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Perth home renovation as easy as XYZ


This City Beach property in Perth, known as the XYZ house, is located on a wide, tree-lined drive with generous grass verges that connect the suburbs of Leederville and Wembley with the Indian Ocean.

The original dwelling was designed by architect GE Swallow in 1962, and is a beautifully intact example of early ’60s West Australian modernist architecture. It comprises a low-pitched metal roof, with Donnybrook stone and painted brickwork for the façade, while internally, jarrah floorboards and slim natural brickwork are expressed.


Jarrah floorboards create a link between the old and new parts of the XYZ  house.

The clients, a young, design-conscious professional couple, wished to extend their house into the garden to make better use of their outdoor living space and maximise the indoor/outdoor lifestyle.
Prior to the renovation, the XYZ house incorporated a renovated kitchen located across the back wall of the home. This element did not retain any original features of the 1960s house and formed a visual barrier between the living spaces and garden. The owners had also recently built a swimming pool and wished to make more of this.


The new layout takes full advantage of the pool and garden.

With Mark Aronson Architecture onboard, the decision was made to extrude the existing living space out and into the garden. A narrow, glazed, single-storey addition, which faced south and west, was designed. This allowed for a more efficient use of space and corresponded to the constraints of the lot dimensions. The concept to connect the pool with the living spaces saw the installation of a large south-facing, glazed opening that terminates in a framed view of the pool and garden beyond. The picture frame window also serves as outside/inside window seats.

The front door was relocated to create a clear, legible link between the front and back of the building. The kitchen became a linear space separating the old house with the living and dining areas and opens out into an alfresco entertainment and barbecue area, while the exterior and interior were carefully refurbished to reinstate the modernist feel and integrity of the old house.

The transition between existing and new surfaces is controlled. The polished concrete of the addition meets with jarrah floorboards abutting a simple steel edge.

A week or two after the job was complete, Mark Aronson Architecture received a call from the client. They had been on the roof and discovered some fantastic views of the ocean, and so an upper storey was investigated. The architects felt the best approach was to design new accommodation at 90 degrees to the ground floor addition as this would pick up the blue of the ocean from above the rooftops. The approach was to align the pop-up along the edge of the original building so as to minimise structural connections through existing fabric. This proposal also had the advantage of creating a shelter to the alfresco below.

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The exposure of the site warranted materials that were robust and would require only limited maintenance. As such, XYZ’s upper storey addition was clad in Colorbond sheeting, while the architectural picture-frame was realised in an oxidised metal paint over fibre-cement sheet. All new structural elements were fabricated in steel as this provided the optimum flexibility to work with the existing construction and allow straightforward assembly where there was limited site and crane access.

Photography by Douglas Mark Black.


Read more about West Australian architecture here.


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