From Petrol Station to Dream Home: The Remarkable Transformation of the 123 House

This suburban Perth residence is a captivating blend of history and architecture. It tells a story of its past life as a petrol station in Nedlands, with a bold and playful design that pays homage to its former role. The owners, who operated the station for thirty years, decided to redevelop the site while preserving this unique corner section for their new home. Collaborating with architect Neil Cownie, they created the remarkable 123 House, where remnants of its former suburban charm are cleverly integrated into the design, like hidden treasures waiting to be discovered.

From the very beginning, the brief emphasized the importance of certain key details, starting with the street number. The numbers were cut into sheet steel and shaded onto the concrete façade, paying homage to the unique design quirks of the district.“I drew inspiration from the history of the suburb, the site, and my clients’ personal experiences to create a home that evokes a sense of belonging,” told Cownie urdesign.

123 House, Perth, AUS / Neil Cownie

The house boasts two distinct mono-pitch roofs and a ground floor with semi-circular cuts and niches. The design incorporates visual references to the lozenge-like shape of the old Ampol sign and automotive-inspired details, such as a balustrade inspired by car wheel spokes and a letterbox that wobbles on a vehicle suspension spring, much to the delight of the owners and postman alike.

123 House, Perth, AUS / Neil Cownie

The pitched roofs feature vaulted ceilings and high-level windows that capture the low winter sun and flood the living spaces on the first floor with light. The first floor also includes a terrace and a principal bedroom, while the ground floor houses two additional bedrooms, a sitting room, a garage, and utility spaces, as well as a pool and a secluded garden.

123 House, Perth, AUS / Neil Cownie

The design of the 123 House draws inspiration from the surrounding two-storey apartment buildings in Nedlands. The architect, Cownie, cleverly incorporates elements of the local vernacular, such as scoops and curves, into both the exterior and interior of the building. Instead of directly mimicking the arch form commonly found in the area, Cownie uses half circles and part circles as repetitive shapes throughout the architecture and interior design.

123 House, Perth, AUS / Neil Cownie

One notable feature is the custom dining table, which resembles a stack of car tires. Thick wooden curtain rails gracefully wind around corners, adding a unique touch to the space. Additionally, colored glass windows at the building’s corner pay homage to the vibrant hues of petrol and engine oil.

123 House, Perth, AUS / Neil Cownie

The 123 House boasts a diverse range of materials, including glazed terracotta tiles, patterned concrete, terrazzo flooring, and textured brickwork. These materials not only contribute to the aesthetics but also hold memories of the place within their walls and ceilings. Even the balustrade, colored windows, custom-designed letterbox, and dining table are thoughtfully integrated into the overall design.

Images courtesy of Traianos Pakioufakis and George Vavakis