Handmade with love: building with recycled materials

Issue 27 Words: Rachel Bernstone Photography: Meghan Plowman
  • Carla and Ben found the front entrance door and leadlight windows at a local salvage yard.
  • Upcycled jarrah windows along the home’s north-western façade let natural light onto the concrete floor and internal recycled brick wall in the open-plan shared living space.
  • The main bedroom’s dressing room and ensuite is lined with newspapers from 1955 that Carla and Ben found under the front house on their now subdivided block.
  • The living room sits at the north-eastern end of the house looking out to the front courtyard garden. The concrete floor has been honed to give it a smooth finish.
  • "I can see love in every single thing: there is a story behind everything that we pulled together and created" - Architect and homeowner Carla Karsakis

Building a new house out of old materials was a singular vision for a Perth couple.

Architect Carla Karsakis and her urban designer husband Ben always planned to build their new house using upcycled and recycled materials. They started scouring salvage yards and stockpiling timber, bricks, windows and doors long before construction began.

In 2010, the couple bought a 1940s house in Perth’s inner east from its original owners. They lived in the front house for the duration of the project – clearing the backyard, sub-dividing the land, designing the new house – then sold it once their new home was complete.

From the outset, this was a shared undertaking. “My husband is very handy with the detail whereas I have a knack for imagining the overall vision and concept,” Carla explains. “We came up with a general layout, then we bought all the doors and windows and retrofitted the design around the pieces we’d found. I drove the interior look of things – the balance of materials – while Ben worked on the details.”

As well as scouting far and wide for 1930s jarrah windows and doors, and older style bricks, some of their materials were found closer to home. “We decided to reuse the timber from the out-buildings and garage – which the original owner had worked in for many years – in our new house. We wanted to respect the short history of the site, and to keep that spirit going,” Carla says.

Now that she has lived in the house through all four seasons, Carla continues to enjoy the warmth of the raw materials that she and Ben sourced. “I don’t ever tire of it. It’s a great house to entertain and live in. We love the light that comes through, everything is carefully considered and there is good spatial flow,” she says. “I can see love in every single thing: there is a story behind everything that we pulled together and created. It’s been very satisfying, and while I’m itching to do another one, it’s so hard to consider ever moving!”

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Cover of Issue 27
You can read more about Handmade with love: building with recycled materials in Issue 27 of Sanctuary magazine.

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Carla and Ben Karsakis, Etica Studio
CGM Living
Project type
New Build
Project location
Bedford, WA
145 sqm
Building star rating
9 Stars

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