How a heritage home has made the most of its narrow block

How a heritage home has made the most of its narrow block

This large, bright, heritage home in Elwood defies the small, narrow block it is on.

The block might only be 6.9m wide and 51m deep, but the house has a generous sense of space and an enviable amount of light.

And it’s thanks to the vision of architect Feras Raffoul of FGR Architects

Mr Raffoul already had a relationship with clients Josef and Jacqueline Picone, having renovated their previous homes.

This time around, circumstances were different as three children were now part of the picture.

While the couple were focused on creating enough room in the bedrooms and plenty of usable space for the children to play, Mr Raffoul had other concerns.

He knew a narrow block could mean dark and confined and was determined to bring in as much light as possible.

Below are some of the brightest ideas from the renovation.

Glazing and void

To ensure the home was as naturally lit as possible, windows, glazed ceilings, skylights and a small internal courtyard were strategically placed.

The spectacular double-height void and glazed ceiling above the dining table mean there is a beam of light that carries through the centre of the home, illuminating both the downstairs and upstairs.

Mr Raffoul acknowledged having the void and so much glazing meant taking away a lot of usable floor space.

“We could have made that void another upstairs bedroom but it would have locked in the space and dropped the ceiling height,” he said.

For Mr Picone, the abundance of light is by far his favourite element of the house. “The house will never feel the gloom and shadow of a dark winter day,” he said.

Exposed brick

An original red brick wall that stretches across from the kitchen to the internal courtyard provides a textured contrast to the sleek, seamless look in the rest of the living hub.

It also pays homage to the home’s heritage.

“I think (it) adds a beautiful rustic language that demonstrates the vintage of the old home,” Mr Raffoul said. “We didn’t clean it up. We wanted to present it in its natural form.”

The brick wall also visually connects the inside with the outside.


The Picones had worked with concrete before and were pleased with how well it performed.

The durable product is found throughout the downstairs area, in the form of flooring (with underfloor hydronic heating) and a precast concrete wall that runs the length of the living room (and continues outside along the pool and into the garage).

“It was practical but also an aesthetic decision,” Mr Raffoul explained. “It complements the white joinery.”

Black steel frames

The choice to go with black steel frames for the glazing had a lot to do with the exposed brick.

“We have this beautiful heritage home and beautiful brickwork and we wanted to accentuate that with the black frames,” Mr Raffoul said.

He added the frames provided a link between the old brick and the new concrete.

“They have a slick, tight profile and there is a beautiful presentation about them, especially against the brick.”


Greenery has been strategically placed to soften the look of the space, especially the rustic brickwork.

In the kitchen, instead of having a splashback, plants are growing from a base behind the benchtop and up the brick wall.

In the internal courtyard, greenery creates a softening effect and will eventually create a striking feature as it matures.

“In another year, it will look completely different,” Mr Raffoul said. “Our work is quite

simple and raw, so putting in vegetation helps the home settle into itself and its environment.”

Pool and spa

Despite Mr Raffoul’s concern that it wouldn’t fit or be too constrained, a pool for the children was one of the clients’ must-haves.

“Getting the pool in was difficult and I thought it would eat into the open rear yard space too much, but when your client has a serious desire like this pool, you have to give it a go,” Mr Raffoul said of the lap pool and spa along the side of the backyard.

“It has taken some space from the lawn, but the kids love it and it really works well for their ages (1 to 6).”

Mr Picone is delighted with the outcome. “This design has created a feeling not only of space but it is an actual usable area for the kids,” he said.

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