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Talbot House – A star is (re)born

Talbot House – A star is (re)born


Set on an astonishing 1.25 acres and nestled on a grassy outcrop near Beaumaris Beach, Talbot House once boasted timeless beauty, but the wear and tear of time had started to show.

Talbot House Heritage

Built in the 1860s with a stunning rendered façade, Victorian Georgian columns and ornate detailing, then remodelled with Art Deco curves in the 1940s and given a boxy fitout in the 1980s – although still lovely – there was no sense of continuation of architectural form or function in the Heritage manor.

Once owned by ex-pat thespians, Bill and Angela Martin, who moved to Beaumaris in the 1950s because of the artistic reputation of the suburb, Talbot House even had a theatrette installed in the attic to host plays and parties put on by the Beaumaris Theatre Group. Talbot House was the beating heart of bohemian culture.

Talbot House exterior

Craig Smart, associate at Watson Young Architects, could see the potential for a glow-up for the stately mansion, so that future generations could enjoy parties and family gatherings reminiscent of the Gatsby-esque shindigs hosted in Talbot’s hallowed halls in the past.

Catching up with inside, Smart reflects on the project’s challenges and how he collaborated with the client to reimagine an architectural masterpiece that is now set to host generations to come.

What was the initial brief from your client and how did you meet them with your solution for the project?

Before purchasing the property, the client and I met on-site and discussed the prospect of finding their family home for future generations to enjoy. Multiple hours passed discussing the history of the house and delving into how that directly impacted them, but what became clear was the concept of how the original position of the house would have been.

Before the leafy suburbs that now surround the property existed, there would have been a procession and sense of arrival to a stately country homestead, with outbuildings to the rear, separating the public and private functions of a home.

Beaumaris house
What was your main focus in the project?

To provide for the modern amenity of a multi- generational home, the concept of a timeless modern extension that will stand the test of time and that would be sympathetic, but in contrast to the existing period features.

Adaptive reuse is more of a movement than a trend, how did you work with the Heritage building, yet update the aesthetic to meet the needs of the client?

This was the first critical step in the design process, to create a masterplan for the site – one that addressed how we could provide for the amenities needed for a modern family, without compromising the period aesthetic and sense of place. Shortly after we developed this masterplan and engaged landscape and Heritage consultants.

An 80s extension had placed a sauna and storage room to the northern elevation, disconnecting the existing open plan living from the northern aspect and garden. The early planning discussions were around the reorientation of the house to the side northern yard rather than the easterly, and the removal of a flat-roofed carport from the front of the house. The discovery of a rear access point from a lower street level made perfect sense to capitalise on. This allowed us to remove all private parking requirements from the front of the house and reinstate the grand entrance.

Talbot House redesign

The additions are separated where possible from the existing building, through the dynamics of juxtaposition in the architecture. The concept of a country homestead with outbuildings contributes to the narrative of distinctly separating each addition from the existing house. This will be further appreciated in the next stage with the Corten Barn Building and Cottage, one of which is connected to the house via a glass stair of the same detail as the loggia. We have carried out the incorporation of glass structures throughout the home to establish this narrative more deeply.

The original four-room house can no longer be seen externally, as it has been completely enveloped by the past extensions. To celebrate and expose some of its history, the original stone walls inside the kitchen have been exposed as a nod to the past.

Did you employ any sustainable practices?

The glass volume that houses the stair and lift from the basement to the loggia allows for the cool subterranean temperatures to rise up and moderate the completely glass outdoor room. All three sides of the room open with double pivot doors, allowing for a cool coast cross breeze to flow though. The loggia room is purposely in contrast to the period rooms of the house that are solid masonry with small openings.

The bricks were recycled from one of the racecourses in Melbourne.

Glass room
What lessons did you learn?

The collaboration between the builder, architect and client is something to embrace and foster early in the process. Many of the final details could not have been achieved without the client’s commitment to the idea and the builder wanting to provide the best solution. This building wasn’t procured through a traditional contract. The client trusted the builder and the architecture team could work together.

From an interior design and architecture perspective, what foundational elements did you have to work with and build on?

The cast iron fretwork that adorns the existing veranda is replicated in a modernist style with black steel cruciform columns. The use of a pediment in classic Italianate architecture is stripped of detail to a black glass facia.

Talbot House
How did the clients feel at the end of the project?

The project as a whole is not yet complete, with the second stage nearing completion and the start of the final stage about to commence; however, there is a sense that ‘we are almost there!’ Having worked with the client and on this project for over a decade, the relationship and continuity of the idea have been its driving force.

I recently opened a bottle of wine that the client gave each consultant at the start of the project and sent a message to the client thanking him for the kind gesture.

His response was: “Looking forward to seeing your vision finally completed. The cottage, barn and garage look amazing; hopefully, we’ll enjoy the finished product late next year. We will have you over many times along the way, but look forward to a proper party with you guys to appreciate all the hard work and our beautiful home.”


Photography by Urban Angles.

Above is an article that originally appeared in the IDEA Winner’s Edition of inside magazine. Buy your copy here.


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