Architect Joey Trongchittham reinterpreted a 1940s weatherboard in Islington, an inner-city suburb of Newcastle once considered the ‘badlands’ but, like all inner-hubs, now undergoing regeneration. Playing with bright colors while keeping the home’s best features, including the original mismatched wooden floorboards, he made a contemporary home for his young family that retains vintage accents.
Joey drew on his work with architectural practice Husk when reimagining the space, seeking to ensure the home met his exacting standards. “It‘s easy to take shortcuts and do things badly then cover it up with bog and paint but to do a proper job requires careful planning and attention to detail. Our property is a small urban block and there is not a lot of room to store materials or waste, so everything had to be carefully planned and sequenced,” he says.
The home’s original floorboards have been shellacked, and the different shades and levels of wear make sure the home keeps its pretty cottage feel in the midst of its contemporary additions.
My favourite room is definitely the studio built out the back – it comes with a fantastic loft-space and an en suite, with ultra-modern finishings (polished concrete floors – massive win!) and built-in cabinetry custom-designed for the space.
The home, on a fairly nondescript street three kilometers from Newcastle’s central business district, was an easy choice for the family. It popped up for sale in a nearby area and had the right foundations for Joey’s designs. “The house was built on top of an old concrete tennis court that was originally part of the property next door. This made it a pretty safe bet with no rising damp or pests. We were also won over by the agent’s sales pitch of a low maintenance yard,” Joey says.
The kitchen is the house’s sleekest space, with Joey’s tendency towards minimalism highlighted by the clear surfaces. It’s their favorite room. “We both love our food and I cooked professionally for several years before I was an architect. The new kitchen is my laboratory and I’m like a mad scientist concocting new experiments all the time.”
More important to me than the modern accents and contemporary feel – although these add to the appeal, and are carried off particularly well in the kitchen and cute hidden laundry area – are the pretty, vintage spaces, which can most obviously be seen in the couple’s daughter’s room. Bunting instantly gives a child’s room a preppy, playful feel.
The building that once occupied the site was the caretaker’s residence of an old birthing hospital that has long been demolished. The driveway was the cart access lane used for picking up bodies from the morgue. “If the walls could talk, they’d have a lot to say. We’re happy that they don’t.”
The couple is currently focusing on “suppressing the mess” due to the arrival of their baby daughter. “Apart from artworks, we avoid collecting too many things that are made just to sit on a shelf and go out of fashion. We prefer to buy well designed functional things that last or give new life to preloved items that have been discarded,” Joey says. Their furniture choices are practical but deliberate, and he says their favorite places to shop for the home are the butcher and the bottle shop!