Cromwell House

Cromwell House

SR&O (Sarah Reid & Others)
South Yarra, Melbourne, Australia | View Map
Project Year
Private Houses
Armelle Habib
Product Spec Sheet

ElementBrandProduct Name
SofaLigne Roset
Stools, Side Tablesgrazia&co
Window CoveringsAP Shutters & Blinds
LightingAtelier Areti
Carrara Marble – Benchtop & Bath cladding, Black Nero Marquina – Feature BenchtopCDK Stone
Natural White – Wall PaintDulux Australia

Product Spec Sheet
Stools, Side Tables
Window Coverings
Carrara Marble – Benchtop & Bath cladding, Black Nero Marquina – Feature Benchtop
Natural White – Wall Paint

Cromwell House

SR&O (Sarah Reid & Others) as Architects

A minimal re-design but comprehensive re-furbishment of this classic 1970s townhouse bestows new life and substance into a growing family’s home. The approach celebrates the unique and inherited features of the  floor plan, while injecting contemporary design elements and considered bespoke details into the updated series of spaces.

What was the brief?
The clients brief was to create a more functional, open plan home which would be suitable for a young & growing family. The main area for re-design was the rear kitchen, dining and living area which was previously quite insular and disconnection. The clients also wanted to make the most of the available outdoor area and courtyard spaces.

How did you respond to the clients brief?
Implementing the clients’ brief was pivotal to the success of the project.
Aside from the desire to intervene and create a more functional and contemporary home, it was acknowledged that components of the existing house were worthy of maintenance and celebration. This included increasing natural light, revitalizing courtyards, maintaining ceiling details and better utilising the northern orientation.

Minimal intervention to the plan opened up living spaces and increased functionality. Without extending, new glazing along the northern elevation provides light and a heightened sense of space. It was also opportune for discrete laundry access and a bar.

The ambience of the home has been lifted with a contemporary palette. Various materials - stones, terrazzo, timber, metal, tile - create a strong foundation for the introduction of joinery.

A connection with outdoors was also considered, working closely with the Landscaper to provide a continuous aesthetic between spaces.

Monitoring budget and programme were imperative in responding to the brief, especially with the anticipated arrival of the clients’ first child. Careful consideration was given to the application of finishes and joinery, and selection of furniture, lighting and fixtures. The home is now a series of joyful spaces in which this family can relax and reside.

What motivated the renovation?
The clients were expecting their first child, Teddy, who was born just before construction commenced. Starting a family was the main driver for the renovation.

What was the inspiration? 
The house was a fairly original 70’s design, so we didn’t want to take away from this too much. We focused on the qualities of the home that had drawn the clients to it in the first place (such as the timber detailing, an abundance of natural light, visibility to internal courtyards and the general flow of spaces), and aimed to further enhance these qualities with the new design approach. We did this through selection of finishes, orientation of spaces, introduction of new doors and windows, and the revised spatial layout to the kitchen, dining and laundry zones.

There were some key ideas overlaid into this, including introduction of joinery, layering of materials, unification of different areas with continual joinery datum and a more dynamic palette. 

The style has ended up being a bit of a combination of a contemporary aesthetic, with elements of 70’s design and Scandinavian design details.

The solution to the design concept:
We worked within the existing external structural walls to re-create the spaces. We wanted to minimise the spend on structural change where we could; we focussed the main changes to the key living spaces of the home.

The front bedroom & bathroom areas of the home remain structurally the same, with new layouts and finishes.

We opened up and re-planned rear kitchen, dining and living areas. A key driver was the consideration of the sight line on entering the home; when you step down into the living space, you now look through the stone island bench to the planted courtyard outside. It is abundant with light and has a great sense of space.

The laundry is tucked behind the kitchen; we have kept the length of the rear façade open, managing to fit in a small bar area at the end of the walkway. This makes this space feel open and light, maximising views and light from the rear courtyard, while still keeping the laundry area fully separate and discrete from the kitchen. New joinery and furniture throughout has also made the space functional and more contemporary.

In terms of buildability, the unusual shape of the floor plan added a layer of complexity. No walls are parallel, due to the site shape and home orientation, so many of the new walls and joinery items were marked out on site so we could be sure about placement. For example the kitchen island bench, as this is a key visual on entry to the home, but also needed to relate to the main kitchen area and be a functional working space. It allowed the clients to come and walk around the area and check they were happy with access, circulation and placement prior to construction.

Achieving excellence in the design outcome:

The merit in the finalised design can be dissected back to a series of fundamental core elements, crafted together to deliver a revitalised, functional family home. Uniquely, all visitors to the house experience the plan in its entirety the moment the front door is opened.

This led to the sentiment of floor plan as journey – and how this comes to fruition as a series of three-dimensional experiences.

Sightlines became imperative, especially to the kitchen. Hence the island bench – the most critical visual – is celebrated as a monumental form with rich materials and sharp detailing.

This experience is heightened by peripheral and unexpected moments; coloured carpet to bedrooms, a unique wall light in the bathroom, an over scaled reading lamp in the living room and the small bar at the end of the rear elevation all add to the story. These punch points lift the space from functional to fantastic; simple to sublime.

Joinery detailing and material application heighten the projects accomplishments. Consideration of connection through height datums, surface details and the juxtaposition of finishes add to the dynamism. The design has been dressed with select light fittings, locally sourced fixtures, bespoke furniture and scaled artworks to complete the experience.

Who lives here?
A young, outgoing professional couple with a growing family; Carla is a leading Real Estate Agent in the area and Jax is self employed, doing private consulting, after several years working for big retail brands. Their bulldog, Mavis, is also a key part of the family.

They live busy and social lives. The renovation has allowed them to enjoy this further; the spaces are more connected and open plan for family connectivity. The comfortable dining and living spaces, paired with the open courtyard, allow comfortable and easy entertaining.

Can you outline the scope of works, and a timeline?
SR&O did full scope – concept design, design development, documentation and assisting the client through construction. We also helped with key furniture purchases and styling.

We had discussed and developed the design over the course of a few months. The girls initially took the design development package to speak to a few builders, to get an understanding of project viability and timing. With the imminent arrival of baby Teddy, the project start date was brought forward and everything got underway more quickly. This also confirmed to the clients the need for the changes and updates to the home. The build process took approximately 7 months.

What are your favourite details? 
The island bench is still a favourite. I also love the unexpectedness of the wall light and bar unit at the end of the kitchen corridor.

Tell us a bit about your involvement in the outdoor spaces? 
Daniel Fulton of Daniel Fulton Landscape was engaged by the clients to do the landscaping. I worked with Daniel to resolve the timber façade, pergola and rear fencing details. Otherwise, Daniel came up with a fantastic plan the clients were happy to run with.

Any features especially if there are any anecdotes/ tips/ takeaways:

Natural light:
The was a key drawcard to the clients purchasing the home; there is a unique pitched roof and a series of internal courtyard which give an abundance of light – while maintaining full privacy – which we were keen to restore and celebrate.

The palette is quite neutral but layered in texture; we chose ‘feature’ materials like brass and stone for our focal / big spend items, and surrounded these with gorgeous but well priced complimentary materials. Everything had to be hard wearing and easy to live with. We wanted a fresh palette that we could layer with lighting, joinery and furniture.

We needed this space to pack a punch; the kitchen isn’t huge, but need to maximise storage and the ability to function for a family.


Visually, it is also a key central point for family and friends to gather. I designed the island bench so it was an interesting monolithic form in the space, which conceals extra storage behind stone doors. These were a hard design feature to achieve with the weight! After much negotiation and collaboration with the joiner, we got there!

Sliding internal glass doors:
These are original to the home. We had debated adding steel here, but felt the nod to the original home was worth keeping. They allow separation between the kitchen / dining and living areas which can work either way; a dinner party can be more cosy or noise concealed to the kitchen / courtyard zone, or if the fire is roaring, the living area can be closed down to a more intimate space.

A combination of new and existing. The clients were keen to get some colour and point of difference into the space through furniture and art. The sofa in the tv area had to be suitable for their dog, Mavis, to also enjoy sitting on!

Art collection:
The art had all been collected by the client previously, so it was about finding the right home for the key pieces.

We reclad the original fireplace to give it a facelift. We chose the stone to give it a connection to the connection.


Material Used :

1. Cedar – Façade Cladding - Natural Stained 
2. Light grey – Render – Natural finish
3. Crazy paving – Bluestone – External paving


4. Royal Oak Flooring – Light Grey – Timber Floorboards
5. CDK Stone – Carrara Marble – Benchtop & Bath cladding
6. CDK – Black Nero Marquina – Feature Benchtop
7. Perini – White - Handmade Wall Tiles 
8. National Tiles – Terrazzo – Light Grey Floor Tiles
9. Dulux – Natural White – Wall Paint


Master Bedroom:
1. Carpet: Whitecliffe Imports
2. Artwork: Modern Times
3. Beside Table: Grazia & Co

1. Credenza & Lamp: Domo Furniture

External Courtyard:
1. Table and chairs: Ligne Roset from Domo Furniture

Bathroom &Ensuite Wall Lights:
1. By Michael Anastassiades from Hub

TV / Informal Sitting Area (pink and blue sofas):
1. Sofas: Togo by Ligne Roset from Domo Furniture
2. Rug: Halycon Lake

Living Area (in front of fireplace):
1. Chairs: Jardan
2. Artwork: Modern Times & Fenton and Fenton
3. Side Tables: Grazia & Co 
4. Rug: Loom
5. Black wall light: Mantis wall light from In Good Company

1. Stools: Grazia & Co
2. Wall Light (and in bar): Atelier Areti

1. Upholstery: Custom bench seat
2. Light: Atelier Areti
3. Table: Mark Tuckey
4. Artwork: Modern Times 

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