Work to start on restoration and extension of shire's oldest house

Architect Chris Freeburn says creating a design to preserve the historic worker’s cottage Gunyah as the stand-out part of a modern, contemporary home was a daunting but exciting challenge.

With work about to start on the project, he is looking forward to his vision becoming reality, and is confident it will be enjoyed by the Sutherland Shire community.

Mr Freeburn said, through “clever positioning,” a two-storey addition at the rear would “disappear behind the steep gabled roof of the cottage”.

“It was an important aspect of the conservation approach that the original cottage and new additions not only be physically separated but also of clearly distinct architectural styles so that the ‘new’ is not confused with the ‘old’,” he said.

“When you stand in front of this house, you won’t get the sense of ‘this is a lovely house, but it’s a shame about the addition’.”

Gunyah, in Evelyn Street North, Sylvania, was built about 1880 and is believed to be the shire’s oldest standing building.

Builder Daniel Simpson and his partner Brittany Dutton bought the dilapidated cottage, which has been vacant for 15 years, with the intention of making it their home.

Mr Simpson’s company, Freshbuilt Constructions, will begin work this month, restoring the cottage, demolishing rear additions and building a two-storey extension.

Chris Freeburn, whose practice Ironbark Architecture + Design is based in Cronulla, was engaged, based on earlier projects including the Judge’s House in Links Avenue, Cronulla, which is believed to be the suburb’s oldest house.

“The importance of Gunyah is not its architectural style or condition – it’s in a very dilapidated state – but, rather its story,” he said.

“It is a basic structure that might have accommodated someone like a gardener or carriage driver.

“We were faced with an 1870s design that has no response to sunlight, amenity, orientation or ventilation.

“We were pretty constrained by what the council would allow us to do.”

“I showed the client by designing a top floor to the same width of the cottage, and at a different angle to the bottom floor of the new extension, it would disappear behind the steep gabled roof of the cottage.

“I really pushed for the original cottage, which has just three rooms, to have one clear use. 

“The largest room with fireplace will be the master bedroom and the other rooms a walk-in wardrobe / en-suite and a study.

“The bottom of the two-storey addition will have living spaces and a guest’s suite. 

“Upstairs, there will be two bedrooms, bathroom and sitting room.”