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Retrofit Over Rebuild: An Architect and Interior Designer’s Sensitively Restored 1970s Home

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Retrofit Over Rebuild: An Architect and Interior Designer’s Sensitively Restored 1970s Home

January 19, 2024

This considered home, in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, is notable for several reasons. First, it was originally designed by Sibbel Builders, a firm founded in the ’60s and known for its before-its-time, eco-conscious approach to homebuilding (smaller footprints, modernist lines, handcrafted design, passive solar siting). Second, its new owners, Brad Mitchell and Kerli Valk, were particularly well-suited to overseeing its restoration and revival (the house had fallen victim to both neglect and ill-conceived additions); he’s an architect and she’s an interior designer (together, they founded Nüüd Studio). And third, their sensitive renewal of the residence has garnered accolades and awards, including the 2023 Houses Award for Sustainability and a 2023 Australian Interior Design Awards ‘Residential Design’ Commendation.

We didn’t know any of this, though, when we first spotted images of the “bush modernist” project. We were simply drawn to the small home’s honest, timeless materials; the furniture-quality built-ins; the architectural integrity; and the equal attention paid to both form and function. Everything considered, nothing precious.

Below, Brad gives us a tour of their thoughtfully renovated home.

Photography by Tom Ross, courtesy of Nüüd Studio.

the sibbel builders home was hand built and eco minded—and also drafty a 17
Above: The Sibbel Builders home was hand-built and eco-minded—and also drafty and outdated. To make it more sustainable, Brad and Kerli converted to all-electric power for the home; added insulation where there was none; invested in a new heat-pump hot water system; and replaced the single-paned windows. “Refurbishing and adding double glazing to the existing cedar frames throughout was the most involved and time-consuming aspect of what we did, but it was worth it!” says Brad.
the couple&#8\2\17;s baby boy plays right outside the signature sibbel buil 18
Above: The couple’s baby boy plays right outside the signature Sibbel Builders front door, which opens directly into the living room. (They also have a four-year-old son.) Of utmost importance to Brad and Kerli was creating a connection to the outdoors.
the home measures just \100 square meters (\1,076 square feet), so every inch o 19
Above: The home measures just 100 square meters (1,076 square feet), so every inch of it had to be useful—and its furniture durable and unfussy. The Marenco sofa is from Arflex, and the Little Petra armchair is from &Tradition.
 &#8\2\20;we designed a series of new joinery elements for the kitchen 20
Above:  “We designed a series of new joinery elements for the kitchen, bathroom, and powder room, which were the main costs of the project,” says Brad. One thing that they didn’t have to spend money on: the characterful wood ceiling beams, which were revealed during the renovation.
the cabinets and countertop were all custom made from native spotted gum wood.  21
Above: The cabinets and countertop were all custom-made from native spotted gum wood. “We spend so much of our time there, and working on the timber benches [wood countertops] every day is so lovely,” says Brad. (See this and other furniture-quality kitchens in Trend Alert: Sideboard as Kitchen.)
even the integrated fisher & paykel refrigerator, at left, looks like furni 22
Above: Even the integrated Fisher & Paykel refrigerator, at left, looks like furniture.
the view from the eat in kitchen toward the living room. the floors are native  23
Above: The view from the eat-in kitchen toward the living room. The floors are native blackbutt planks finished in a natural hard wax oil. Brad and Kerli made sure to use only low-VOC, non-toxic, durable finishes.
the powder room. the couple hired bricolage, a furniture studio, to build all t 24
Above: The powder room. The couple hired Bricolage, a furniture studio, to build all the kitchen and bathroom cabinets.
one of the two bedrooms in the home. (see puddling curtains and other burgeonin 25
Above: One of the two bedrooms in the home. (See puddling curtains and other burgeoning trends in Up Next: 21 Design Trends for 2024.)
one of their favorite spots? &#8\2\20;the curved shower rendered with tadel 26
Above: One of their favorite spots? “The curved shower rendered with Tadelakt which has a circular skylight above that brings views of the trees,” says Brad.
across from the shower is this beautiful setup: a handmade sink by lindsey wher 27
Above: Across from the shower is this beautiful setup: a handmade sink by Lindsey Wherrett atop a handmade vanity.
a back door was added for more access to the outdoors. 28
Above: A back door was added for more access to the outdoors.
the new layout. 29
Above: The new layout.

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Frequently asked questions

What is Nuud Studio?

Nuud Studio is a design and architecture firm founded by Monty Sibbel, specializing in retrofit restorations and sustainable design solutions.

Who is Monty Sibbel?

Monty Sibbel is the founder of Nuud Studio and an experienced designer and architect known for his expertise in retrofit restorations.

What are retrofit restorations?

Retrofit restorations refer to the renovation and improvement of existing buildings, often integrating modern design elements and sustainable practices while preserving the original architectural integrity.

What types of projects does Nuud Studio undertake?

Nuud Studio works on a variety of projects, including residential houses, commercial buildings, and cultural institutions, focusing on retrofit restorations and sustainable design solutions.

What is the approach of Nuud Studio towards design and architecture?

Nuud Studio emphasizes a holistic and sustainable approach to design and architecture, considering both aesthetics and environmental impact in their projects.

Does Nuud Studio offer sustainable design solutions?

Yes, Nuud Studio specializes in providing sustainable design solutions, integrating eco-friendly materials and energy-efficient systems into their projects.

Can Nuud Studio handle residential projects?

Yes, Nuud Studio has experience in handling residential projects and can assist in retrofit restorations or sustainable design solutions for houses.

Does Nuud Studio only work on old buildings?

No, while Nuud Studio is known for their expertise in retrofit restorations, they also work on new construction projects, incorporating sustainable design principles.

How can I contact Nuud Studio for a project?

For inquiries or project consultations, you can contact Nuud Studio by emailing them at [email protected] or by filling out the contact form on their website.

Where is Nuud Studio located?

Nuud Studio is located in [insert location]. Unfortunately, the specific location details are not provided in the linked article.

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