Let the light shine in

Let the light shine in

Project Challenge: To transform a segregated backyard into a series of gardens linked to new house pavilions


Architect: Pedro Geleris, Arquitectura

Builder: RHG Constructions

Owner: Paul Leahy and Michelle Watt

Photography: Pedro Geleris



Architect: Pedro Geleris ,Arquitectura

The original house is a red-brick cottage built in the late 1950s. As with many houses from that era, the bathroom and laundry were placed at the back of the house, creating a barrier between living rooms and the backyard.

The owners wanted to remove that barrier and link up with the garden through a new wing, with pavilions for the parents' retreat and main bedroom.The demolition of walls and the addition of the new wing were the catalyst for transformation.

It reconfigured the backyard to create a series of new outdoor spaces accessible from the house. The prime space is the Central Garden, incorporating outdoor dining, a magnificent fruit tree as the centrepiece of the garden and a private courtyard for the parents.

The new wing houses the replacement bathroom and laundry, an ensuite and walk-in wardrobe area and the passageway that links the two pavilions. The pavilions are surrounded by gardens and, through the raked skillion roofs, enjoy abundant natural light and warm winter sun.


Builder: Ross Haddin, RHG Constructions

Floor: The floor to the new wing is a concrete slab on two levels, to accommodate the rising contours of the block. The floor finish is Tasmanian oak, to match the existing flooring. Insulation was laid at the edge of the slab and to the underside of the existing timber floors.

Walls: Materials were selected to highlight the different elements of the new wing. The pavilions have a light, smooth render finish over 70-millimetre-thick expanded styrene cladding. The walls linking the pavilions are a combination of red bricks to blend with the original house and Colorbond Mini-Orb cladding to integrate with the new aluminium windows. All stud walls, including the internal walls, are filled with R2.5 rockwool for thermal and acoustic insulation. All new windows are double-glazed. The pavilions have high-level motorised windows for natural ventilation.

Roof: The new roofs are clad in Colorbond Klip-Lok and Custom Orb over Anticon blanket and R4.0 fibreglass insulation.


Owners: Paul Leahy, Michelle Watt

Our renovated house matches our lifestyle and the large block of land perfectly. It is full of light, with a central area for social interactions between inside and outside, yet also has private rooms for study, sleeping and guests.

Perhaps the key to the design was positioning the new wing up the middle third of the backyard, effectively continuing the entrance hall to the rear of the property, and leaving substantial garden on the eastern side, with three segmented patios on the western side, all of which can be viewed from most rooms in the house.


Abundant windows allow northern light to warm the pavilions in winter, and significant cross-breeze in the evenings in summer. The wooden floor in the new wing was matched to the old floor perfectly; with white walls and careful attention to ceiling and wall finishes, it unifies the house.

Outside, the existing house, garage and patio wall are linked to the extension through classic Canberra red brick. Three years after the renovation, we still enter our house and say, "Wow, it is so lovely." We are also grateful to Harris Hobbs Landscapes, Oasis Landscaping and Inside Story for adding to the wonderful feel of our house.

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