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The Wollongong House

A personal connection is at the heart of this renovation of a 1950s weatherboard house on the South Coast of New South Wales.

When someone asks you to recall your childhood home, it is most likely the spaces, the smells and the people that come to mind, but undoubtedly they come with an unexplainable sense of belonging. This powerful connection with home is something that occupies many of us for our entire lives.

For designer Brian van der Plaat this connection was the focus of a brief given to him by the owners of the Wollongong house – around 90 mins south of Sydney. The 1950s weatherboard house was originally owned by one of the clients’ grandparents and was where their mother grew up.




“The inspiration was to renovate the existing house in a contemporary manner while maintaining the existing integrity and feeling of original house,” Van Der Plaat explains.

The sensitive restoration of the home included adding modern elements including a kitchen and bathroom while delivering a distinct connection with the established garden – achieved through the use of large timber sliding doors and expansive covered deck.



The outdoor area, with mixed hardwood deck and pergola, updates the 1950s design, creating the outdoor room – a prominent feature of the modern Australian home – providing outdoor kitchen and dining.



Core to maintaining the home’s character, original features such as the plaster cornices, cabinetry and fireplace have been kept and highlighted. These respectful attributions to the past sit alongside the contemporary additions of the kitchen and mirrored pantry, bathroom vanity and shower units.


“These elements are independent of the original fabric and are therefore clearly new, functional elements complementing the existing building,” the designer says.

Mirror has been used to reflect and distribute light from the north-facing garden throughout the house, while red lacquer and coloured mosaics in the bathroom complement the 1950s feel.


“The main purpose for this protect,” Van Der Plaat says, “was to re-use the existing house, maintain its integrity and the personal connection to the past while upgrading its facilities and adapting to the requirements of new a generation.”


Brian Van Der Plaat



Photography by Sharrin Rees