The Block’s Architect Reveals His Best Design Tips for Period Homes

As of August 23, when the popular Channel Nine show The Block made a comeback to Australian TV screens, people across the country have eagerly been following the dramatic reno journey of five teams hoping to snap up the $100,000 grand prize.

Located in the prestigious Melbourne suburb of Brighton, this season takes you back in time, featuring period homes from the 1910s, 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s – all of them now brought back to their former glory.

The mastermind behind these luxury properties, architect Julian Brenchley, revealed his thoughts of this season’s designs and gave his top tips when it comes to renovating period homes. 

House 1: A light-filled 1920s home by Harry and Tash, at 364 New Street, Brighton

Reading the Environment

Simultaneously exciting, dynamic and accessible, the designs of Julian Brenchley are based on ‘reading’ the built environment and creating a solution that serves both aesthetically and functionally.

“We’re heading towards a more responsive approach to design in 2021,” explained Julian.

“More so, people thinking about or undertaking designs are becoming more educated in the stylistic options available.

“There are a lot of new and traditional facade and cladding options out in the design space, but it’s important to recognize that, what works here, might not work there.

“Or there may be several alternative options available, all with longevity and budget added value. So, I encourage you to keep an open mind!”

House 2: A family-friendly 1940s home by Sarah and George, at 362B New Street, Brighton

Bringing the Story to Life

After being amazed by The Block contestants’ interpretations of architectural periods, Julian said he has become mesmerized by how well they are able to tell the story of a home. 

“It’s a hard challenge to take a period-specific building and remain on target, so it’s been fascinating to watch them,” Julian said. 

“The Block brief from the judges was to reference the era or period of the individual homes, and I believe all contestants remained true to their homes’ history in this sense, and took it to the next level with the additions.

“I am forever amazed by just how good the period homes we found and started with look at the end of the show.”

The Block house styles, this year, span across five decades. It is important to remember that when working with an existing stylistic period, we should contain the older part of the house, making its history a feature. 

Julian Brenchley

“Traditional weatherboard homes can be revived using modern, durable materials, like fibre cement cladding, that protect against the elements whilst preserving that fine-grain of texture in facades is preserved.”

House 3: A sleek 1930s home by Daniel and Jade, at 362A New Street, Brighton

The One and Only 

Julian had a clear favourite in mind when it came to designing and renovating this season’s period homes’ exteriors. 

“Weatherboard, whilst varying in design and size, was an obvious choice to enhance the period features of each home. 

“Whilst traditional weatherboard is timber, we chose to adopt a fibre cement weatherboard that won’t shrink, swell or crack, was more durable against the elements and held paint better.

“The Australian-designed Cemintel Balmoral board was perfect for an external cladding product, creating a modern take on the classic Australian bungalow whilst enhancing the period character. 

“We didn’t want to lose the traditional grain, texture and character – it’s a fine line between modernizing and upgrading cladding on older buildings,” he reminded.

House 4: A lavish 1910s home by Luke and Jasmin, at 360B New Street, Brighton

To Blend or Not to Blend

“My big tip is not NOT to blend cladding materials,” said Julian.

“Metal and weatherboard ought to ’talk’ about periods and styles separately.

“When adding a new addition to an old home, be brave. Let the extension be obvious and clearly new, simply complimenting its original predecessor. 

“A beautiful period house enhanced and restored using Cemintel weatherboard stands out against a metal clad addition. The clear distinction and contrast between each material actually enhances the other!”

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