Reno Magic: An Eye-Catching Makeover For A Sad Sixties Home

Julia Thomson Julia Thomson
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Before and afters are all about potential. For this modern home, the owners as well as their talented architects saw the potential in the desolate building from the 1960s. They had a vision of how to transform the tired structure into a dramatic modern family home.

What is most extraordinary about the renovation is that it didn't involve a significant expansion of the home. In fact, adding on was not permitted. Instead, through savvy interior changes and the addition of an eye-catching steel exoskeleton around the entire exterior, the home gives the appearance that it has increased in size.

Along the way, the house received the distinctive character to distinguish it from the rest of the neighbourhood as a special family home all on its own.

Before: A bland beige box

Prior to the renovation, the exterior of the house was unremarkable. The structure resembled two shoeboxes stacked on top of each other. Dull cream paint and overgrown plantings did nothing to help the house stand out.

After: Astounding modern architecture

After the renovation led by Labour Weltenbau Architectur, the home saw a dramatic transformation. Without expanding the footprint of the home, the architects gave it a bold presence through a secondary steel structure. The steel beams wrap around the home at regular intervals like ribs from back to front.

Bright white paint and a manicured green lawn add to the sleek modern feel of the home.

Before: Disconnected interior and exterior spaces

Before, despite large windows and a door that opened directly into the yard, the house still felt disconnected from its surrounding outdoor spaces.

A narrow upper balcony perched on the back of the house made a valiant effort, but the view of much of the yard was blocked by the protruding first floor. The lower level of the house did provide access to the yard, but it simply spit people out onto the grass. There was no transition between the interior and exterior spaces.

After: True indoor/outdoor living

After, the house has great connection to its surroundings. Upstairs, the balcony has been dramantically expanded to become a spacious outdoor living room. Extending the windows across the whole back wall bridges the indoor and outdoor spaces.

On the lower floor, the architects brought out the recessed corner with a ground level terrace, adding another great living area. The exoskeleton wraps around the entire house, unifying the upper and lower floors as well as the indoor and outdoor spaces and evening up the facade.

Before: Unwelcoming side view

From the side, the original house presents a very unwelcoming perspective. Overgrown shrubbery, shuttered windows and no connection to the outdoors are a forbidding cold facade.

After: Exoskeleton creates interest

Ahh the power of a good pruner… and a talented architect.

After, the side view is the best vantage point to admire the exoskeleton. The steel beams are the standout feature of the house. The designers avoided the appearance that the house is sitting in a cage by finishing the beams in the same bright white as the rest of the house. In the bright sunlight, the soaring ribs cast intriguing shadows on the white walls.

The linear motif is repeated in the railings that border the balcony and staircase.

Once again, the architects focused on connecting the house to its--freshly manicured--surroundings. The staircase bridges the side balcony to the lawn.

A calm backdrop for art and furniture

While outside the architecture is all about making a statement, inside the architecture recedes into the background. The designers created a clean, simple, calm envelope to allow furniture and artwork to stand out.

White walls, pale large format tiles on the floors and clean lines provide a backdrop to display the homeowners' extensive collection of art, sculpture and furniture.

Sleek kitchen with integrated appliances

The kitchen epitomizes modern with sleek, smooth surfaces, built-in appliances and minimal accessories. 

Without knobs or pulls on the cabinets, there is nothing to interrupt the glossy flat fronts of the drawers and cupboards. White cabinets are mounted around the perimeter of the room, while tall taupe cabinets anchor the interior wall.

Stainless steel appliances are set into the counter or recessed into the cabinets, further enhancing the clean lines of the room. The same continuous flooring flows throughout the whole main floor, making the level appear as though it's one large room.

See more minimalist kitchens.

Black and white dining room with iconic modern furniture

The dining room sits adjacent to the kitchen. The designers cleverly continued the white perimeter cabinets from the kitchen along the wall of the dining room. The cabinets act as a credenza, providing both storage and display.

In the centre of the room, a light wood table top is set on a metal base. Iconic Panton chairs in white and black provide stylish perches for diners, while a lacquered black cabinet provides additional storage and reinforces the colour palette.

See more designs by Verner Panton.

Add interest through art and accessories

The designer's spare approach with the interior architecture allows accessories and art to shine. On the dining room credenza, a striking black and white photograph presides over a collection of figurines and eclectic floral displays.

Continuing the black and white colour scheme from the dining room furniture into the accessories ensures that the whole space is cohesive. Natural materials, whether potted plants or cut flowers, work with any colour scheme and help to homify the otherwise cool space.

Open concept office with glass walls

The designers took open concept to another level in the interior of this home, employing glass walls in various spots. In this office, floor to ceiling panes of glass are an almost invisible barrier along the edge of the stairwell.

The glass walls serve two functions, allowing light to flow throughout the space and making the rooms feel larger.

In an open concept home like this one, consistency in decor is important. In the office, low white bookshelves echo the credenza in the dining room and the cabinets in the kitchen. The taupe leather on the Eames lounge chair and ottoman hearken back to the wall of taupe cabinets in the kitchen.

Once again, the designers prioritized art, ensuring plenty of space for sculpture, large format photographs and even personal snapshots.

Tub takes centre stage in dramatic bathroom

Perhaps the most dramatic space in the whole house is this amazing bathroom. The large soaker tub is the undisputed focal point, posed on a tall platform at one end of the room.

The same clean uncluttered feel from the rest of the house carries into this private space. Wall tiles in the same neutral colours used elsewhere create a cohesive feel with the rest of the home while their textured finish adds warmth and visual interest to the room.

The floating vanity with its integrated double sinks appears to be constructed of a single piece of stone. Despite its apparent weight it defies gravity floating lightly on the wall. The clean lines of the fixtures allow the art--a collection of sculptures on the stairs and a pair of tall vessels flanking the tub--to stand out.

A private gallery for art and sculpture

The designers placed a premium on displaying the homeowners' extensive collection of unique furnishings and art. A sculpture of Madonna and child could seem incongruous in such a modern space, but the bright white walls and clean design give almost an art gallery feeling to this home. As a result, the traditional sculpture is a warm, personal detail.

Accessories personalize the living room

The living room shows the designer's restrained approach. Square armchairs on shiny chrome pedestals are upholstered in the same taupe leather seen elsewhere in the home.

The black that we've seen elsewhere also makes a reappearance in two tables, vases and a Buddha sculpture. Consistency in colour means that the designers can play with shapes and forms. One table is round with a flat base, while the other is square with chunky legs. Vases are slender as well as short, tabletop and freestanding. The Buddha, like the Madonna, is a purely personal choice that speaks to the homeowners themselves.

The result is a cohesive design that is intensely individual to this home and its residents.

Seamless flow between indoor and outdoor living

By opening the glass walls on the back of the house, the living and dining rooms more than double in size. The outdoor living area continues the neutral colour palette established inside, but with a slight twist. While inside all of the furniture was light, outside the designers elected to go dark, choosing deep brown tones for the woven armchairs, sofa and coffee table. Inside, the dark tones might have overwhelmed the space, but outside in the natural light, they strike just the right note.

See more outdoor living spaces.

The transparency of the glass walls from the inside continues to the balcony railings, which allow an uninterrupted view over the backyard. Overhead, the exoskeleton soars providing a sense of shelter and drama over the balcony.

What do you think about this before and after? Are you a fan of the exoskeleton? What takeaways did you learn from the designers' approach to colour?

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