Berton Design

Makeover for Grand 1920s Home


This large 1920s house in Armadale, Melbourne, exhibited a range of period detail when the owners bought it. There was a ‘smattering’ of arts and crafts, as well as a variety of wallpapers plastered to the ceilings. While these decorative follies didn’t perturb the owners, the boxed-in rooms and gloomy interior certainly did. “A number of renovations occurred over the years, once in the 1950s and again in the 1980s,” says Steven Berton, director of Berton Design. “The rooms needed to be opened up. The kitchen and living area also didn’t take advantage of the large sprawling corner site (approximately 1,200 square metres).


While Berton carefully restored the home’s heritage-listed exterior, the interior was given a new lease of life. Heavy timber doors in the dining and living areas were replaced with glass doors, as with the entry to the front porch/vestibule. “The timber doors added to the entrance in the 1950s shut out all the northern light,” says Berton.


Worn carpets were removed from the ground floor and limed oak timber substituted. And rather than peel off every inch of wallpaper from the ceilings in the formal areas, these were simply painted white, adding texture in the process. Skirting boards were also replaced with a wide uniform design adding consistency in the contemporary scheme. “Elements have been added where appropriate,” says Berton, pointing out the dark glass unit in the dining area to store glassware.


The Armadale house now features a combination of period and contemporary details. The arts and craft style timber balustrade, painted in gloss white, is magnified against the matt white walls. However, some areas, such as the kitchen and informal living area required considerably more attention. As well as relocating existing doors, Berton removed a dividing wall to the informal living area. The kitchen, finished in Cararra marble, with high-gloss two-pack painted joinery, reflects light and includes a place for everything. Open a draw and the cutlery is carefully organised in a stainless steel lining.


As well as reworking the kitchen and informal living area, Berton included a double garage, combined with a ‘mud’ room, a place where the children can hang up bags and coats after school. And outside the kitchen window is a vegetable patch, where homegrown vegetables can be brought straight to the kitchen table. “Eventually a vine will cover the steel pergola, offering some morning shade,” says Berton.


One of the largest tasks was excavating what was previously the basement. Used only for storage, its location adjacent to the garden seemed wasted. Berton excavated this area and transformed it into a recreation space, complete with table tennis for the owners’ three children. And to maximise it further, a bathroom was included at this level. “Eventually, this area could be used for guest accommodation,” says Berton. Now fitted with large sliding glass doors, there’s direct access to the garden, designed by ‘Greenbits’, and the swimming pool, which was refurbished with new tiles, rather than being replaced.


Berton didn’t radically alter the arrangement of rooms. The bedrooms, including the main bedroom, are still located on the first floor of the house. At one end are the spacious main bedroom, ensuite and walk-in dressing area: the latter room size and beautifully detailed with American walnut joinery. The ensuite bathroom was as considered, with marble vanities and a seraphic glass door separating the bathroom from the shower and toilet. At the other end of the first floor are three children’s bedrooms and bathrooms, all offering views of the garden and the street’s established plane trees.


Although the house has been transformed into a fine contemporary home, the existing ‘bones’ have been retained. A glazed link, connecting the ground floor to the children’s play area, formed part of the renovation in the 1980s. Simply repaired and painted, this atrium provides generous light to the laundry, a half-level between both floors. “The layout of the house was confusing. There were simply too many competing styles,” says Berton, who also discovered a few unexpected finds, such as fireplaces behind walls.


“The house still has a presence in the street, but it’s considerably more welcoming and, importantly, each room is now used,” adds Berton, who also created a ‘canvas’ for the owners to add their own personality.


Text by Stephen Crafti

Project Details