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Modern Heritage home design: how to blend modern and heritage design elements

People are drawn to heritage homes for many reasons, including their charm, rich history and characterful facades, but it’s a simple truth that most of these homes simply don’t work for modern lifestyles. Updating a heritage home into a Modern Heritage style is the solution: elevating traditional homes through sensitive restoration and bold renovation.

As founder BuildHer Collective, Rebeka Morgan has worked on many heritage Edwardian, Victorian and Federation projects, helping homeowners to find the perfect balance between heritage and modern design. There’s no better example of this than Ascot Vale, recently completed by BuildHer Collective alumni Elise Weaver.

In this article, Rebeka shares how Elise embraced and overcame design challenges that arose when updating her beautiful home, to deliver a restrained, minimalist contrast that cleverly connects the heritage and contemporary features of the house.

How beauty was preserved in the Ascot Vale Modern Heritage style house build

Finding the right balance between old and new might feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be: Ascot Vale, from owner-builder Elise Weaver is a stunning example of this.

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In her property, a lot of the original elements had been removed in earlier renovations, and she took on the challenge of restoring the facade.

“Sadly, many of these older style homes have through the ages and stages been stripped of their beautiful features,” explains Rebeka.

“At Ascot Vale, Elise restored the block work to the facade, and also reroofed it, added fretwork around the front and really brought that facade to life.”

The work continued inside, where Elise chose features like fireplaces and detailed cornices to blend the old with the new. “But everything had a really modern flare and luxurious feel about it,” says Rebeka.

“There’s quite a lot of continuity between the old part of the house and the newer part. It was more the facade that gave that beautiful homely impression.”

Why heritage features should be preserved and cherished

Rebeka argues that when possible, it’s important to preserve the beauty and character of a heritage house while transforming it for modern life, which is where the Modern Heritage style comes into its own.

Modern living doesn’t need to mean everything is sleek and personality-free, but rather the opposite: moving seamlessly from an updated or restored original section of a home into a modern addition can deliver real wow factor and a sense of character and authenticity. These homes are truly individual.

How Ascot Vale was extended while paying homage to the original home

In the example of Ascot Vale, the biggest challenge of the project was adding a new, modern extension with a facade that contrasted the pretty original single-fronted Victorian terrace.

“Ascot Vale has two bedrooms at the front and the bathroom, and that's been retained, with a new double story extension on the rear and a connection to a carport,” says Rebeka.

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“They've gone from a light paint colour to black Dulux® Night Sky on the rear pitch: they’ve accentuated the pitch while paying homage to the original.”

How Ascot Vale’s Modern Heritage facade sings

At Ascot Vale, using contrasting materials made all the difference in successfully blending heritage and modern features.

“This is when Axon™ Cladding can create a delineation between old and new, and a break in the surfaces. We're not trying to match things because that ultimately doesn't work very well,” says Rebeka.

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“When you actually create that contrast, you give definition to the new extension; you give it its own life and allow it to stand apart from the original house,” explains Rebeka.

Hardie™ exterior cladding solutions are perfectly suited to create this Modern Heritage style. Here’s how:

Hardie™ Oblique™ Cladding: The unique square and angled edges evoke a bold, contemporary aesthetic which juxtaposes perfectly against heritage facades.


Axon™ Cladding: The panels reflect the beauty and timeless detail of painted vertical joint timber, but without time-consuming board construction or durability hassles.


Linea™ Weatherboard: The clean horizontal lines are reminiscent of heritage products and can enhance the contrast between the ‘old’ part of the home and the new.

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Overcoming challenges: Understanding Modern Heritage design features

In order to properly embrace this style, blending the old with the new, you must first understand its key elements:

  • Flexible roof: The roof style can either match or contrast the existing structure with closest matching flashings, gutters and barges.

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  • Cladded exterior: Cladding on the building extension enables design versatility to create distinctly modern looks that juxtapose the heritage front.

  • Contrasting features: Contrast is the defining element between the old and the new, in the junctions of architecture or in the use of colour.

  • Maximised natural light: Ample windows and openings in the extension to address the darkness of older homes, flooding the building with natural light.

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  • Interiors: The new extension should juxtapose the heritage building with simpler cornicing and joinery. Complimenting furniture, fixtures and finishes should create cohesion between the two buildings.


Why choose exterior cladding?

Hardie™ exterior cladding is built for tough Australian conditions and ready for what life throws at it. It adheres to bushfire attack level requirements to BAL 40. Fire Rating Level of up to 60 minutes when used with Hardie™ Smart Fire & Acoustic Wall Systems. It's pre-sealed and paint-friendly: simply choose a low sheen exterior paint in any colour and apply.

Inspired to create your own Modern Heritage home? Get started on the design and build process.

Modern Heritage Design Handbook

Find out how to achieve this elevated, defined, reimagined look of the Modern Heritage home.

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