Good old wood

Issue 26 Words: Sarah Robertson Photography: Nick Stephenson
Yarraville, Victoria
  • The renovation saw living spaces reoriented to the north, double-glazed windows added to bring sunlight inside in winter, and a new bathroom and insulation installed. The Baltic pine floorboards were pulled up during demolition, refinished by homeowner Trevor and laid again.
  • Liz and Trevor found and repurposed old doors and fittings to use again internally.
  • The rustic garden gate.
  • The owners searched high and low for doors that were similar in style to their old blue front door, pictured in the laundry.
  • Solar PV and a Solar Air Module heating and ventilation system sit on the roof next to the solar hot water system, which was stored at the back of the yard during construction and reinstalled.

A reorientation, recycled timber and some hands-on work transform a Melbourne house for a couple committed to using only good wood.

When the time came to renovate their almost-original 1920s house in Melbourne’s west, long-time forest campaigners Liz and Trevor pictured a light-filled and comfortable home for two that truly reflected their values.

“I love wood; we both love wood,” says Trevor. “And we wanted to put into our house all of our values and make it as beautiful as possible.”

“The concept of home is an emotional thing as well as a physical thing and I don’t think that we’d feel good about being in a place where we’d stolen the homes of endangered species in order to make our home,” adds Liz. “There’s certainly no reason why you would need to use native forest timber in a home … from commencement to the fit-out.”

Walking through their small home and hearing the story behind every piece of timber, every element of their house – from the frame to the recycled bedroom and pantry doors and the hand-crafted knife block tucked away in the kitchen drawer – has a story behind it and is a testament to Liz and Trevor’s commitment to good

The couple’s substantial renovation began with a contract that specified no new native or rainforest timber and only very low-formaldehyde composite wood products. They had realistic expectations and ventured into the project comfortable with the research and hands-on work they would need to do.

The rebuild involved pulling down a small 1950s extension and taking the house back to its skeleton. The redesign, by Basset + Lobazza Architects, maintained as much of the existing mountain ash frame as possible but reconfigured the rooms and living spaces, windows and doors to create a more thermally efficient and liveable home. Most of the studs, roofing timbers, joists and bearers remained but everything else was removed and rebuilt with new or recycled materials. “The part of the house we had to take down, we couldn’t just take it to the tip,” says Trevor. Where new structural materials were required, Liz says their builder encountered few problems sourcing timber that met their ethical requirements as it was readily available from a mainstream supplier.

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Cover of Issue 26
You can read more about Good old wood in Issue 26 of Sanctuary magazine.

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Hugh Basset, Basset + Lobazza Architects

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