An Energy Efficient 1960s Renovation in Bayswater

Bayswater is one of my favourite suburbs in Perth. If you don’t know it; think old farmhouses, sleepy streets, old trees, character houses with tons of potential, and little pockets of former farming land that make you feel like you could have stepped back in time. It has so much perfectly unpolished charm, and it often strikes me as one of the few areas left in Perth where you can still pick up a really cute character home without breaking the bank (such as this house or this one).

It’s no wonder Bayswater attracts a lot of renovators, such as Pamela Medlen and Nathaniel Clarke, who renovated this 1960s Bayswater home a few years ago. While Baysie has numerous character homes with cute period features, their renovation shows how you can update and ADD character to a fairly plain older home – and what’s also interesting about their project is that it’s an example of how you can design and use materials to create a thermally efficient home (that does away with air-conditioning altogether!)

I LOVE the entry to the house – filled with century plants – and may have stolen this idea for our reno! Photoshoot styling: Anna Flanders. Photography: Dion Robeson.

NO AIR CON, NO WORRIES: Builder Drago Bacic of Bacic Group says one of the home’s biggest selling points is actually what the home doesn’t have, which is air-conditioning! Made using Bacic Group’s product bWalls, an insulated panel, it doesn’t need it. “Most people wouldn’t dream of building a home in this climate without air conditioning but Pamela and Nathaniel aren’t most people!” he laughs. “With clever selection of materials and a well-designed and oriented home, we were able to deliver on that brief and build a home that’s comfortable to live in all year round.” Despite a lack of sea breezes in Bayswater (which isn’t close to the beach) the home stays cool and comfy in summer. Photoshoot styling: Anna Flanders. Photography: Dion Robeson.

Previously living “across the tracks” with their beagles Chilli and Mustard, Pamela and Nathaniel had patiently house-hunted for two years, wanting a project in a beautiful quiet neighbourhood. “We would walk the dogs around the suburb because we loved the area, and we would choose our favourite streets,” says Pamela. “It took two years of dog walking searches before we found the place. When it went on the market we were on Rottnest… I had to phone the agent and tell him he wasn’t allowed to sell it until I’d seen it!”

The house had been built in the 1960s for an older single lady on the former tennis court of the big old house next door. “It was a very nondescript, rectangular box,” says Pamela. “The block slopes from the front street to the back lane, so you can barely see much of the house from the street. The house was solid and plain. The bathroom was tiny and had the old avocado-coloured pedestal basin and shell soap holder. The whole kitchen was avocado. The timber floors were nice and there was nice light inside… our previous house had been quite dark.” Althought it needed work, it was tidy, and Nathaniel and Pamela could see the potential in the 60s house.

Because of the sloping block, finding a builder willing to take on the project – let alone on their budget –  their budget was proving an arduous task. Pamela now says if she were to give other people renovating advice, it would be not to give up! “We had upward of ten builders come and look to give us a quote,” she says. “Half of them walked away when they saw the slope of the block and the retaining work. We were just about to give up hope of getting it built and getting it built for a reasonable price.”

Then Pamela caught up with an old work colleague, Elvira Nuic, from her days at the ABC. Elvira had since become the interior designer and client manager for Bacic Group, a Perth boutique building and design studio with a minimalist, mid-century modern-inspired aesthetic.

“Pamela and Elvira caught up over drinks and got chatting about the build and how much trouble they were having finding a builder who would take on the project and could build it on budget,” says Bacic Group builder Drago Bacic (Elivra’s partner). “We offered to help and it turned into an amazing journey.”

From the start, Drago says they worked closely with the Pamela and Nathaniel’s designers, The Colour Royale, to suggest changes to the design and materials to slice almost $200,000 off the build estimate and improve its energy efficiency. “We managed this with only small changes to the layout and kept the size of the build relatively unchanged,” he says. “One major cost saving was utilising our bWall insulated concrete walling system. This made constructing the basement easier, quicker and cheaper and gave the structure a well-insulated shell. Together with the Bondor refrigerated roof panels and low-e glazing, bWall helped eliminate the need for air conditioning altogether.”

Drago and his team designed and created their bWall system and they swear by it so much that they use it exclusively in all their homes. “Pamela and Nathaniel’s home is built on quite a steep site which scared away a lot of builders, but was the big selling point for us,” he says. “Challenging blocks are where our walling system shines. bWall arrives flat packed and the walls, including all the retaining, are erected very quickly and then poured with concrete.” The exterior of this renovation features wood-look fibre cement panels which have been painted black. The panels form part of the bWall system, eliminating the need for render or cladding.

According to Drago, one of the home’s biggest selling points now is actually what the home doesn’t have, which is air-conditioning! “Most people wouldn’t dream of building a home in this climate without air conditioning but Pamela and Nathaniel aren’t most people!” he laughs. “With clever selection of materials and a well-designed and oriented home, we were able to deliver on that brief and build a home that’s comfortable to live in all year round.”

BAR OR BEDROOM? “The enormous bar/bedroom door is more like a sliding wall than a door and was a genius inclusion by The Colour Royale,” says Drago of one of the home’s most attention-grabbing features. Photoshoot styling: Anna Flanders. Photography: Dion Robeson.

Inside, the interiors were done with the help of Ultimo Interiors and feature numerous artworks from Linton and Kay. Pamela and Nathaniel love entertaining and the house was designed for this, with an amazing giant sliding door to the bedroom that actually hides the bar, above. “It’s a pretty spectacular reveal when people don’t realise what it is!” says Pamela. We love having people stop by for a cocktail or dinner. It’s the nicest thing in the evening to throw together some cheese and crackers while Nathaniel whips up a cocktail and go and sit on the deck as the sun goes down. Magic.”

The house now was worth the inevitable work that comes with living in a house during its renovation, which Pamela and Nathaniel did! “Our builders, Bacic Group, were a dream to work with,” says Pamela. “Honestly we couldn’t have worked with a better team of people and construction workers and we know because we lived through the whole thing! Our designers The Colour Royale have some very exciting ideas and new ways of looking at architecture. Janine Mendel from Cultivart designed the garden and she is probably the best small space designer in Australia.”

INTERIOR PIECES: “Most of the furniture is from Ultimo who have the most amazing selection of contemporary furniture!” says Pamela. “A lot of the art is from Linton & Kay.”

After two years of searching and almost a year for the build, Pamela and Nathaniel have been stoked to call their dream location home. “Bayswater’s a real hidden secret… the village has everything in walking distance, there are a few eateries now,” she says. “We’re close to the train and can cycle to work in 15 minutes along a cycle path. I don’t think people realise yet that the suburb is so close to everything.” Maya x

Pamela and Nathaniel have been together since they were very young. “Nathaniel’s dad was my high school English Literature teacher and his sister my school friend – I visited her over the holidays once when her big brother was home from university interstate,” remembers Pamela. “I was just 16! And that was that… we’ve been inseparable ever since.” Photoshoot styling: Anna Flanders. Photography: Dion Robeson.


Nathaniel Clarke and Pamela Medlen

A fully renovated and extended energy efficient 1960s brick home

Bayswater, Western Australia


The Colour Royale

Bacic Group

Ultimo Interiors

Anna Flanders

Dion Robeson


Author: Maya Anderson

When Maya Anderson was thinking of a name for her homes and design blog, nothing seemed more fitting than House Nerd. Obsessed with everything to do with houses, renovating and interior design, Maya is a features journalist by training with a background in print and a focus on homes and real estate. She has been renovating her 1970s house since forever, loves dogs and can eat her body weight in dumplings.

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  • Gorgeous house! An the living room rug – totally ooh la la!!!
    The most impressive feature is the absolutely spotless outdoor space – with nary a spec of a dry leaf or anything else on the floor (Right now, I can sweep my patio three times a day since my neigbhour’s maple trees are dropping those hairy “centipedes” by buckets).

    I am amazed that there is no air con – does it mean the Perth area has dry heat only? I probably would use not A/C (or I would use it less frequently) if it was not for the oppressive air humidity that is impossible to escape. I would much prefer to live without A/C if it was possible as I am either too cold or too hot.