The house was abandoned for years and became a squat before it was set on fire half way through the design phase of the project. Dean wanted a cellar, Lisa wanted a room for her parents who live out of town and they both wanted an environmentally sustainable house. Both clients have a strong sense of their own style so it was an easy process to guide them through the design phase, which turned out to be a great collaborative process. Basically, we tore the house apart to let light and air into rooms that otherwise would have been very dark. This created a number of landscaped courtyards and light-wells. The glazed timber facade at the rear of the house came about as a result of relying on composition and materiality as opposed to articulation.
A series of proper rooms, private nooks and varied spaces was the aim. Each room has it’s own identity and character, not dependent on their internal dimensions, but on the quality of light they receive from the outside. Bathroom and laundry benefit from skylights, kids bedrooms have louvered windows that provide filtered light, the master bedroom is darker, more restive and calm. First-floor guest room and study occupies the middle ground and benefits from a massive glazed wall. Kitchen, dining and living spaces receive plentiful light from this wall, which in turn gives them a more public feel. Although each room has it’s own character, the balance between private and public tips overwhelmingly in favor of the public.
An extremely short design timeframe (two months sketch design; three months documentation) and small budget for the project meant that smart decisions needed to be discussed, decided and acted upon quickly and efficiently. Our approach also overcame challenging logistics, since the existing house was being used as a squat.
Impressive Victorian brickwork and a couple of large windows dominate the front of the house, peeking out farther back, in modest support of the previously derelict structure, is our handiwork, a modern addition in local hardwearing materials that feels unfussy, sophisticated and somewhat rustic. The large glazed wall is broken up with a grid of timber beams and column to ensure that it’s size is broken down to a smaller human scale.
Operable, adjacent windows ensure cross ventilation. The concrete slab (a mixture of recycled and new aggregate) ensures the house has adequate thermal mass to regulate heat loss. Low E glass in combination with internal thermal blinds minimises the amount of solar heat gain. Recycled fixtures and fittings throughout the house help reduce the amount of embodied energy.
The timber throughout the house comes from recycled sources, and the plywood used for the bathroom, laundry and robe joinery are also from sustainable sources. The Tung Oil finish on the timber floor has no added polyurethanes. All wall and ceiling paints utilise Low VOC bases. Low voltage lighting in addition to five star rated appliances help minimise the amount of electricity consumed.
The large setback from the street and our desire not to dominant the historic front façade combined to create a front yard that acts as a traditional backyard. Play in the front yard is a daily affair and much of the produce the family eats is grown there. Landscaped by Tree Space Solutions, the loose and organic layout of the yard facilitates these activities.
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Type: Residential – House
Site Area: 490m2
Project Area: 250m2
Architects: Nest Architects
Llandscape Design: TreeSpace Solutions
Photographs: Jesse Marlow