Heritage Architecture on the North Shore

The North Shore is an area with a rich history of architecture. But navigating that history and the associated rules and controls in a modern world can be quite daunting.

It needn’t be. With the right architect on your side, you can achieve a spectacular result when renovating a heritage home.

But before you get too excited about what you can achieve with heritage architecture, there are some things you need to know. As Playoust Churcher Managing Director Brett Churcher explains:

More and more, people are realising the value in heritage homes. They buy a home because they love the character of the home. They want to preserve the high ceilings and detailing or whatever features they were drawn to. The challenge then becomes how you maintain those important heritage characteristics and create a space that is suited to modern living.”

Start with an important question

Mansion with poolside

And that question is why. Why do you want to renovate a heritage home? Is it the old-world charm? Is it in poor condition and you want to restore it? Is it the character? The history? The scale of the building?

Whether you have lived in the home for many years or you are looking at buying one, the question is the same. As Brett explains:

“That question of why is so important. In some cases, people buy a heritage home to then change it completely. That just isn’t going to happen within the council heritage controls. But when you can articulate your why to your architect, you are going to get a much better result. When we know what is important to you, we can highlight those features in the design.”

Hallway of the house

Do your research

Before your architect puts pencil to paper to start design concepts, you need to do your research. If you are a keen researcher you can do this yourself, or your architect can engage a heritage consultant to help.

This research will determine what you can do with the home and how far you can push the design.

“The research on a heritage site will tell us the history of the area and how the land was subdivided,” explains Brett. “It goes back to the first land grants. It’s really quite fascinating.

And then following on from that desktop research we have a look at the features of the home. Often people make an assumption that they can simply knock out the back half of the house as long as they keep the front intact, but that simply isn’t the case. Sometimes you have to work with more of the existing structure than you would like to.

We look at each element of the home and whether it is intact, what the quality is like and whether or not it has been changed since the original home was built.”

Front view of a house with garage

The architectural brief

Once the research is done, the real fun begins with the early design concepts.

We understand your why. We understand the heritage value and significance of the home. And alongside your architectural brief, we start to bring your dream home to life.

Of course, none of this happens in a bubble.

When you are building or renovating any home, there are standard controls you must comply with,” says Brett. “And in the case of heritage architecture, you also have additional heritage controls layered on top of that.

We have been working as North Shore architects specialising in conservation areas and heritage homes for decades, so we have a lot of experience interpreting the code. Ultimately, that’s what it comes down to. Anyone can read the code… but it’s more about interpreting it and understanding the nuances.”

Hallway that points the door of the house

The old and the new

As architects with a wealth of experience in heritage architecture, we know that the real value of a renovated heritage home is how well the old flows to the new. Contrary to popular belief, a heritage renovation is not about matching the new addition to the old style of the home. Council is looking for a clear distinction between the original home and any new additions.

And it all comes down to good architecture and design.

What many people don’t realise is that an architect can actually design a very modern addition to a heritage home,” says Brett. “The challenge isn’t in blending the old and the new seamlessly, it is in having a clear transition.

Council doesn’t want to see the lines blurred. What they are looking for is good design. During the DA process, council will be looking at whether you are keeping the original features of the home such as working fireplaces, original brickwork or the sandstone bases. Beyond that, they are also looking at scale, dominance and structures. The design needs to be respectful of the home and the surrounding area.”

North Shore heritage architecture

From St Ives to Seaforth, Killara and Wahroonga, we have completed renovations on countless heritage homes across the North Shore. As far as architects go, we really know our heritage architecture.

Contact us to discuss your heritage renovation project with our team of North Shore architects and we will help you bring your dream home vision to life.

Read more articles about senior housing design and council compliance in your home build.


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