When Scandi barn design meets classic Edwardian cottage

'Scandi barn' style wasn't something home-owners Mark and Suzette Dawson expected when they began their renovation. Picture courtesy of James Hardie.
'Scandi barn' style wasn't something home-owners Mark and Suzette Dawson expected when they began their renovation. Picture courtesy of James Hardie.

Looking in from the backyard, you wouldn't realise this scandi-barn-inspired home is an extension to a classic Edwardian-style cottage in the leafy Melbourne suburb of Kew.

It's an unlikely pairing, but it somehow works.

Designed by architect Rebecca Naughtin, the contemporary sleek lines and steep roof pitches of a Scandinavian-barn extension don't impede or detract from the classic Edwardian cottage facade. Surprisingly the two contrasting styles have found a way to talk to one another rather than fight each other.

However, the 'Scandi barn' style wasn't something home-owners Mark and Suzette Dawson went into this renovation expecting, in fact the couple had never heard of the style before embarking on their renovation project to create a dream home for their retirement years.

"From a starting point-of-view, we recognised that Edwardian architecture, whilst it is a significant part of this house, it doesn't really lend itself well to 21st century living," Mark said about the decision to extend the home.

"But it was critical to us to retain a sense of history with respect to the house, but at the same time make the house a livable environment.

"We live in an area where there's a fair amount of heritage overlays on properties. And so we were quite conscious of not destroying the streetscape," Mark said.

Moving into retirement, Mark and Suzette found their needs had changed and they wanted a home that reflected the transition to being home more, while not compromising on comfort and lifestyle - this would later become an unexpected blessing during the midst of a global pandemic and second round of lockdowns for Melbourne.

While they didn't know how the style of the extension would evolve, Mark and Suzette knew they didn't just want "a box on the back of the house".

"I wanted something with a pitch and that's where [the architect] decided to use the roof pitches of the front as a starting point," Suzette said.

"To be honest, Mark and I had never heard of Scandinavian barn design before."

But that's where the design concept led them and it's a direction Mark and Suzette embraced without regret.

With it's 'diagrammatic house' shape and steep pitches, there's no denying the trademarks of the scandi barn design, boasting modern geometric lines and a sense of simplicity.

A favourite design feature for Suzette, the steeply pitched gable roof lines create high-vaulted ceilings that offer a sense of vastness within the interior spaces.

The exterior is finished in James Hardie Matrix boards in Dulux Black Caviar. With accents of the colour appearing on the front facade and the living space to create continuity.

The key to their renovation direction was finding the balance between 21st century livability and paying homage to the classic architecture of the existing home.

While the materials used for the extension were quite modern and sleek, Mark said he liked the way the dark colour palette wasn't overbearing to the facade.

Mark and Suzette bought the Kew house in 1994. Back then it was a little single cottage with a lean-to on the back that had been built in the 1970s, and needed "a hell of a lot of work".

They spent some time restoring the older parts of the home before an opportunity came up for Mark to work offshore.

After some 20 years living and working in the Asian Pacific, they returned to their beloved cottage to transform it into their dream haven for retirement.

Mark and Suzette's ambitious renovation journey demonstrates the possibilities of transforming traditional builds with modern materials to capture bold architectural trends, without overshadowing the essence and era of the original home.

For others embarking on a similar venture, Mark and Suzette say it's imperative to have a good team of experts around you.

"People are the key driver in the whole process. And we're very lucky. We've had good experiences on both fronts. And the various trades that worked on the job were really high caliber," Mark said.

"But I think it was also for us it was a question of essentially thinking about what we wanted and then our architect hearing what we wanted, but then having the presence to be able to listen to her and then take time to work through the various solutions.

"In dreaming up the concept, that eventually got built there were various iterations of that and whilst we landed on the broad concept quite early, I think it amazed me how many decisions you have to think through and make; and certainly having those professionals involved who had done it before, as we hadn't, was really critical to it's success."