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Ian Browne, Kirsten Chadwick and Family


I have a huge amount of respect for architects – the ingenuity and problem solving required to design a functional, beautiful building from scratch really does blow my mind.

If there’s one thing even more intriguing than an architect-designed home, it’s the home an architect or designer creates for his or her own family to live in. Today we visit one such house, belonging to architectural designer Ian Browne, Osteopath Kirsten Chadwick and their two kids Coco (12) and Babette (10) in Fitzroy North.

24th August, 2016
Lucy Feagins
Wednesday 24th August 2016

After searching a while for a site with potential to build a small contemporary family home of their own, Ian Browne and Kirsten Chadwick finally found a unique opportunity in a wide bluestone lane in North Fitzroy.

‘In a laneway location like this, design possibilities can differ somewhat to those found in the usual street location’ Ian says. Many of the Heritage planning restraints that can normally limit the design of a home were of less influence here, giving Ian a little more freedom in his response to site. His eventual design – a kind of spaceship-like rusted steel structure rising majestically from an unassuming timber facade – responds to the laneway’s existing textured character, with a contemporary edge.

Working with a rectangular block of land, surrounded by laneways on three out of four sides, Ian was able to locate the main mass of the home slightly to the South, creating a generous walled courtyard running the full length of the house to the North. Two large open plan living areas (a living / dining room and a more formal living / music room) open onto this sunny deck area and garden.

The family have lived here for 6 years. They love the unexpected serenity here – it’s only a stone’s throw from main roads and tramlines, but it’s the only home with it’s front door on the laneway, so there’s almost no traffic. The home is surrounded by trees from neighbouring deep blocks, and is a surprisingly spacious sanctuary, drenched in natural light.

Inside, every detail has been considered. Custom cabinetry lines the living areas and downstairs hallway, whilst a concrete kitchen island bench lends a robust character to the dining space.  Vintage furniture, indoor plants and artwork by local artists soften the sharp architectural lines, making this a warm, relaxed family home.

The facade of this North Fitzroy family home. Designed by architect Ian Browne. Photo – Annette O’Brien. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email