Tanya McKenna and Peter Chadwick are self-confessed ‘passionate renovators’. She’s a sustainability consultant, and he’s a trades manager for a Perth renovation company. Together they are a savvy sustainable-design force… especially teamed with Tanya’s equally as eco-focused architect sister Carla Karsakis of .
It was 2014 when Tanya found the 200sqm urban infill block their home sits on today. At the time, she and Peter were half-way through a two-year renovation of a 1920s cottage, and had just returned from a two-month holiday in Uruguay and Brazil. It was also at this time that Carla launched her architectural studio, so the timing seemed right for a new project.
‘We worked really closely with Carla to maximize the small space into a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home with a huge open-plan living space, dream kitchen and leafy courtyard,’ explains Tanya. ‘We are really close as sisters and we worked well together, bouncing ideas off one another.’
The result is a two storey (or one level with mezzanine) home the couple refer to as ‘The Nature-Inspired Eco House’. They live here with their nine-month-old boxer Henri, a family of indoor plants and the occasional Airbnb guest. This home, however, is as much a place to live, as is it a physical manifestation of the couple’s life philosophy.
‘How we live is not only important for us as human beings, but also for the world,’ says Tanya. ‘If we design living spaces with a lesser environmental footprint – with the earth and our comfort in mind – we’re not only creating beautiful healthy spaces, but we’re doing our bit for the climate. For us, our home demonstrates what is possible.’
Concrete (crushed and repurposed rubble), brick (1960s breeze blocks and reclaimed bricks), timber (revamped Baltic floorboards from the original Melbourne Town Hall fit-out and 1960s windows, doors and skirting boards) and low-VOC paints in Forest Green and white on the walls, with a white resin on the floors, set the palette of the home.
One element that is not seen, but incredibly important is a green roof by . Solar panels, a solar hot-water system (both by ) and greenery are packed above the house, which is fitting given Tanya is an advocate for the – a national campaign to increase urban green space by 20 per cent by 2020.
‘As the global population grows and more people live in urban areas, there will be a greater need for the green roof as a heat sink in a warming climate, pollution reduction method, purifier of air and filter system for stormwater runoff, and a space for flora and fauna to increase urban biodiversity,” Tanya explains. The roof is accessed via a Danish-designed Velux skylight thanks to her and she hopes it stands as an example of how residential homes can incorporate such a feature.
When it came to the home’s look and feel, the couple wanted to mix the brutalist aesthetic they had seen on holiday in South America, with the interiors they had experienced on a six-month visit to Denmark in 2011.
With the reclaimed materials and architectural design taking care of the Brutalist aspect, it was the ‘hygge’ they had to bring in, through furniture and accessories. Pieces throughout the home are a mix of custom designs; family objects, such as the nest of coffee tables made by Tanya’s grandfather and gifted to them by her nan; buys from mid-century stores in Perth; Gumtree finds; and other pieces the couple have sourced over time.
The soaring windows, which are a mosaic of reclaimed 60s clear and amber panes, and an oversized set of French doors, flood the largely white space with natural northern light, creating more of that warmth they were after. The light flows into the bottom and top floors, heating them up in winter and providing views over the neighboring roofs and treetops.
The couple say the home is relaxing in the morning, bright and airy through the day and calming in the evenings. They point to the natural light, fresh air and living greenery throughout the home as the element behind that. Of course, it’s also to do with the soulful materials palette, collections of furniture and objects and the passion and consideration that have gone into the design and build of this project.
‘Our home represents everything about us. There’s something to be said about living in a space that you worked so hard to create – every single thing was thought out. Together with the inner-city location and beautiful outlook, we couldn’t really ask for anything more,’ says Tanya.