How to elevate a traditional home exterior with a modern twist 

Get inspired by this Three Birds Renovations home transformation.

The classic Australian weatherboard style evokes nostalgic memories of family homes with white picket fences. Charming, picture-book pretty and providing a comforting rhythmic texture with their horizontal boards, they’re part of the Australian landscape and lexicon.

Traditional timber board cladding was used extensively throughout Australia in the 20th century due to its availability and cost-effectiveness as a building material. However, time has shown timber to be notoriously high-maintenance, not to mention problematic in bushfire-prone regions, so today’s weatherboard-style cladding is bringing modern innovation to heritage styles.

Before and after

This is Modern Heritage

The Modern Heritage design style celebrates the contrast between old and new. Through thoughtful restoration of original heritage homes using contemporary materials, Modern Heritage elevates traditional design with modern functionality and style.

The key is in the cladding and embracing the contrast between old and new. It might sound contrary, but the results achieved in this Balmain renovation proves it works.

The inner-city cottage to spacious family home

Three Birds Renovations are known for their home transformations through their Reno School and Styling School. Bonnie, one of the founders, hails from a family with a passion for renovation. On this project Bonnie collaborated with her brother, Casey Scott of Kinwolf Projects, who led the Balmain cottage renovation.

The cottage underwent significant updates, evolving from a single-story structure into a spacious family home with a second level and two new bathrooms. Adhering to Balmain’s historical preservation requirements, the renovation maintained the cottage’s original street-front aesthetic while incorporating a plethora of modern elements.

A small-space renovation in a historic area had its challenges, says Casey, which only added to the team’s sense of achievement. “That’s the beauty of Balmain,” he says. “You must keep it in its original state, but you can give it little modern tweaks or hints. You never know what’s behind (the façade).”

Classic style given a modern twist

Creating this picture-perfect, deceptively spacious home took some planning. “With inner-city spaces, you’ve really got to be smart with every inch of the house,” says Casey. Strategic use of durable materials like Hardie™ fibre cement cladding maximized space without compromising aesthetics. Clever design choices, including curved features, skylights, and a light colour palette, enhanced the sense of space throughout the home.

The modern extension expanded the home both up and out into a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom home. Exterior cladding played a crucial role throughout the renovation, expanding the home while preserving its heritage. Linea™ Weatherboard provided traditional charm, while Hardie™ Fine Texture Cladding offered a contemporary touch resembling render.

The renovated cottage boasts a designer kitchen, powder room, and a standout alfresco area perfect for entertaining. Blending old and new seamlessly, the custom arched doorways and a soothing colour palette perfectly complement the courtyard’s textured concrete and greenery.

It’s when you look forward from the rear of the home that the success of the design becomes clear. “This is the thing that’s kept me ticking the whole time,” Casey says, saying he particularly loves the Hardie™ Fine Texture Cladding’s rendered look, which ties with the concrete used in the area, and contrast with the more traditional Linea™ Weatherboard painted in Dulux® Whisper White. “With the traditional lines running through it, the shadows hit it, and you just get those nice little details,” he explains.

The result is a clever and space-enhancing transformation into a dream family home. If you’re looking to create your own Modern Heritage style home, download the handbook from James Hardie and you’ll find everything you need to elevate your heritage home into the modern home you’ve been dreaming about.

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