Once more with feeling

This renovation marries sustainable small footprint living with a quest for spaciousness and delight – a reworked facade and haptic-minded interior both feature

Designed by McMahon and Nerlich

From the renovating architects:

The brief

The key challenge was how to integrate the 21st century challenge of sustainable small footprint living with a contemporary sensibility of spaciousness and delight. 

The home's architecture addresses this directly, both through a rigorously resolved plan that achieves balance, making use of every millimetre and every opportunity for natural light, through the careful specification of sustainable materials, and also by using the sculptural form of the roof to conceal solar panels and services. 

The interior design address this challenge through materiality, especially with cabinetry and service rooms, which are designed to look beautiful even when doors are open, so that they feel part of the architectural and spatial expression.

The owners came to us with an existing 2-storey 80s townhouse in a heritage Victorian streetscape context. 

The site had been subdivided from the courtyard of a single-fronted Victorian shop-house that fronted the adjacent street, and it occupied the rear corner and laneway – because of this, the site was very small, even for its inner suburban context.

The existing house didn't work for the homeowners – however, through working closely with them we were able to draw out their initial brief and refine it.

The house had overly small windows, little natural light, a cramped floorpan and overly intrusive stair, which they wanted to dramatically improve.

They wanted a contemporary renovation with improved natural light and a feeling of connection to the landscape, yet without losing privacy.

Downstairs was to remain open-plan kitchen-living-dining, ideally with powder room and with a different stair!

Upstairs, two bedrooms and a bathroom with a better arrangement and a bigger bathroom, ideally with a separate laundry, were requested.

The opportunity for a roof deck came about as the design progressed.

The response

A compositional elevation study refined the arrangement of horizontal and vertical strip windows in the red-brick façade; this was practical – utilising some of the existing openings already in the brickwork, and extending or patching in others to best capture light and views while working as a composition. 

The existing house already occupied the laneway corner, and we worked the new additions in to reinforce the robust form while creating a sculptural upper level, as a conceptual and contextual strategy.

It was important to seamlessly connect courtyard to living space – you enter the house when you enter the courtyard, and this sense of landscape connection is important to environmental sensory design – improving psychological wellbeing.

Interior materiality was explored through the haptic; consideration of daylight effects to a minimal material palette exploring four elements and their relationship to the body; the paring of white spaces contrasting with the tonal richness of dark tiled spaces to wet areas, concrete; inside-outside on the ground floor, external stair and roof-deck cladding above, and various oak timbers defining the ceiling plane and joinery.

Through this conceptual and technical design response, the house transcends functional aspects and enters the realm of memory and placemaking. 

Through haptic effects of materiality, texture, colour and daylight – and in the design's intent to push the envelope on small footprint living, its embedded heritage and contextual response belies the perfect proposition for dwelling.

See the related kitchen story

Credit list

Kitchen designer
McMahon and Nerlich
Interior designer
McMahon and Nerlich
Charred timber; membrane
Bedroom flooring
Levante Felucca by Bremworth Cavalier, from South Melbourne Carpet Court
Dulux Monument, Lexicon quarter
i-700 Freestanding Wood Fire, from Living Fire
Living area furniture
King Living; Anaca Studios; RJ Living
Benchtops – Dekton; Flush power – ZETR; taps/sanitary, from Reece; basins – New Form Concrete; rug, from Jenny Jones
Matt Benetti
Kitchen manufacturer
D & C Joinery
Charred timber
Ground floor – Ecoflor Micro-concrete 3mm microtopping; ceilings & first floor: Kustom Timber Flooring European Oak in Tempest
Bathroom tiles
Matt White Porcelain; Black Yuki Finger, from Tileshop
General heating
Fujitsu VRF System, from Specialised Heating & Cooling
Feature lighting
Masson for Light
Dining table/chairs
Ethnicraft Table, from Trit House; Maxwell dining chairs/bench, from RJ Living
Trends International Design Awards (TIDA) Homes – Highly Commended

Designed by: McMahon and Nerlich

Story by: Trendsideas

Photography by: Shannon McGrath

06 Nov, 2022

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