21-23 Apr 2020
Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre

Bricks – a natural choice

Bricks are a classic choice for those building a new home or renovating an existing one. A sense of solidity, combined with timeless appeal, allow designers to create new forms, irrespective of colour or finish.

“There has been a gradual move towards using bricks, particularly given there are now so many options, both in colour and shape,” says architect James Taylor, co-director of Taylor Knights.

The brick detailing of a 1930s interwar English-revival house in Ascot Vale provided an important cue for Taylor Knights. Surrounding the original home’s windows, entrance portico, and even on the chimney flues, there’s also a fair dose of original brickwork surrounding the fireplace in the formal living room. So when it came to extending this house, with a new kitchen and living area at the rear, the architects went for a slim line ‘Grampian Blue’ coloured brick. “We were constrained by the house being in a heritage streetscape. We were permitted to create a second level at the rear, but this wasn’t allowed to be seen from the street,” says Taylor, who was appreciative of the original home’s pitched terracotta roof to conceal the new contemporary wing.

At the rear of the Ascot Vale house is an open plan kitchen, living and dining area, with floor-to-ceiling glass doors that open to a manicured back lawn. Upstairs, nestled into the original roof is the main bedroom and ensuite bathroom. “This was one of the squarest houses that we’ve measured up,” says Taylor, who was keen to create a more irregular juxtaposition with the new brick wing. “We were mindful of providing a suntrap,” says Taylor, who was also keen to create a monolithic outcrop rather than a lightweight addition. “These bricks just felt right with the original home that celebrates them,” says Taylor, pointing out the way bricks were combined with rendered surfaces to create that level of detail many 1930s homes are known for.

According to Taylor, there has been a shift away from using lighter materials such as fibro cement sheeting or finishes that quickly age with the weather. “Bricks hold up over time, not just decades, but over centuries,” says Taylor. “They also require less maintenance than many other materials,” he adds.

LSA Architects also used brick when extending a double-fronted brick Victorian house, located in a leafy street in Armadale. In the 1970s, a fairly rudimentary extension was added, made from fibro cement. “It felt quite flimsy compared to the original brick house. But the rooms within this addition were also quite pokey,” says architect Linda Simons, director of the practice.

Simons renovated the original period home, together with adding a new brick wing, including an open plan kitchen, dining and living wing opening to the rear garden. “Our client wanted sufficient wall space to accommodate paintings. She also wanted generous glazing to allow unimpeded views of the garden,” says Simons. One of the more unusual features of the new wing is the white brick ‘envelope’ inserted into a glazed wall. Containing an open wood burning fireplace and a built-in television, there is a Mondrian-like quality to this arrangement. “The idea was to provide a screen to a neighbouring home, while still allowing for northern light to penetrate,” says Simons, who refers to this feature as ‘floating’. “Bricks are normally seen as quite robust, solid. But here, they are expressed in a more lightweight manner,” she adds.

For the fireplace and television insertion, the white bricks used are ‘La Paloma’ from Austral. “They appear to ‘slice’ through the glass but are firmly anchored into position,” says Simons, who sees a move to using more natural products, such as bricks, both in new homes, and also in renovating older ones. “Bricks have come along way and the choice now, both in shape, colour and texture, is endless.”

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