Retrofit Over Rebuild: An Architect and Interior Designer’s Sensitively Restored 1970s Home

This considered home, in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, is notable for several reasons. First, it was originally designed by Sibbel Builders, a firm founded in the ’60s and known for its before-its-time, eco-conscious approach to homebuilding (smaller footprints, modernist lines, handcrafted design, passive solar siting). Second, its new owners, Brad Mitchell and Kerli Valk, were particularly well-suited to overseeing its restoration and revival (the house had fallen victim to both neglect and ill-conceived additions); he’s an architect and she’s an interior designer (together, they founded Nüüd Studio). And third, their sensitive renewal of the residence has garnered accolades and awards, including the 2023 Houses Award for Sustainability and a 2023 Australian Interior Design Awards ‘Residential Design’ Commendation.

We didn’t know any of this, though, when we first spotted images of the “bush modernist” project. We were simply drawn to the small home’s honest, timeless materials; the furniture-quality built-ins; the architectural integrity; and the equal attention paid to both form and function. Everything considered, nothing precious.

Below, Brad gives us a tour of their thoughtfully renovated home.

Photography by Tom Ross, courtesy of Nüüd Studio.

the sibbel builders home was hand built and eco minded—and also drafty a 12
Above: The Sibbel Builders home was hand-built and eco-minded—and also drafty and outdated. To make it more sustainable, Brad and Kerli converted to all-electric power for the home; added insulation where there was none; invested in a new heat-pump hot water system; and replaced the single-paned windows. “Refurbishing and adding double glazing to the existing cedar frames throughout was the most involved and time-consuming aspect of what we did, but it was worth it!” says Brad.
the couple’s baby boy plays right outside the signature sibbel buil 13
Above: The couple’s baby boy plays right outside the signature Sibbel Builders front door, which opens directly into the living room. (They also have a four-year-old son.) Of utmost importance to Brad and Kerli was creating a connection to the outdoors.