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FOUND OBJECTS IN A FISHERMAN’S COTTAGE

FOUND OBJECTS IN A FISHERMAN’S COTTAGE

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WALTER BARDA’S EX-FISHERMAN’S cottage is a comfortable, comforting seaside retreat brimful with the evidence of a social and urbane life.“There’s a collection of guitars and accordions and a Himalayan trumpet for gathering visitors who may have wandered out into the waves,” laughs the Sydney-based architect.“Found” objects and furniture, artwork, travel memories and – often — friends, laughter and music are the home’s main adornments.

Bought by Walter and his partner about ten years ago, the 1940s timber-framed cottage in Sydney’s Palm Beach, is also a case study in sustainable renovation of textured and understated virtues. It is not of the type to shout its eco-credentials out loud, in other words, but it is a home of consciously-minimal environmental impact nonetheless.

Overlooking Pittwater, the cottage was in its original condition and had an old sandstone garage and a timber boatshed on the waterfront.

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Keen to “retain the elusive quality” of the original structure Walter recycled the building fabric and frame rather than pulling it down, starting again and building a house of mammoth, airconditioned and earth-taxing proportions  – much as many of his well-heeled neighbours have done over the years.

“It’s a small house, but very efficient in layout,” says Walter. “Small is beautiful!”

The walls have been re-lined with plantation plywood and painted with a range of Porters natural liming solutions and milk paints to give “new materials a wonderful chalky patina”, he says.

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Much of the furniture is made from recycled timber or was found discarded in the street. Bamboo chairs, for instance, were found on a verge in Paddington; the joinery housing the television made from some old blackbutt floorboards; and the coffee table was once an old timber pallet. A turned cypress column left over from an earlier building project and sourced from a close friend’s rural property forms a central pivot to the main living room spaces. Recycled sliding doors open wide to views and breezes.

Floors are covered with natural seagrass or lambs wool rugs and the home is kept cool by the natural sea breezes and ceiling fans.

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It’s not of the type to shout its eco-credentials out loud, in other words, but it is a home of consciously-minimal environmental impact nonetheless.

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Water tanks are planned but not in as yet, although the garden has been planted “water-wise and survives on rainwater apart from extreme conditions,” explains Walter. “We plant survivors!”

The plantings have also been made with eye to encouraging local wildlife. Regular sightings include possums, bandicoots, native rats, water dragons, skinks, snakes, micro bats, sugar gliders, numerous birds “including powerful owls and tawny frogmouth, lorikeets, spotted turtle doves, corellas, cockatoos, rosellas, maggies and currawongs,” says Walter. “We also get fantastic spiders and, of course, cicadas. If somebody could explain the purpose on this earth for ticks, I might embrace them, but they are a complete nuisance.”

Inside the home was already “efficiently planned” and an emphasis on a sustainably light touch continues. “Judicious changes were undertaken to strengthen the structure itself,” explains Walter. Some walls were re-arranged, unsympathetic additions were removed and efficient thermal insulation was added to the walls and roof space. In winter a Jetmaster fireplace is all the heating the home requires.

Just add a few pieces of elegantly recycled furniture, fine art, good friends and self-made music and it is the relaxing home-away-from-home offering “total escape” it was always meant to be.

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KRISTINA ALVAREZ

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