Skirt + Rock House is a modest bungalow design by MCK Architects, perched on a hill overlooking Vaucluse House, an historic garden estate located in the harbourside suburb of Vaucluse, in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. The clients were equally modest, simply needing more space for their family and a better connection to the garden, sunlight and air. The architects initial response was to maintain as much of the house as we could, but the new program required the removal of rear rooms for a larger living area, and the tiled roof to provide first floor accommodation. The introduction of new form and textures are responsive to the existing bungalow.
The existing gardens contained two large eucalyptus that greet you on your rise up the hill, and a large rock that sat in the hill to the rear of the house, which became our focal and pivotal natural element in the new composition.
With the underlying philosophy of relative modesty, the new form is setback, maintaining existing amenity enjoyed by neighbors. First floor accommodation is concealed in the black roof form, providing a recessive appearance from the street, nestling into the landscape, and being undemanding, unlike close neighbors.
When arriving at the house you walk up through the garden to the door at the lower entrance level. Rising to the main living level of the house you experience the union of old and new, arriving in the central void that contains kitchen and lounge, opening onto outdoor dining, pond and garden areas. A connection to the old formal dining area and front verandah, with period detailing meeting new, again blurs the distinction between the architectural periods.
We arrived at the double height central void early in the design, as it allowed access to desired sunlight, air and connection to the landscape, with our ‘rock’ becoming a feature in the lounge room. The shingled roof contains the void and envelops a parent’s suite and gallery library/study. It rests on two legs at opposite corners of the building allowing possibility of a clear opening to the garden and pond at this level. It opens like an eye to the sky and trees folding and undulating along the perimeter of the plan. When describing this form to the client, and the experience one might feel standing in the lounge room looking out, the analogy of a skirt was used and then stuck, hence skirt and rock.
The planning is centered around the living space, with the teenager quarters discreetly located behind the kitchen, with a central staircase leading to the parents. A living room to the lower level doubles as guest room and teenage retreat, with it’s own external sitting area. All rooms look onto the garden and have plenty of sunlight and natural ventilation.
Photos: Richard Glover
Honiton Residence is the renovation of an Arts and Craft Movement family home by MCK Architects, located in Bellevue Hill, an eastern suburb of Sydney, in the state of New South Wales, Australia. A startling mix of Middle Eastern colors against perfect white, gives this home its sense of luxury and tranquil livability. The residence was transformed into a pristine white canvas upon which bold textures speak.
A short client brief drove MCK’s approach; the owners of the six-bedroom residence complained the house was ‘too big’. MCK saw an urgent need to re-form and reunite the interior spaces, while making more of the extensive garden area, pool, and upper decks.
A new orientation of key living spaces was a critical first step to maximizing sunlight and natural ventilation. Connecting the formerly closed-off rooms was key to unlocking the home’s spaces and bringing about highly usable and friendly living areas. External and internal blinds, as well as sunshade awnings, were used to control exposure to the sunlight, while inside the house an open mezzanine has transformed the back hall into a functional focal point.
The use of the large void to connect the kitchen, formal dining and living areas gives harmony to once disparate rooms. Light and the fine control of it further enhances the mezzanine, ensuring these spaces are inviting and useable at all times of the day. The interior is kept neutral with punches of color used to add personality and character. All over the house the evocative contrast of intense textural materials is a striking design feature. Rough sandstone plays off against smooth concrete, timber screens contrast against lush plants, jewel colored tiles arranged in an Islamic fan pattern break up blocks of austere Calacutta marble.
In the dining room a custom-built screen between mirrors the exact pattern on the original stamped tin ceiling and acts as a decorative division between dining and living rooms.
A sandstone wall that ‘snakes’ its way through the building from inside to out, is a clever tactical and visual device, used to connect a variety of spaces. The light color palette was selected to complement the client’s extensive art and object collection. White paint was used on the walls and light or medium dark colors chosen for the flooring. In this way, a selection of contemporary finishes accent fittings, and fixtures along with bolts of hot orange, turquoise and cerise jump are allowed to leap out.
Photos: Steve Back
The renovation of this Brunswick Street House by Carr Architecture effortlessly combines a refined industrial aesthetic with traditional Victorian architecture, locate in Fitzroy is a suburb of Melbourne, Australia. In many ways, the story behind this inner-city renovation is a common one: a young family had spent the past five years living in a dark two-storey terrace and wanted to make it lighter and more accommodating for their two young children.
Although inner-urban projects of this type usually stick to a formula, Carr’s approach is far from generic. While the floorplan of the house is what one might expect, the subtle detailing and robust forms reveal a deep consideration and design intellect.
Behind an idyllic heritage-listed facade is a spatial arrangement typical of the period: a formal living room and study are arranged off a hallway at the front, before opening up to an open plan kitchen, dining and living area typical of contemporary terrace refurbishments.
The treatment of an existing light well ensures an engaging connection between the old and new sections of the house. From the study it also offers views through to the rear garden and living spaces.
The semi-industrial detailing of the immediate vicinity is referenced in the steel framed windows and projecting steel canopies. The architectural expression of projecting steel portals serve to limit the penetration of the western sun.
The palette is intentionally achromic with natural timber, calacutta marble to ebonized veneer providing a backdrop to the owner’s contemporary art collection.
Framed and borrowed views, guided by a refined industrial aesthetic are rooted in the Fitzroy context whist being true to Carr Design principles.
Photos: Michael Gazzola
Hewlett Street House is a contemporary family residence that has been designed by MPR Design Group, located in Bronte, a beachside suburb of Sydney, in the state of New South Wales, Australia. The underlying design intent was to explore the notion of “prospect and refuge” within a family house and then to apply the idea to a specific site near Bronte Beach.
The “prospect” were the constantly changing beach and coast views to the south of the site. The “refuge” was the other contrasting character where we created introspective spaces that provide a sense of sanctuary and enclosure.
These two driving desires for the house were accommodated through devising two sculpted concrete forms responding to their particular use and orientation. The forms are rounded at the edges similar to tubes which are independent of each other enabling the upper tube to twist towards the view while the lower tube orientates to the street.
The upper tube containing the living spaces is open ended and carved out which allows the northern winter sun to penetrate deeply into the space while allowing an unimpeded outlook to the southern view. The form also provides efficient passive ventilation drawing the prevailing nor’ east breeze through the house.
The house boldly sits as a modern insertion into the typically poor building stock of its surrounding environment. The context is of varying building styles, scales and materials so the house creates a deliberate contrast in form and color. The homogenous appearance of the house allows the forms to be emphasized by sun and shadow with the play of light continually shifting and moving with the path of the sun.
On the two lower levels the character of the spaces changes to places of privacy and refuge. The middle tube houses the bedrooms, each with a different aspect and outlook. The lower level has a cave like atmosphere with the room formed by a cut bedrock wall and a dark stone floor connecting the internal and external spaces. The pool provides a water element spanning between the rock wall and the garden.
Photos: Courtesy of MPR Design Group
Chambers Street Residence is a three story property encompassing beautifully composed spaces designed by Mim Design, located in South Yarra, a suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. The interiors of this meticulously designed residence focuses on superior finishes and detailing throughout to showcase a highly effective planning and design strategy.
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An abundance of light filters throughout all levels, from the master bedroom and en-suite down to the lounge, dining and kitchen which flows out on to an entertainers courtyard. Locally sourced handmade brick tiles span the 3 levels adjacent to the staircase to provide a vertical integration feature.
Stone throughout bathrooms and kitchen add a softness to the strong monochromatic palette. Efficient use of space throughout the living zone creates a well-proportioned, comfortable and clean lined interior.
Photos: Derek Swalwell
Moor Street Residence is a contemporary renovation for a family of four, designed by Andrew Maynard Architects, located in Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia. The family had lived in this modest, aging house for almost eight years. As the children neared their teenage years something had to be done. Abandoning their home and moving elsewhere was not an option as the family was an important part of a thriving community. The tricky yet fun part of this home re-design was creating a new house in a narrow plot of only 4.5 meters.
Within this pocket of Fitzroy is a dense mix of workers’ cottages and small terraces. All are modest in size, many are dark and cold. Many of the cottages and terraces are in original condition, with a simple facade hiding an assemblage of brick and weatherboard lean-tos in the rear yard looking onto bluestone laneways. These lean-tos create a mesh of detailed and varying volumes, in stark contrast to the simplicity of the street front. When building in the rear of a property in this context, facing onto the laneway, one is acutely aware of the smallness and texture of the existing built form. Within this context the burden is on the designer is to respond to the assemblage of small volumes while also maximizing the potentials of the owners’ brief.
As Fitzroy has gentrified we have seen renewal take place in unsympathetic ways. There are numerous examples of this assemblage of dark brick and weatherboard being replaced with large contemporary objects that dominate its context. The tactic at Moor Street was to maximise the interior functions and available space, while also responding to the context by creating a single building out of three small objects rather than a single contemporary monolith. The tired lean-to which housed the kitchen, bathroom, dining and laundry were removed. These functions were relocated and updated along with the addition of a master bedroom over. The original brick terrace was retained, tidied and brought back to life.
In the center of the original house was a small light well containing a beautiful, yet constrained, Japanese maple tree. The family often found themselves conversing through this lightwell. Conversations took place, through the maple, from upstairs bedroom to kitchen opposite, to study space and even the bathroom. The maple was retained and the lightwell expanded and surrounded in glass, bringing the tree into the living spaces. The conversations between spaces and levels, through the maple, are better and easier than ever.
The separate boxes on the upper level contain the master bedroom. This space is surrounded by the canopy of the maple to the south and the canopy of a large gum tree to the north, making the master bedroom feel much like a treehouse. Through the gum’s canopy are views over Fitzroy, revealing the detailed assemblage of the brick and weatherboard lean-tos of the surrounding workers’ cottages and small terraces.
Photos: Peter Bennetts
Fairfield Hacienda is a stunning contemporary dwelling that was the vision of MRTN Architects, located on the fringe of Melbourne, Australia’s inner suburbs. The new family home sits in an established residential street of Victorian villas and Californian bungalows. From the street, the angled roof home seems to fit into the landscape of single-level homes, effortlessly picking up the street’s original pattern of hipped and gabled roof forms. A closer look however, reveals that this new house sits unusually behind a sunny, walled courtyard. This room without a roof, except for a sheltering courtyard tree, is an extension of the living and dining spaces that open onto it.
The enclosed courtyard is located to the north of the house and creates a buffer between the street and the house allowing the living spaces to open up to and access northern light and warmth.
The front wall of the courtyard matches the front setback of the adjacent neighbors. In holding the typical front setback of houses along the street, and setting the house to the south, a sun filled outdoor area is created that can be used as a living, dining or play area. The courtyard space also becomes a semi-public space allowing interaction between the owners and local passerby’s; responding to the owner’s desire that the house engage with the established residents in the area.
The concrete block walls of the courtyard continue without interruption through the house’s main living areas. These walls remain unchanged except for the patina. Outside they are rough and weathered, but become polished and honed once inside. The design is not precious of the courtyard walls; eventually vines and creepers will take over the exterior concrete block and create a walled garden that will change by season.
The living spaces are covered with an undulating canopy of cedar, a warm blanket of timber. From the exterior the roof form relates to the neighboring roof geometries along the street but from inside the roof dips and rises to define the dining, kitchen and living spaces below. The timber ceiling is kept clear of down lights and services; all lighting is provided by concealed perimeter uplighting, at night the roof appears to float over the masonry walls below.
Beyond the living spaces the private zones of the house are arranged as two wings, a parents wing and a children’s wing, that wrap around a small courtyard. This central planted courtyard provides light and ventilation to the center of the house. Currently parents and young children can see each other through this void but over time planting will create greater privacy for older children.
The owners’ brief was to create a long-term family home, somewhere they could become a part of the street and its ongoing history. The Fairfield Hacienda sits comfortably within its local context while creating a contemporary light filled home that is orientated to the north and provides a variety of spaces to live in, both inside and out.
Photos: Peter Bennetts