Award-winning design: Best new house, best renovation revealed

Sophie Foster

Sophie Foster

News Corp Australia Network

River Hearth House was the best new house design. Picture: Christopher Frederick Jones.

A new house built around an old fireplace and a ‘modest’ renovation surrounded by mansions have emerged as the best of their class in the construction crisis era.

The best and brightest in residential design trends were revealed Thursday night at a state function for the Australian Institute of Architects.

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River Hearth House uses recycled hardwood and repurposed materials from the original structure. Picture: Christopher Frederick Jones.


A riverfront house in Chelmer made up of a cluster of buildings created around a pre-existing open fireplace took out the Robin Dods Award for the new house category. The design involved incorporating sustainable design principles by using recycled hardwood and repurposed materials from the original structure that was on the site.

Called River Hearth House, the design by Arcke includes landscaped courtyards throughout the property, a pool nestled in a garden overlooking the river and studio space for the owner who is an artist and woodcarver.

Located on Turrbal land, the house was built by Bluebird DC and designed by Arcke to ensure it “touches the earth lightly”.

River Hearth House is “both functional and inspiring” according to judges. Picture: Christopher Frederick Jones.

Wide windows frame river views. Picture: Christopher Frederick Jones.

River Hearth House has “a graceful aging process”. Picture: Christopher Frederick Jones.

Among the design touches was retention of large existing trees which the architecture, interior design and landscaping worked around.

The jury said the result was “a graceful aging process that blends with the surrounding landscape”.

“River Hearth House stands as a testament to the vision and craftsmanship of its architects, who skillfully integrated the surrounding landscape and historical elements to create a dwelling that is both functional and inspiring,” the judges’ citation said.

“Harnessing the original brick fireplace as its focal point, the house embraces the concept of the heart, thoughtfully establishing a profound connection to the site’s history and imbuing the residence with a sense of warmth and tranquillity”.

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The Cottage has won the best residential alterations and additions award. Picture: Andy Macpherson.


Rather than demolish one of the first houses built in a Gold Coast neighborhood, Justin Humphrey Architects pulled off a renovation project for The Cottage that has seen it win the Elina Mottram Award for alternations and additions.

The jury said this was the “modest” renovation of a one-storey suburban family home on the

Gold Coast “stands out in a city that has long favored more muscular forms of development

and the erasure of older houses”.

The architect added new living spaces, landscaping and a “playful” roofline to the existing house, as well as a terracotta orange color scheme to pay homage to 1970s architecture.

Judges said the ‘modest’ renovation stood out in a city where erasure of old homes was favoured. Picture: Andy Macpherson.

A terracotta orange color scheme to pay homage to 1970s architecture. Picture: Andy Macpherson.

The Cottage’s new living spaces allowed more natural light into the home. Picture: Andy Macpherson.,

The redesign of the low-set house which is on Kombumerri and Yugambeh land, celebrating its unique features rather than covering them up.

Built by Minarco, the existing roofline was maintained and modified to increase the house’s passive solar performance, while the floor plan looked to “seamlessly stitch” the new parts into the old.

New living spaces were opened up to allow more natural light and ventilation into the home, and make it easier for the young family to spend time in the garden, while layers of screening and landscape added privacy.

The awards were issued Thursday evening at the Australian Institute of Architects’ Queensland Architecture Awards.