Upgrading While Downsizing: A Modern Australian Masterpiece:

Secon contructions
Building Designer
Ironbark Designs
Atlas architcts

When Renata Brodecky decided to downsize from her five-bedroom, double-storey house in Bentleigh, she never anticipated she’d be able to build her dream home on the same plot of land.

Having spent 45 years in the south-eastern Melbourne suburb, all of Renata’s friends and family were close by. She didn’t want to move to a different area, but no nearby properties suited her taste or needs.


That’s when she decided to build her ideal home on the same plot. But Renata was adamant she didn’t want to demolish her original home.

“I feel proud that we didn’t demolish the existing home,” Renata says. “I built that home 30 years ago and still today it is a great house. It would have been wasteful to demolish the existing house when it still has many good years left in it.”

aa-image-5 Renata sought out skillful professionals who could bring this dream to life. In working with Atlas Architects, Renata was able to design a space so that her lifestyle would shine, while also future-proofing the home – by securing her master bedroom and ensuite were downstairs.

“The easy option would have been to demolish the existing house and build two new homes. However, Atlas Architects were able to come up with a concept that retained the existing house while accommodating everything I wanted in my design brief.”


This brief was for a contemporary architectural style that included several key features: courtyard, entertaining deck, balcony to optimise city views, a dining table that could seat at least 12 people (for entertaining), gas fireplace, reconstituted stone benches, and more.

In order to achieve this minimalist yet modern Australian build, Axon™ Cladding from the Scyon Walls range by James Hardie was used to provide a look of clean, uninterrupted lines. The use of cladding also highlighted the different angles and depths of the external walls Aaron Neighbour, Director at Atlas Architects, describes how certain details in the design brought Renata’s grand vision to life.

“The contrast between natural timber cladding and black Axon Cladding highlights the porch entry, which creates a focal point,” he says. “The pergola cantilevers over the deck area, defining the outdoor room without impeding on the circulation and function of the space.

“The facade has large open windows to capture the city views. This creates a sense of openness from the internal spaces as well as from the street. The deep steel window box detail on the ground floor and deep window reveal on the first floor add depth and shadow to the façade.”


Despite a strong design vision for her new home, Renata also focused on the practical elements – such as deciding that certain amenities would stay on the ground floor a-image-7 It’s also a home for all seasons and all types of living. Whether Renata is staying at home alone or entertaining for her large family over Christmas, the house is able to adapt and provide a functional space where everything simply works. This includes light, airy spaces thanks to large windows, and sliding doors for easy access to outdoors.

“The dining area can expand to the outdoor deck, creating a larger entertaining space,” she says. “The outdoor barbecue area connects directly to the indoor kitchen through a window servicing the two spaces. Upstairs there is a guest suite with a private bedroom and bathroom. There is also an upstairs living room that opens onto a balcony and has city views, perfect for enjoying the New Year’s Eve fireworks display aa-image-1 Then there’s the garden area. For this, Renata employed her son Martin’s landscape design firm, Ironbark Designs, to deliver her vision. The result was a low-maintenance, practical garden with everything she needs.

“I love my little garden,” Renata says. “It’s easy to manage and it provides the perfect amount of greenery, which I can see from inside. The garden is low maintenance with astroturf to the rear yard. I also have plenty of internal plants and succulents which bring greenery into the house. aa-image-9


In addition to aligning herself with architects who made the design and planning phases run smoothly, Renata needed a builder with high-quality project management skills to ensure an efficient build.

Secon Constructions fit the bill perfectly and worked in tandem with Atlas Architects to help realise Renata’s dream. But creating a new home from scratch on a block of land with Renata’s original home didn’t come without its challenges. aa-image-8

"Council’s initial response was not supportive of the development, so we had to make additional effort to articulate the building façade and volume,” says Ton Vu, Director at Atlas Architects. “The design outcome and expression were to minimise any impact on the neighbour’s amenities, while still achieving the architectural vision. We worked closely with a town planning consultant to address every aspect of the ResCode and local council concerns.”

And because the build location and design were tight, Peter Considine, Director at Secon Constructions, needed a solution that would allow them to work efficiently while aligning with residential development standards.

“Axon Cladding enabled us to store and install the sheets off the scaffolding we had erected, instead of having a workstation on the ground and trying to pass up each sheet individually. It only took two men to install, whereas other systems – such as foam and render – consist of other trades and more materials. Also being a sheet-product installation, the job was completed in a much shorter timeframe.”


With everything singing in harmony – design, build and landscape – it wasn’t long before Renata found herself in her new standalone home. While smaller, it’s a much more practical space that affords Renata her solitude while also meeting all her lifestyle needs, and being next door to her original five-bedroom home.

“I am so happy with the end result,” she says. “It is exactly what I wanted. I love that my new standalone home is detached from the existing house. There is no body corporate and I have my own little property that has everything I need. I managed to stay in the area, close to my children and friends, in a home better than I could have imagined.”

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