Party Of Two
Downsizing and updating with the help of an architect allowed this Melbourne couple to transition happily to a fab, functional urban nest.
Downsizers bring a tired Melbourne Federation home into the light of the 21st century.
With their two adult children now settled in their own places, downsizing from a large fourbedroom family home in the suburbs was an easy decision for the owners of this three-bedroom Federation home in Melbourne’s Fitzroy North. Aside from its handy, central location, they were also after something more manageable.
“We loved the red-brick bay windows, pressed-metal ceilings and original floorboards in the hallway,” says the owner. “But the bathroom and kitchen had seen better days and we wanted more natural light, a modern kitchen and a cosier living area .” Their son recommended local architect Steffen Welsch, who shared their passion for energy-efficient homes and sustainable materials.
“As it was, the house simply wasn’t comfortable to live in,” says Steffen. “The orientation was all wrong and the back part of the building had fallen into disrepair.”
The main challenges were drawing more natural light into the south-facing rear of the home, and the rather compact footprint overall. Steffen’s solution was to extend the structure and reorient the layout, wrapping the kitchen, dining and living zones around a central courtyard. “We had to pack lots of function into a small space, so the joinery was dimensioned very carefully,” says Steffen. “Every little thing, including the distance between the kitchen bench and the sliding door to the courtyard, had to be measured so two people could stand together without feeling cramped.” In addition, the roofline at the rear of the original part of the house was raised and angled to maximise the northern sun.
“Steffen brought us the idea of creating an internal courtyard and we were instantly sold,” says the owner. “We love the way it has created a central hub with an easy transition from inside to outside.”
“The morning light and warmth gives us a great start each day,” says the owner. “It’s just the right size and has everything we need.” Blackbutt veneer joinery. Sisal carpet. Walls painted Dulux Pipe Clay.
“The new fireplace is a focal point and adds complexity to the space, making the room feel bigger than it actually is,” says Steffen. The fire surround is recycled brick. Blackbutt flooring. ‘Nook’ sofa, Jardan.
The African metal wall art was a gift.
All the rooms at the rear of the property wrap around the new, low-maintenance courtyard. “The new design had to be about not creating more work for us,” says the owner. Silvertop ash deck and cladding. Chair and footstool, Eco Outdoor.
A crisp but restrained palette of timber, basalt grey tiles and white joinery and walls has renewed the home. “The combination of materials gives the house a modern feel but still fits in with the period of the cottage,” says the owner. The asymmetrical cabinetry in the dining area is a favourite feature. “It looks fantastic and gives us great storage and display spaces.” ‘Logico Suspension’ pendant light, Artemide. ‘Navy’ dining table and chairs, Jardan.
The 4.3x3m kitchen is packed with integrated appliances and storage. Joinery in blackbutt (island) and two-pack polyurethane in Dulux Vivid White. Island benchtop in Caesarstone Pure White. The rear bench and splashback are bluestone. ‘Eve’ tapware, KWC. ‘Apollo’ basalt floor tiles, Classic Ceramics. ‘Talo Suspension’ pendant light, Artemide. Stools, Matt Blatt. Simply fabulous: a fit-for-purpose, energy-efficient Federation renovation.
BELOW The appealing circa-1905 frontage only required freshening up.