Shopfront revival

Issue 30 Words: Gabi Mocatta Photography: Peter Whyte
New Town, Tasmania
  • The facade consists of vertically stacked Hebel block columns, with remachined VJ timber infill panels salvaged from a local primary school interior.
  • The studio recess frames a self-made steel and recycled textured glass window and incorporates a seat for passers-by.
  • Long windows frame Hobart’s Mount Wellington to the west. The house does not have a northern orientation, so a strong emphasis is placed on insulation in the walls and ceilings.
  • Reclaimed and reused timber was used throughout, including the Tasmanian oak used for floorboards and ruby-hued myrtle for wood panelling, furniture and even chopping boards.
  • The upstairs living area is lined on two sides with striated plywood panelling salvaged from a nearby ’50s home, and re-used dado board makes up part of the custom-built kitchen sideboard.

Architect Chris Clinton’s adaptive reuse of a 1960s bootmakers cum take-away shop is much more than an exercise in recycling.

Set on one of Hobart’s smallest residential blocks (just 76 square metres), the former fish and chip shop had stood disused for some years. But Chris saw the tiny site as an opportunity – and so began six years of architectural experimentation that culminated in a compact, innovative home where salvaging and re-invention reign.

“The whole place is an experiment,” says Chris. It was also about economy. “I wanted to retain as much of the original building as I could,” and he wanted to undertake much of the work himself.

And so he moved in with his son Alec, now 19, and began a complete re-purposing. Keeping the core of the old shop to live in, he worked nights and weekends, expanding the house out wherever possible. He painstakingly excavated a lower floor – 48 tonnes of earth – mostly by hand to create the soundproof music studio that doubles as Alec’s bedroom. He stepped the building out to the pavement at the front and added a level on top. Over time, the original 22-square-metre building grew to 100 square metres over three floors. The tiny take-away became a modest two-bedroom,two-bathroom home, with two flexible living spaces and an architectural studio.

The rectangular column and reclaimed timber panel facade is perhaps its most striking feature. “It was important for me to make a contribution to the street,” Chris says. The stacked Hebel concrete blocks, which he laid himself over time, are left exposed in the interior, providing useful thermal mass.

These add to a mixed palette of reused materials, including the building’s original red brick walls, some still bearing the bootmaker’s painted signage. Almost all of the ruby-hued myrtle, used in the wall panelling and in the kitchen bench, has been reclaimed for a second use, and the majority of the Tasmanian oak floor is also recycled. The upstairs living area is lined on two sides with striated plywood panelling salvaged from a nearby ’50s home, and re-used dado board makes up part of the custom-built kitchen sideboard. A textured patchwork in the studio wall, also visible from the street, is made up of a store of collected glass and steel, salvaged piece by piece over the years.

“I’ve always been interested in building small,” says Chris. “And I think as far as sustainability goes, compact living, re-using and recycling are the best ways to reduce materials and energy use.”

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Cover of Issue 30
You can read more about Shopfront revival in Issue 30 of Sanctuary magazine.

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Chris Clinton, Core Collective


Chris Clinton


Alterations and additions

(adaptive reuse)


New Town, Tasmania


House 100 sqm

Land 76 sqm

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