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This modernised home's past has been preserved thanks to a hidden letter - and James Hardie's Axon cladding.

A modern legacy

When Bec and David Smith chanced upon a letter concealed in the walls of their heritage-listed Sydney home, plans for their ultra-modern reno took a sudden turn.

“Anyone who has undertaken a renovation knows that plans are almost guaranteed to change suddenly, unpredictably, but we had no idea of what we would find when we started and just how much our plans would move,” says Bec.

Tip: Try James Hardie's renovation guide to help plan your project.

The 114-year-old letter, drafted by the original craftsmen and unearthed at the start of the upgrade, read: “This building was erected by M. M. Haiges. Carpenter James Haston. Plasterers Thomas Smart & Henry Glossip. Painter M. Swan. Remember us all whoever finds this. 1902.”

These words compelled a rethink, and paying homage to those craftsmen by preserving the home's history became a priority. 

The outcome is a stunning home that walks through the passage of time, from the beautifully restored entryway to the bright new rear. “Your initial welcome imparts history and heritage,” explains David, “But a few steps beyond these rooms is a modern, light-filled, open-plan living area, telling the new story the Smith family is building together.”


Seamless transitions

From the street, the home appears as it once did, with skilful engineering hiding the extension's roofline and solar panels.

Internally, guests are guided along a pathway of transformation to where a stunning new cantilevered living space has cleverly created a sheltered alfresco area.

Capturing the futuristic “boxy-house trend”, as David describes it, the extension is clad in James Hardie's Axon vertical groove cladding, which features a wide, ultra-smooth profile that echoes the sharp, clean cut style of the box's design.


Best of old and new

The Axon cladding is key to uniting past and present. Finished in a soft grey, it visually links the minimalist extension to the home's original masonry. The Axon cladding is also practical; made from premium fibre cement, it's exceptionally durable, weathers well, and is easy to maintain – it's resistant to flaking, warping or swelling, and damage from moisture, promising to stand the test of time as well as the original build.

“We love the blend of old and new that gives the home new life and tells the story of the original builders. I like to think that they would be happy with how we have incorporated their legacy into our family home,” says Bec.

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Health & Safety

Asbestos, lead-based paints and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber are health hazards you need to look out for when renovating older homes. These substances can easily be disturbed when renovating and exposure to them can cause a range of life-threatening diseases and conditions including cancer. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page.

When following our advice in our D.I.Y. videos, make sure you use all equipment, including PPE, safely by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Check that the equipment is suitable for the task and that PPE fits properly. If you are unsure, hire an expert to do the job or talk to a Bunnings Team Member.