Four years ago, architect Dean Cotter bought a house on a suburban block in Lambton. With some creativity, planning and friends, he redesigned the old home’s interior while also building a new house next to it on the same property (his current home).
He and his partner, Paul Matthews, divide their time between here and their home in Sydney.
The old house they transformed was built in the 1920s. With the help of others, Dean undid some of the previous renovations.
“People do horrible things to houses, attempting to improve them, and end up taking away from what the house was meant to be,” Dean says.
Before they started renovating it, the house next door was split in two, and Dean and Paul describe it as “kind of semi-detached”. A tenant lived on one side of the two houses while they renovated the other. Slowly they joined the two spaces and demolished a double garage.
Originally Dean planned to keep the spaces separate but, because of challenges involving private outdoor space and parking requirements, it was decided to rejoin them.
“The site was really under-utilised for a suburban setting,” Dean says of the space where his new home now sits.
When they began, the floor was vinyl and paint and wallpaper were peeling away.
“One of the things was peeling back the layers to reveal the original detailing and proportions,” Paul says.
They took out the 60s kitchen and put in one Dean designed.
“It’s a mix of a flatpack Ikea kitchen with custom overhead cupboards to give it more of personal touch,” Dean says.
“The benchtop is concrete tiles, with an aluminium edging strip which helped to keep the costs down rather than having a custom kitchen design with stone benchtops for example.”
Previously, there was a lean-to box of a bedroom that had been added at some stage to the back of the house. They replaced it with a roofed veranda that has a concealed gutter.
“The timber paneling went the first day,” Dean says of the project.
After all the work, you can appreciate the house’s features like the timber fretwork. If you look closely you can see the lemon yellow under the eaves. They’ve revealed the home’s original floorboards, removing the black varnish that used to line them.
Dean loves the details and thinks it’s really special when the doors match the windows.
“The architraves and doors all matched the window detail which is something really unique. You can’t just go to Bunnings and buy new doors,” Dean says.
The skirting matches the picture rails, which also match the architraves. They used the same skirting boards in all but one room, a bedroom. They salvaged the skirting boards, picture rails and architraves from this room and used them to patch the other rooms.
The home is now designed with several living options.
“Although it’s one house, you can have it in three ways. Flexibility is important when you don’t know who the end person is going to be living there,” Dean says.
The current residents are using the home in a three-bedroom style, but the house has been built to reconfigure three different ways - as a three-bedroom single dwelling, a two bedroom with a study single-dwelling, or co-housing as two, one bedrooms plus a study.
“The design intent was to create a building fabric that could be configured to suit the needs of individual residents whether that is multiple single people, a couple, a growing family or a multi-generational family unit,” Dean says.
The pair have discussed in great length what period the house is, and they have jokingly agreed that it seems closest to a very modest California bungalow.
You can follow the house’s renovation progression by searching for the hashtag #LambtonLights on Instagram.