Renovating a heritage home is a challenging process. Today, let’s look into improving old, character houses that fall within a Heritage Overlay. If you are planning to renovate or extend your heritage house, this blog will help you.
But first, what is a heritage home?
In our previous blog, we have defined a heritage home as a property or building with indigenous, natural, or historical importance, including whether or not its architecture warrants its classification.
The Australian Heritage Council gives the property its heritage status.
Owning a heritage house
Some people inherit heritage homes. Others purchase these properties, especially if they seem to be an excellent investment or when the property offers access to prime inner-city areas where opportunities for new buildings are limited.
Regardless of how people acquired their heritage home, most of them have one plan for it: a renovation.
Yes, renovating heritage homes are possible, but the process involves several council regulations and restrictions.
Renovating a house in a Heritage Overlay
Before you begin the design planning and any construction works, you need to find out the triggers or controls of the overlay.
Based on experience, you need to acquire planning permits to change external paint colours, alter the garden, replace the fences, or to do any significant internal/external building works.
To be sure, consult the planner at your local council. See them before you have your plans drawn up. Talk to them about what you hope to achieve; bring photos and mood boards so you can share your vision to the council planner.
Or better, work with a skilled heritage architect to improve the design of your heritage house. Talk to them about what you hope to achieve and ask for their help in working with the local council, to ensure the plan will meet their requirements.
In Superdraft, we have skilled heritage architects in every state who are ready to provide you with this service. Our senior architects and building designers will take your design requirements and cross-check it with the local council regulations and codes. We will communicate with you regularly. We will inform you if everything is fine and compliant with the building codes. If not, we will tell you which design features that don’t meet the council requirements and provide you with alternative design solutions.
To help you further in this mission, here are some insights on what you need to consider when renovating in a Heritage Overlay:
What’s the style of your house?
Take a look at your home from the street. You need to understand the significance of your home’s character and style in your neighbourhood.
For instance, these two old Victorian terrace houses could be the charm of this street in Melbourne, thanks to its symmetrical facade, decorative parapet, iron lacework, and more ornate details in a generally Italianate style. You also need to assess if your home a single historical gem there, or does it contribute to the streetscape because the neighbouring houses have a similar design and style. Here’s a view of a quiet neighbourhood in one of North Melbourne’s oldest residential suburbs. See how beautiful the Victorian style houses look in a row?Always remember that a Heritage Overlay aims to preserve one or a collection of historic structures in one place, so it retains its unique character.
What are your house’s unique features?
After appreciating your home’s historical look, try to list all the features which are relevant to the style. Take note of the fences, windows, verandah, chimneys (if any), fretwork, etc. These design features are usually conserved or preserved.
The design features located in the rear part of the house are usually less significant; you can demolish a part of it to make way for an extension.
If you are struggling to identify the design features that you should preserve, talk to your architect or ask help from the local council planner.
How about changing the fences?
A Heritage Overlay often requires a permit for you to demolish, remove, or replace the house’s original fence. Based on experience, the council prefers it if the new fence adheres to the style and era of the structure. Here’s an old Queenslander in Shorncliffe, Australia with a white picket fence.
What are the ideal exterior paint colours to use?
A great architect will help you choose the best colour palette from your chosen paint supplier’s excellent range of heritage colours.
Assigning colours is the crucial part. The paint of the design features must be applied correctly, and there should be an accent around windows, doors, and the fretwork. If some parts of the original structure are unpainted (e.g. a brick chimney), keep this element as it is so the structure remains authentic.
Distinguishing the old from the new
Preserving and conserving the heritage home during a renovation does not mean your design options are ‘too limited’. Based on experience, the council frowns upon copying or replicating the style of the original building in an extension.
Heritage Overlay aims to highlight the original structure from the newly constructed part of the house. Feel free to build an ultra modern extension behind a heritage house. Preserve the original features of the heritage structure so it stands out. Here’s a 1883 original red brick home restored to its former glory, and now comes with a rear extension clad in Colorbond:Photo grabbed from Homes to Love Australia and taken by Annette O’Brien
Is a double storey extension doable?
Yes, as long as the extension doesn’t dominate the original heritage building. One thing you can do is construct the double storey extension at the back of the main house and far from the street view.
Add a new chapter to the history of the historical house
As the new owner of a heritage home, you should embrace the responsibility of preserving it so the future generation can still see and enjoy them. Renovating it will extend the structure’s life, but make sure that the original structure still stands out. The Heritage Overlay is an opportunity to get more creative, it is not something that limits you. If you need any help, there are plenty of professionals out there, you only need to reach out.
If you have decided to engage a Superdraft architect for your project, we promise to check with your local council before we embark on the renovation – this will save you a lot of money and significant heartache in the future.Tell us about your project and our pro designers will contact you shortly!