The brief for this home in Melbourne, Australia, was to update the deteriorating home for the client and his dog and cat. The client had lived in the home for nine years and loved the location and feel of the house but wanted an update that wasn’t pretentious and preserved the sense of warmth throughout the home.
While not attached to any particular layouts, the aim was to remove the slightly claustrophobic feeling in the house and make it open and light-filled and not too “designy.” Placement were brought in to fulfill the requirements and we chatted with them to find out more about the project.
What mid century influences did you want to include?
Some key Mid-century influences that the home makes a subtle nod to would be residential elements commonly used by Louis Kahn in the verticality of windows and detail in joinery and Rudolph Schindler via nook seating and custom joinery.
Typically this vernacular was characterised by unique window openings, usually large in scale to blue the boundary between indoor and outdoor spaces. The minimal exterior means the garden can become a full feature. Internally, the spaces are functional, with joinery working hard to create multi-use spaces.
What do you think was so special about this period in design?
Mid-century architecture in Australia prioritizes simplicity and highlights the beauty of the natural environment. It represented a shift in the way people viewed their homes, and you can see this in the subtle shift of spatial planning from Victorian heritage homes, whereby living has a direct connection to the garden, often with large windows showcasing the backyard from the living area.
Communal spaces became spacious and expansive for entertainment, and more contemporary shifts also show the kitchen reimagined as a space that is no longer hidden away.
What were your challenges for this project?
The project began construction through COVID, which meant jumping through hurdles in terms of tradesperson capacity on site, material availability, and delays.
What was the house like previously?
The existing home was a heritage Victorian terrace, with bedrooms in the front, and living room in the middle of the house, with the bathroom and laundry at the rear. This was a typical layover of a bygone era – living sandwiched centrally with little access to light, ancillary wet areas buffeting the only outlook to landscape – resulting in a closed plan.
What in your opinion are the best features of the home?
Being such a small site, the challenge was to add additional amenity without compromising the back garden. Additional space was configured under a steep skillion roof, which was possible by terracing levels towards the rear. This afforded an increase of ceiling height for the mezzanine – seemingly luxurious when juxtaposed by the narrowness of the property, and the roof form appears conservative from the front due to level changes.
So the overall execution is discrete from the street, and opens up to the garden in the back, creating a sense of space where it matters, resulting in architecture that is crafted to be lived in, not for show. This, coupled with the detail in the joinery internally creates a space that is ultimately an idyll for our client.
Photos by Tom Ross