Grand Designs Australia

Williamstown Bluestone Cottage

Resident architecture expert, David Hallett from Ask An Architect, gives us his opinion on Williamstown Bluestone Cottage from Episode 7, Season 5 of Grand Designs Australia.

There’s a lot to like about this building.

At a time when many older buildings are being demolished to make way for new homes and apartments, it’s gratifying to see someone committed to keeping a piece of local heritage that clearly means as much to the local residents as it does to the owners.

Williamstown was one of Victoria’s earliest settlements and – were it not for a lack of fresh water – may have become the eventual capital of the state. This old dairy provides a link to our colonial past that has been lovingly saved, preserved and enhanced.

Respectful Renovation
This project is a case study in renovating respectfully and – barring the questionable project documentation technique (more about this later!) – it shows us the best way to integrate 21st and 19th century construction.

Some renovators like to replicate the form, materials and detailing of the original building…to pretend that their new addition was built decades ago. To do this ‘authentically’ would typically result in formal planning, small windows, flat ceilings and expensive fittings. Not clever or suitable for today’s lifestyle. To do it inauthentically will result in a pastiche of period elements decorating a contemporary floor plan. The less said about this approach the better.

By far the most sensitive – and satisfying – approach is to carefully restore the original building to its former glory; to complement it with an unashamedly modern design and to create a touch of drama between the two. The transition – in this case a small doorway – enables time-travel between two worlds that provides a daily narrative of the site’s history.

Property Inspection
Old buildings need repairing and really old ones need re-building. Don’t buy an old home without getting it inspected first.

Project Documentation
There are two ways to document a building project – thoroughly or loosely.

Thorough documents cost time and money but enable reliable quotes and trouble-free construction. Loose documents save time and money but inevitably create construction delays and budget over-runs. The choice is yours, but the message is simple – loose project documentation necessitates a huge time commitment to fill in all the gaps, extra funds and perhaps a few sacrifices as well.


Thanks to the stonemasons & the tuck-pointer for their work on the old building and thanks to the steelworkers & glaziers for their work on the new one.

Thanks Jay and Jen for a beautiful blend of the two.

Visit Ask An Architect for more information.

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