How these owner-builders created a timeless Modern Heritage home

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If only one word could be used to sum up the Modern Heritage house design trend, it would be ‘contrast’. This is the defining point between old and new, with the highly decorative elements of period homes contrasting with the simplicity and linear approach of modern renovations. These properties have become increasingly popular throughout Australia, particularly in inner-city suburbs where homes from the 1900s are renovated in a way that doesn’t detract from the history of the structure.

Simpler home living

Drawing inspiration from simpler home living, the Modern Heritage house trend allows homeowners to take advantage of the past while addressing the future needs of their home with a blend of old and new.

This is showcased by Elise Weavers and Sam Russell of The pair purchased their second home – but their first renovation – right at the start of the pandemic, and they immediately knew they were in for a long-term project.

“When we purchased the home in Ascot Vale, it was just a 1900s single-fronted Victorian terrace house covered by a ’70s renovation with brick-look cladding over the original weatherboards,” Weavers says.

Weavers herself took over the design, with Russell using his building expertise to manage the construction side of the renovation. Right from the outset, Weavers said the couple were intent on a Modern Heritage house.

“The vision was very clear from the initial concept design phase and didn’t change over time,” she says. “We wanted a modern black gable form in contrast to the period façade of the Victorian terrace.”


Choosing a versatile yet highly practical cladding solution

“We wanted to use Axon™ Cladding because of its modern vertical profile that contrasts with the horizontal blockwork weatherboards of the Victorian façade,” Weavers says.

But there was another reason why Hardie™ exterior cladding was chosen. As they were building on the boundary of the property, Russell says they were required to build a wall with an adequate Fire Level Rating (FRL). It also had to match the aesthetic of Modern Heritage homes and be highly durable – something that fibre cement delivers far better than timber. The good news for these homeowners is that durable Modern Heritage cladding with adequate FRL – specifically 60/60/60 – can be achieved using Axon™ Cladding and the Hardie™ Smart Boundary Wall System.

“With the boundary we have here, there's only a small 200-millimetre gap between the old external wall of the building next door and our building,” he says. “So I was able to build the frame on the ground, clad it, and lift it up and erect it that way.”

Weavers says using Hardie cladding meant they could create a seamless transition between old and new: “The new wall needed to align with the existing hallway wall, so we were restricted in wall thickness,” she says. “We were able to align the old and the new by using the Hardie™ Axon™ Cladding BAL-rated wall system, which is much narrower than a brick or block wall.”

Both Weavers and Russell were very familiar with the range of Hardie™ exterior cladding products. “I had used Axon™ Cladding previously on other jobs and I knew it was going to be very efficient and easy to install for an owner-builder like myself,” Russell says. “It was me who did all the installing, so I didn't have to get bricklayers and other people like that involved.

“We also used the Axon™ Cladding behind the barbeque. Because the product is deemed non-combustible, which means it won’t contribute to the spread of fire, it was installed there to give us peace of mind.”


Meeting budget and technical requirements

Because of the logistics and compliance needs of their Modern Heritage renovation, Weavers says it just made good sense to use Axon™ Cladding. Not only did it help elevate their overall heritage house design, it also ensured a hallmark ‘contrast’ between the traditional structure and the modern extension.

“It fulfilled the design brief and achieved the requirements such as BAL rating and energy rating,” Weavers says. “It’s cost-effective and fast to install.

“Because the Axon™ Cladding sheets come in large sizes, they can be installed easily with two people. The product is also straightforward to install.”

For Russell, he says it made his life during the build so much easier: “Where we joined from old to new, the Axon™ Cladding being flat made it very easy to butt the weatherboard straight in and give it a nice slim look.”

Plus, having the ability to go into their local store and pick up what they needed at any time meant they weren’t constrained by traders and deliveries: “The Axon™ Cladding itself and also all the flashing glues that are needed are readily available at most hardware stores, so it's great if you forget something or you need an extra piece – it's so easy to get,” he says.

Acquiring most of their cladding from Bell Plaster Supplies in Pascoe Vale, a quick visit to their local Bunnings in Maribyrnong ensured any one-off cladding sheets could be purchased as required, keeping the pair on track to building their dream Modern Heritage home.

“The period façade is timeless,” Weavers says. “But I also don’t like imitation and I think it’s pointless to pretend that you haven’t done a modern extension. We have been able to express that and make it a complete contrast. The cladding helps to really highlight the beautiful stages of the Victorian terrace, and also makes the modern extension stand out more.”

If you’re planning a renovation, find out more about how to bring the Modern Heritage look to life.

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