News Home & Design Small Heritage House Gets Parabolic Roof in Modern Makeover This Victorian-era home flies high at the back. By Kimberley Mok Kimberley Mok Twitter Writer McGill University Cornell University Kimberley Mok is a former architect who has been covering architecture and the arts for Treehugger since 2007. Learn about our editorial process Published December 2, 2022 02:13PM EST Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process Share Twitter Pinterest Email Jack Lovel News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive We've sung the praises of smaller homes on Treehugger for quite a while now—especially those of an older vintage. That's because smaller homes are generally more energy efficient due to their size, and even if they are a bit older, it's still generally better to retrofit and renovate, rather than build from scratch, if one keeps the reuse imperative in mind in order to avoid those hidden embodied or upfront carbon emissions. Over in Australia, the notion of preserving and retrofitting older workers' cottages and other 19th-century terrace homes for modern life seems to be a growing trend. These humbly sized homes are often protected with heritage status and can be a good fit for those looking for something affordable right in the heart of cities like Sydney or Melbourne. In the inner-city suburb of Carlton North, Melbourne, local design firm Ben Callery Architects has transformed a Victorian-era double-story terrace home into a light-filled residence. The firm is no stranger to ingenious conversions of small heritage-status homes; architect and founder Ben Callery lives in one that he redesigned for himself and his family. Jack Lovel In this recent project titled Rise House, the clients were older empty-nesters who wanted something that would retain the facade—as required by heritage regulations—while adding an extension at the rear. As the architects explain: "The main challenge was the site’s dense context—double-storey heritage terrace houses with large rear extensions on each side of the 6-meter (20-foot) wide block—making it difficult to bring sun in." But the designers' solution is brilliant: they explain how they created a set of parabolic roofs that twist and slope down progressively, so that light is welcomed in at strategic points within the house itself, without blocking light for the other neighbor: "The northern side neighbour’s parapet, like a battlement to the sun, steps progressively down towards the east at rear of the property, providing an opportunity for a raking roof to direct morning sunlight into our house. On the south side, the existing neighbouring property doesn’t comply with minimum regulatory requirements for unshaded private open space so couldn’t be overshadowed any more. So our new roof rakes down dramatically at this end." Jack Lovel In addition to these new installations, the new scheme includes updating the house according to a more energy-efficient passive solar design, plus supplementing with a solar power system and efficient all-electric heating and appliances, all realized with the help of Clancy Construction. Inside, we see how carefully the character of the existing home has been kept, harmonizing old archways with distinctively modern elements like this open staircase, where the stair treads turn into a shelf ledge. Jack Lovel The rear addition is designed with an open plan layout, with the kitchen coming in first after one proceeds down the hallway. There is a new, generously sized kitchen island, as well lots of minimalist details in the cabinetry and fixtures. A dining table occupies the center of this zone, allowing the couple to eat or entertain guests with comfortable ease. Jack Lovel At the rear, we come into the living room, which features a set of large picture windows that look out onto the backyard. A series of built-in bespoke furniture pieces help to make the space feel less cramped—from the upholstered window bench to the entertainment center on one wall. Jack Lovel One can see how the roofline shifts its form and materiality to let in more sunlight, with the lining boards oriented to accentuate the curving surface of the ceiling. The colour and material palette has been purposely kept simple here, in order to allow these lighter-colored surfaces to reflect and maximize light. The backyard has been reduced in size because of the addition, but new touches like this outdoor bench help to make the remaining space feel more functional and welcoming. Jack Lovel Back into the front of the house, and up the stairs, we see a new skylight that helps to bring in more overall illumination. Jack Lovel The master bedroom here has some modern details like black lighting, and integrated shelving. Jack Lovel This bedroom also has its own parabolic roof, and a stunning balcony that overlooks the adjacent parabolic roof, and the neighborhood's skyline. Jack Lovel Here is a view of the en-suite bathroom, once again done with a restrained palette, and floating elements to lend the impression of greater space. Once again, we see how small and vintage doesn't necessarily mean cramped and old-fashioned. As this project skilfully demonstrates, bold design moves that still respect an existing home's historical character can make a huge difference, and such projects also help to spur future conversations about how green preservation might look. To see more, visit Ben Callery Architects and Instagram.