Sydney terrace reborn

Issue 32 Words: Liz Durnan Photography: David Iacono
Millers Point, Sydney
  • Caroline’s heritage Millers Point terrace has been lovingly restored with bold clay-based colours lighting up the renovated interior. The original fireplace was stripped of layers of paint and oiled to reveal its beautifully carved timber.
  • There was no garden in place when Caroline and John moved in, with all open areas either built on or concreted over, and due to its location near the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the existing soil was contaminated with lead.
  • The kitchen needed overhauling due to damp and termites, allowing Caroline to inject her personal style. The cupboards are made from plantation-grown blackbutt plywood. The cheerful biodegradable Marmoleum flooring is matched by the yellow walls of the dining room.

Architect Caroline Pidcock has lovingly restored her historic Sydney terrace to the highest standards of energy efficiency and sustainability.

It’s an oppressively hot November day, with the mercury edging towards 40, but it’s cool in  the basement kitchen of architect Caroline Pidcock’s newly renovated terrace in the heart  of historic Sydney, at Millers Point. Caroline, a regular columnist for this magazine, lives  here with husband and fellow-architect, planner and former City of Sydney councillor John McInerney. Millers Point made headlines recently when its iconic rows of Victorian terraces were subject to a public housing sell-off. Caroline and John purchased a 99-year lease three years ago after the tenants moved out, and have since joined the local action group bidding to protect the area from over development and forced evictions.

With Caroline and John’s wealth of expert knowledge, and that of their builder Darryn Parkinson of Your Abode, there was much debate around the products and systems that would retain its heritage integrity while ensuring its sustainability credentials. But Caroline waives away any suggestion of conflict between the two aims. “The house was built in 1887; it’s 130 years old so that’s sustainability in itself,” she says. Despite “a very large and dictatorial conservation management plan,” Caroline successfully pushed for a few compromises, including opening up the two-room basement: with ongoing damp issues in the front room, sharing light and ventilation between the two rooms was crucial to make this level work. She retained definition of the two original rooms by use of materials – biodegradable and practical Marmoleum provides a gorgeous burst of yellow on the kitchen floor, set off by the timber floorboards of the dining area.

The layout is otherwise largely unchanged, with the ground floor comprising two adjoining living areas; two bedrooms on the first floor and a further bedroom or study in the attic. Fortunately – and not always the case in houses of this period – there was already plumbing to the attic level for a small sink on the landing, to which they have added a toilet in the attic while hiding all plumbing in the floor. They also expanded the existing bathroom on the bedroom level.

“There was lots of discussion around what is sustainable and where to apply it,”
says Caroline. “The whole issue of energy use was a really interesting one.” In many ways heritage restrictions and Caroline’s aims coincided. “There was an inevitability about what we did,” she says. “People say, ‘why don’t you open up this north-facing wall with  concertina doors?’” she says, referring to the single door and window leading to the rear garden. “I think there’s some charm in not doing that.”

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Cover of Issue 32
You can read more about Sydney terrace reborn in Issue 32 of Sanctuary magazine.

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PIDCOCK – Architecture +

Your Abode


Millers Point, NSW

Approx. $600,000

House 173 sqm (reduced
from 191 sqm),
land 120.8 sqm

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