the way it works as a screen,” Jayson observes. Open perpends also decorate some solid brickwork.
The downstairs walls are a variation of English bond but with the bricks turned on edge. The garden walls and platforms are constructed in English garden wall bond, a further derivative of English bond.
The extension and hard landscaping is a celebration of the bricklayer’s art. The designers and the bricklaying team, Shane Norton and Rese Rose Gates, better known as Elvis & Rose, fully exploited brickwork’s small-format modularity and its capacity to be modelled, perforated and patterned. The brickwork is not confined to walling but wraps and folds through a variety of framed vistas, seating, nooks, niches, ledges, plinths and floor surfaces, ultimately transitioning into the rear landscape via stepped terraces.
Bowral Bricks premium-quality Simmental Silver 50mm dry-pressed clay bricks are used throughout the formal areas as both walling and laid on edge as flooring.White sand was used in the mortar for solid brickwork and flooring.
A darker, heavier sand with a little gravel was used in the perforated walling, imparting a more fleck-like appearance.
In contrast, the base brickwork, constructed with reclaimed bricks from Austral Bricks Rochedale QLD plant, is laid with open perpends and headers and stretchers alternating randomly, creating the illusion of a brick ruin. Reclaimed bricks are also used to create the hard landscaping.
The overall effect is one of openness alternating with enclosure, and texture with movement, all of which belie the compact plan and celebrate the small and intimate.
“It’s actually a very versatile material that can be used both externally and internally in very different ways to define surfaces,” says Jayson. “Being able to play with light and texture is quite exciting, especially in our climate where the sun is so harsh.”
This may be a relatively modest extension to an inner-city heritage cottage but it is grand in its volume, level of detail and execution.
The crisp edges and deep, earthy colours of Bowral dry-pressed bricks blend style and function to present a clean, modern aesthetic. These premium quality bricks are available across Australia in standard 76 mm thickness and in a slim 50 mm format.
Colour: Simmental Silver
The go to magazine for architects!