Conservatory Adaptation makes new insertions into former historic conservatory building, believed to have been part of an extensive reworking of a significant heritage‐listed Victorian estate c 1890. The project makes clear and decisive additions, elaborations, and appendages to the old that both challenge and complement it.
The former conservatory’s façade was originally restored by David Wixted of Heritage Alliance in 2012 and sits amongst a collection of previously commissioned ephemeral pavilions that house the clients domestic and creative spaces. The extent of this recent layer to the site transforms the conservatory interiors, garden spaces around it and provides a new planted steel screen element.
Central to the interior project is a 13‐metre‐long joinery unit housing kitchen, living and storage components. The unit transforms the space through its kinetic parts. Various other small‐scale interventions punctuate the space to reveal the structure's original intent and suggest a 'new'. By taking colour cues from the original Villeroy & Boch tiles with a theatrical blue 'art' door, or exaggerating the Victorian conservatory flourishes, such as the base to conceal storage, the project presents a playful reading of the elaborate heritage elements.
The client’s brief was to develop a space that respected the structure opened it up to future possibilities. It needed to house the conveniences of a modern family kitchen and living but remain flexible enough to also be utilised as an experimental social gathering space; in particular, to view films with friends. To achieve this, an integrated retractable cinema is suspended within the structure.
We concentrated the required amenity into the large piece of custom furniture that sits against the southern wall of the conservatory. Art, objects, and books are integrated in the design. The kinetic features of the kitchen unit enable the user to change the arrangement, and to also edit what is visible and overt, what is hidden and private.
A re‐working of the external services area created an opportunity for a shaded garden setting, and the large steel‐framed vertical garden assisted to shade an existing west facade but also acts as a natural backdrop for the living areas. Deliberate 'windows' left in the large joinery unit capture mature banana palms and glimpses into the established. These strategies all designed to further blur the boundaries between inside and out and reverse the conservatory’s role of ‘housing’ plants, to ‘framing’ the external planted environment.
We worked incredibly closely with our joinery team at Chapman and Bailey who delivered both the living and kitchen units, and the custom art displays that populate the interiors. The project creates a balance of reduction and extravagance, theatre and calm with multiple modes delivering complexity in this small footprint that is ultimately joyful.