The renovation process seems daunting for most people, but for one creative Highgate Hill couple, it was an award-winning in-house affair.

Jayson and Melissa Blight collaborated to create what Australian Institute of Architects judges called a “sublime piece of architecture, expressed through intricate detailing”. The design by Jayson (an architect) and Melissa (an interior designer) has been awarded Brisbane House of the Year in the Australian Institute of Architects’ 2014 Brisbane Regional Architecture Awards.

Jayson is a director of Cox Rayner Architects, which is responsible for some of city’s greatest landmarks including the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre and both the Goodwill and Kurilpa bridges. He works primarily on large-scale projects, so it was a design diversion to embark on this project for his own home. Melissa is director of Twofold Studio, a West End boutique interior design company specialising in small commercial projects and residential design.

The Blights’ house rests on a long, narrow property in Highgate Hill — typical of the 4101. This contemporary redevelopment has redefined the lot, although it still refers to its architectural history. According to Jayson, it is “an essay in relationship between a tiny existing and retained worker’s cottage and a new exterior to form a richly modelled sequence of spaces”. Facing the street frontage, an attractive cottage was remodelled into a library, lounge and master bedroom. The new building begins with two more bedrooms, a bathroom and a spacious breezeway to an exquisite kitchen and dining space. A terrace joins the living area, revealing stairs to a lower bathroom and the back garden. The sculptural use of bricks and rocks forms a natural transition to the terraced lawns and striking pool with a ha-ha wall to preserve views.

One of the most striking elements of the interior space is a masterful artwork by 95-year old Sarah Ugibari, a woman of the Sidorajé clan in Papua New Guinea. Consisting of woven pieces of mud-dyed bark cloth, the framed work is a focal point in the light-filled dining room. Throughout the house there is a well composed mix of timber, stone and glass, supporting dynamic roof geometry. A prominent feature of the old cottage is a brick fireplace, which set the tone for the materials, textures and design for the extension. Shane Norton and Rese Rose Gates of Elvis & Rose (another husband and wife design partnership) used bricks to build a series of unique nooks and crannies — each with its own varied character. Their masonry is exceptional — it is rare to find brickwork of this quality.

Clearly the Blights have been successful in forming a transitionary interior/exterior space with degrees of enclosure and openness on a compact plot, which highlights the intimate details of the rich and diverse living areas. The tasteful treatment is sure to offer years of enjoyable experiences in their new home and exciting future projects.

Words by Chris Hassall

Images by Christopher Frederick Jones