Formerly pokey and rundown, now spacious and chic, this West End workers cottage has undergone an amazing transformation.

Congratulations to Vokes and Peters (formerly Owens and Vokes and Peters) for their award-winning West End project, West End Cottage. The architects just took out the national award in the ‘House Alteration and Addition under 200 sqm category in the 2015 Houses Awards.The jury for the awards commented that the “as much as necessary, as little as possible” approach to value management reduced the extent of new built work. A two-storey solution was condensed to a one-storey outcome through prioritization and efficiencies of occupation. The modesty of this work belies a greater contribution to the re-use and preservation of our existing vernacular and the role of neighbourhood streets in the civic hierarchy of our cities.” (

OWNERS CAROLINE AND Mark bought the 1920s Drury Street property in 2007 and always planned for it to be their family home, but with four young sons a lot of work needed to be done before it would work for them as a family. “The bones were there,” says Caroline. “It was quite solid. It was in relatively good condition considering its age, but it was very tired and very small.”

Despite the cottage’s size and condition, knocking it down and rebuilding was never something they considered. “I just love the old Queenslanders,” Caroline says. “It saddens me to see a lot of other houses in the area being knocked over and replaced with newer homes … We wanted to keep it; keep the fabric of it and make it look like it hadn’t really been altered that much from the street.”

Somewhat of a renovating veteran, this is Caroline’s third project in West End, but the first for which she used an architect — Aaron Peters from South Brisbane firm Owen and Vokes and Peters, whose work she loved.

Eager to keep their outdoor space, a modest extension was added to the rear housing the boys’ bedrooms, bathroom and a laundry area. They kept the living area at the front, which Caroline says, “Gives a nice connection to the street.” Going against the trend of taking out walls and creating big open plan spaces, they chose to maintain the cottage’s original internal walls. “Having lived in an open plan apartment with the four kids, I always knew that was something I didn’t want,” she says. “I wanted to make sure that somehow the noise was contained.”

As a way of journaling the project and with the hope of inspiring others, Caroline blogged about the whole renovation process, regularly posting photos and updates online. “I guess I wanted to showcase that you could get an old or a small workers cottage, still keep the charm, and turn it into a functional and beautiful family home. I think a lot of people see these houses in their original state and think, ‘oh, they’re worthless’.”

Worthless is the last word that springs to mind looking around this house. It’s bright and fresh with rooms that flow seamlessly together. Everywhere you look, you notice interesting little design features and clever use of space. With its VJ walls and original floorboards it has so much character. The black and white colour scheme highlights this while also giving a contemporary edge.

The family is understandably delighted with the result and for now Caroline is happy to relax, but she hasn’t ruled out another renovation sometime in the future. “You either love it or you don’t,” she says. “I thought this would probably be the last time, but now that we’ve come to the end of it I’m thinking, ‘what else can we do?’”

Words by Leah Carri | Images by Alicia Taylor