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Renovation and small addition makes home better suited to modern lifestyle

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A small black box extension totally transforms the back of a 1930s brick townhouse, adding space, natural light and indoor-outdoor flow

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While older homes may have attractive character features, they often still bear the layout of a time when lifestyles came with different priorities. And in many of these houses, it's the kitchen that stands out as being most out of step.

Although this 1930s red clay brick townhouse had had some renovations to it in the 1990s, the basic problems still existed says architect Natalie Dionne.

"In the kitchen, you couldn't see outside – there was a small window onto a side alley and neighbouring property, but no outlook to the garden," says Dionne.

Add to that a wall dividing the kitchen from the adjacent dining room, and the back of the house felt dark and closed up.

Removing the wall required some structural work, and began the process of opening the interiors up. But to increase the available space and connect both the kitchen and dining room to the outdoors, Dionne took a less conventional approach with the small addition that extends the ground floor and the first floor bedroom.


Clad in high-quality fibrecement board, Dionne refers to the addition as a Black Box, grafted onto the original brick structure. Punching a hole through the brick wall upstairs and downstairs has completely opened up the back of the house.

For the kitchen and dining room, this connection is enhanced by the back of the house at ground level now being a wall of glass and bifolding doors.

"The Black Box adds more space to the kitchen which now opens to a courtyard for outdoor eating, while the dining area has a covered outdoor space in front of it, so it can be opened up even if it's raining."

The home's original oak floors were refurbished and provided the starting point for materials selected for the new interiors. The long island top is solid oak, while rift and quartered white oak veneer was used for cabinetry and as the interior lining of the Black Box.

"By reconfiguring the outdated internal divisions and grafting on the two contrasting black volumes, the existing architecture is enhanced and better reflects the modern lifestyle of its owners."

First published date: 30 January 2018

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Credit List

Architect Natalie Dionne Architecture
Kitchen designer Natalie Dionne Architecture
Builder PA Construction
Windows Nanawall, Alumico
Flooring Existing oak floorboards; Stone Project Colombino Natural from Soligo Ambiente
Wallcovering Oak veneer
Paint Benjamin Moore, Sico
Cabinetmaker Pixel & Scie
Cabinets Solid oak, oak veneer, white and black lacquer, stainless steel
Benchtop Caesarstone
Sink Julien, stainless steel
Faucet Eve by KWC
Oven, cooktop, microwave, dishwasher, ventilation Miele
Refrigerator Liebherr
Lighting Sistemalux
Kitchen stools Hay Revolver stools
Dining furniture Ikea table; Hay chairs; Norman Copenhagen black pendant lamp