“You aren’t doing a design right if sustainability isn’t inherent,” says Native Design Workshop studio director Janusz Choromanski. One of his latest projects, Peekaboo House, a modern backyard extension on a 1940s Victorian, was framed in record time—one week to be exact—due to a focus on eco-friendly materials and clever planning.
The clients, a couple with young children, live in the Melbourne suburb of Preston. While they loved their home, they knew when they moved in it would need an eventual remodel. The quaint bungalow had plenty of curb appeal thanks to its Victorian details, but lacked a connection to the backyard, which was blocked by a 1960s-era lean-to. The solution? A prefab product made with structurally insulated panels that shortened the average frame build-out time from two to three months to just seven days. Here, Choromanski shares three key factors that went into the sustainable extension.
The Right Materials
The use of structurally insulated panels is a fairly new concept in Australia and gave the extension a weather-tight, superior envelope—so the family has little need for heat or air conditioning. It was the first time that Native had used this building method, and it is something the company plans to implement in all projects moving forward, as it accelerates the construction process in a highly sustainable way.
The airy California bungalow vibe continues inside with the joinery, which is made from plywood, a choice Choromanski made for its cost-effectiveness, hardiness, natural color, and how well it works against the concrete flooring. “They have kids, so we weren’t going to put in marble bench tops,” he says. “Recycled timber adds warmth and isn’t going to look horrible when it gets knocked or scratched.”
Furthermore, he used recycled blackbutt, a rich, durable hardwood, sourced locally from an old church, for the bottom of the concrete kitchen island and the external cladding. “It’s expected to last more than 40 years,” he says.
The original build of the house made it difficult for the family to take advantage of their lush yard, so Choromanski ensured that the extension would allow for outdoor entertaining, incorporating a back deck into the frame of the home.
They also needed plenty of storage space—and Choromanski made good use of plywood to build cabinetry and cupboards throughout the home. Cubbies in the living room are the perfect size to fit vinyl records—after all, the father used to be a DJ.
One of the key factors that sped up this build was the fact that Choromanski worked with great contractors who weren’t afraid to experiment. For example, the concrete kitchen countertop was poured and finished on-site, which took much less time than waiting on one to be made and shipped. They also impeccably installed the handmade custom kitchen and bathroom tiles, which add a special touch and air of elegance to the home. Now the space is perfectly fabricated for its young occupants.
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