House of Small Moments
Williamstown, Melbourne

Status: construction starts November 2018

Our clients, a young family of 4 with regular guests, had purchased a run down heritage cottage in Williamstown village. They asked for a simple, light filled home to create a backdrop for their family life.

Our design retained and restored the front two rooms of the original cottage and created a small courtyard that introduces light and creates a new informal entry to the home. Lean, hardworking service spaces (bathrooms, laundry and storage) are consolidated and located in the least ‘valuable’ part of the site. The family social spaces (kitchen, living and dining) are housed in a large, sun-drenched space that opens to the backyard. A small second floor houses the master bed room and a study / guest room.

Our design focussed on creating small moments of delight in every day life: a window seat to wait for mum and dad to come home, a stair balustrade that doubles as a privacy screen to the guest room but makes sure that these small spaces remain open and generous. The balcony to the master bedroom is concealed, adding an element of surprise.

House of Small Moments demonstrates an alternative way of responding to the heritage constraints in Williamstown and had a smooth passage through Town Planning as we could demonstrate how it satisfied Council’s requirements whilst creating a better home for our clients.

Constellation House
Kew, Melbourne

Status: Complete

Our clients had found their forever home: a great street, close to their young daughter’s school, a large block with a heritage Victorian house in desperate need of some work.

Peter and Dawn asked for a light-filled home with a fantastic indoor-outdoor space to enjoy with family and friends.

Our design helped untangle the many renovations and extensions that had been carried out over the years, restoring the original house to create generous spaces for guests.

The new extension is wrapped around a central courtyard, flooded with light and anchored by a pool. Our design plays with revealing and concealing the courtyard and pool: from the kitchen floor-to-ceiling glazing allows you to soak it all in, from the living room a constellation of small windows allow you to catch glimpses of water, dappled light and laughter.

The entire ground floor of the new extension is dedicated to cooking, eating, swimming and being together. Sleeping quarters upstairs provide space for retreat and glimpses of the stars.

House Within a House
East Melbourne

Status: concept design complete

When designing for families, we are often asked how we can separate kids’ and parents’ activities while enabling supervision and communication and enhancing family time.

For these clients, a family with young children, we proposed a “House Within a House”; two houses with very different characters.

The outer “House” is the kids’ zone. It is robust, informal and vibrant. Connected to the inner "House" and the outside world via balcony vistas and sliding partitions, it can be re-shaped to accommodate the whole gamut of young family activities, from homework time to cricket matches.

The design enables the laneway to become an extension of the kids' zone, whilst maintaining security and privacy when required. Laneways and other public spaces are safer and more enjoyable when activated and containing signs of life. 

In contrast to the outer “House”, the inner adults' zone is delicate and refined; a tranquil retreat, but only when it needs to be. It can transform into an extension of the outdoor space; a breezeway between the backyard and the public realm.

 

Rocky Outcrop
Gooram, Victoria

Status: concept design complete

This modest house is an off-the-grid family getaway on a rural site in Gooram, several hours north-east of Melbourne. The site is a tract of hilly, granite boulder-strewn land, cast aside from the surrounding farmland due to its inability be farmed. The owners recognised an opportunity in this dramatic and harsh landscape - it was selected as a place of wonder for their young kids to spend weekends and school holidays immersed in nature; flying kites, climbing boulders, swimming in the dams…

The design explores how little 'house' is required when carefully designed and integrated with vast skies, stars and the horizon. 

The house is composed of a series of planes in the landscape, taking its inspiration from the modernist classic Heide II and the land art of Richard Serra. These planes are arranged along a central circulation spine that frames vistas through the house and enables cross-ventilation. Embedded amongst the boulders, the house is part of the landscape.

Concrete blockwork was selected, partly to simplify construction for the owner-builders, but more importantly because the rugged landscape lends itself to a similarly raw, textured and robust material. These walls create a soothing sense of enclosure and protection from the wild winds, making the house an all weather retreat.

 

Two Big Boys
Kew, Melbourne

Status: schematic design complete

A family with two teenage boys asked us to extend and reconfigure their existing home to accommodate the way they live; to better connect activities that need to be connected and separate activities that need to be separated. As the boys had grown older (and bigger!), their activities were increasingly in conflict with their parents’ activities. The main open plan living space was charged with all activities; entertaining, unwinding after football, food preparation, watching tv, folding laundry, playing table tennis, homework, etc. In contrast, spaces that needed to be connected, such as the boys’ study and the kitchen, were separated by the cellular nature of the older portion of the house.

 

In addition to needing the internal spaces to work better, our clients required more outdoor space to support sports activities and a swimming pool. This drove the project into a two-storey arrangement, which brings its own challenges; How do you connect all spaces with the outdoors? How do you keep an eye on the boys when they are playing, but stop their noise from disrupting dinner parties? These challenges were mitigated through a split level arrangement that sees the boys’ wing partly sunken into the ground and the living areas raised slightly above ground, giving both zones a strong connection to the outdoors and to the retained portion of the original house, while providing visual connections between all zones.

 

The heart of the house is the “snug”; the grand stair that bridges the old and new, the nexus between the parents’ wing, the boys’ play area, the boys’ study and the active living spaces. A sliding partition allows the boys’ area to be sealed off from the main living spaces, or connected to them via the snug when suitable. The design of the house takes a long-term view, envisaging how the family’s living patterns might change over time. The boys’ wing has the capacity to become a separate living unit with independent access from the laneway, should they follow the Gen Y trend to stay at home into their adult years.

1972 REDUX
Toorak, Melbourne

Status: complete

In 1972 Neil Clerehan, a celebrated Melbourne modernist Architect and contemporary of Robin Boyds, completed a modest concrete block home in Toorak. Clerehan placed the home to the rear of the site, leaving a large west-facing walled courtyard that is both the front entry and ‘back yard’ complete with a large pool. Also in 1972, digital watches were introduced and Australian Women’s Weekly released the Busy Woman’s Cookbook aimed at the growing number of women who worked outside the home, helping them prepare microwave delicacies.

Clerehan’s home remains elegant and robust, well loved by our clients. But some things have changed since 1972: contemporary family life has moved on from microwave cooking by a ‘busy woman’ - our clients wanted to be connected to their yard, to live, cook and eat outside when the weather permitted. They needed the pool to be fenced in order to be safe for their toddlers and they wanted some privacy and seclusion from neighbouring buildings that have been growing steadily over the past decades. 

We set about understanding their life, rituals, routines as well as the site, sun, views and bulky neighbouring buildings. We then designed bespoke lights, fencing, pavers and planting to create spaces within the yard to sit, to eat, to play. The materials and shapes are sympathetic to Clerehan’s home, picking up on the ‘L’ shaped window and black steel framing. A key idea was to create a sense of ‘space’ between each of the elements: pavers peel away to allow the garden to soften edges, pebbles are introduced to separate materials and allow for hours of toddlers’ entertainment.

The ‘stuff’ of modern life is concealed to create a sense of calm and allow our clients and their friends to focus on their time together in the sun (Apple watch optional!)