Alteration + Addition Melbourne, Vic
In the garden suburb of Elwood, Melbourne, a delicate balance of addition and subtraction gives rise to an elegant home that is intrinsically linked to its site, family and city.
There’s a magic about Melbourne’s southern suburb of Elwood. Its historic mansions and Art Deco and interwar homes are accompanied by planned streetscapes, making a walk down the street feel like a stroll through a neighbour’s garden. These layers of heritage capture moments in the timeline of the development of Melbourne. The prominence of gardens in Elwood is a characteristic determined by local councils after World War I and one that Rob Kennon Architects celebrates in the design of Elwood Bungalow. Not only is the garden in this house a means of connecting family living to the history of the suburb, but it is also the key that unlocks the architectural solutions that continue the story of this site and home.
On approach, the existing house has all the typical characteristics of a bungalow built in the 1920s: rough-rendered external walls, exposed roof rafters and shingled roof tiles. Although not directly visible from the street, the new extension at the rear is glimpsed when walking along the garden path toward the side entry of the home. Stepping inside the old house, a generous hallway is both corridor and meeting room. A large window frames a garden beyond while existing decorative details have been lightened with a muted colour palette, modernizing the interwar elements. Running off this central spine are the children’s bedrooms, bathrooms, stairs to an upper-level rumpus room and the hallway that links to the extension.
Here, at this junction of old and new, architect Rob Kennon has made moments of delight with high-level windows that bring natural light into what would have been a dark core in the existing home.
Moving down the hallway, the centrepiece of the new extension is revealed. A circular courtyard washes light and landscape into living spaces, which wrap around the garden and lead to the main bedroom and office. “Connection to the outdoors permeates daily life within the home, and one’s experience in this space is never absent of garden or sky,” Rob says. With nods to the innovative design of the Roy Grounds House on Hill Street, Toorak, the design utilizes joinery and furniture rather than walls to “divide” the space while still allowing for visual links around the radial interiors and into the landscape. The absence of corners avoids interrupting the flow and relationship between the spaces. There is no feeling of disconnect, which promotes a sense of ease and openness in the home that aligns with the dynamics and values of the family that lives here.
This version of open-plan living – living in the round – is about more than playful geometry.
“As a problem-solving exercise, it makes complete sense … although it was not an obvious move,” Rob explains. The design maximizes the available site area
by extending the new addition out to the boundary, a move that would have been difficult had the neighbours not already built boundary walls. The subtraction of internal area creates the central courtyard, which provides a source of light and ventilation and a view that directs the attention of the occupants inward.
The circular courtyard and the decision to build a single-storey extension ultimately avoided the need for ornamental privacy screens, yet still established privacy for this family and for their neighbours, creating a sense of intimacy in a relatively dense residential area.
Each design decision has been made with integrity. Textured recycled bricks, timber detailing and concrete ceilings and floors reference the existing bungalow without compromise or replication. Worthy of note is the use of concrete. With curved cast-in door tracks and brick sill details, the choice of concrete is certainly a bold move that demanded a brave and talented builder. However, the original bungalow is of concrete construction – an unconventional building method for houses in the 1920s – and continuing the story of the home in a lightweight construction would have been an oversight of the significance of the building’s history. Instead, Rob and his team selected materials that respect the permanency of the existing built form, resulting in an understated and elegant design outcome.
Echoes of the circular courtyard form are threaded across all scales of the build. Circular skylights, cylindrical exhausts, spherical light fittings and sculpted interiors link back to the main idea and are playful interventions that harmonize the spaces of the home. There is not one element that is foreign to the overall intention of Elwood Bungalow. This is most apparent when you pause in the courtyard and view all the spaces in the round. Leaving the house through the circular garden, you can fully appreciate how Rob Kennon Architects has crafted the garden to be the intrinsic link between new and old, family life and neighbourhood, home and city.
Roofing: Lysaght Klip-Lok roof cladding in Colorbond ‘Surfmist’ External walls: Boral Smooth Face Blocks in grey; painted recycled bricks in Dulux ‘Whisper White’; Vic Mix concrete in ‘Alpine Ice
Ash Half White’; stucco render in Dulux ‘Whisper White’
Internal walls: Recycled bricks in Dulux ‘Whisper White’; Vic Ash timber battens in Dulux ‘Whisper White’; Cork tile in Bona Naturale matt finish sealant
Windows: Fixed frameless curved glazing; Velux skylights; Vincenzo steel framed casement windows Doors: Vincenzo steel framed curved glass sliding doors Flooring: Vic Mix polished concrete in ‘Alpine Ice Ash Half White’; American oak floorboards; Richelieu no. 3500 velour carpet from Louis de Poortere; Fibonacci Stone Platinum tiles
Lighting: Flos 265 wall light and Glo Ball pendant; Arne Jacobsen pendant; Artemide Dioscuri wall light
Kitchen: Mathews Timber American oak cabinetry in
Loba 2k Invisible Protect;
CDK Stone honed Carrara marble benchtop; Miele oven, warming drawer and cooktop; Qasair
Albany rangehood; Abey sink in stainless steel; Brodware mixer in brushed nickel
Bathroom: Inax Yohen Border tiles; Brodware shower rose and arm in brushed nickel; Hydrotherm heated towel rail in brushed nickel; Agape 3/4 height basin; Kaldewei Classic Duo Bath from Bathe Heating and cooling: Bosch hydronic radiator heater; Daikin Multi Split Air Conditioning
Rob Kennon Architects +61 3 9015 8621 email@example.com robkennon.com
Project team Rob Kennon, Jack Leishman Builder Tate Construction Engineer Meyer Consulting Landscaping Eckersley Garden Architecture