A Cleverly Crafted Beach House in the City

Would you totally demolish your house, to make way for a new one?

That’s exactly what architect and home-owner Amy Hallett of Topology Studio, and her partner Darren Kaye (also an architect) did 2.5 years ago, to make way for their dream family home, on a beach-side block in Albert Park.

The result is a deceptively spacious single fronted home, expertly designed to optimise space, natural light, and connect every room to the outdoors.

Lucy Feagins
Supported by Dulux

Inside the home of architect Amy Hallett of Topology Studio, her partner Darren Kaye and their children, Millie and Tom. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

‘The kitchen/dining room is probably my favourite room in the house. It opens to the courtyard shaded by a beautiful Japanese Maple that we use the whole year round, and though to the studio beyond,’ explains Amy. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Details of the kitchen. Tiles by The City Tiler, hand turned custom joinery handles modelled on the original joinery handles in the old house by Amy’s brother John Hallett, benchtops are Carrara Marble, knife block by Lex Stobie, ceramics from Marimekko, Vintage Arabia, Iitala, Fuping Pottery, oven & cooktop by Asko.  Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Looking through to Millie’s room from the master bedroom. The small red chair is vintage, and belonged to Amy’s sister in the 70s. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

‘The stairs come down into the studio which is at the centre of the house, when I am not working the kids inevitably appropriate the space for playing. The bottom of the stairs makes an excellent pretend shoe shop, theatre seating and bus!’ says Amy. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Amy in her studio. ‘The vintage Hans Wegner wall unit was a lucky find at the fabulous Grandfather’s Axe, it fits perfectly and provides a huge mount of storage.’Print by Deborah Williams, chair is Catifa by Arper from Stylecraft, the timber box is an explosive box from the mines (!!) that belonged to Darren’s Grandfather, as is the timber desk. Amy has had the drawing board since she was a student! Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

The dining room. Vintage Kai Kristiansen dining chairs and vintage oak and teak table from Grandfathers Axe, vintage Louis Poulsen pendant from Angelucci, ceramics are vintage Arabia, Marimekko, vintage Guy Boyd, vintage Johnson Bros teapot, Mud  jugs. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.


‘We found this bathroom cabinet in a second hand store, covered in white paint. My father restored it and then made a new scaled down version for the ensuite’ Amy says! Terazzo is from Signorino and the wall tiles are from The City Tiler, tapware by Brodware and basin is Duravit. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Master bedroom. Cushions from Marimekko, throw rug from India, bedspread from Nest, bedside tables are more of the couple’s collection of explosive boxes. Photograph above bed taken by Amy! Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Living room interior. Cushions from Empire Vintage and Marimekko, Boyac fabric curtains, Alvar Aalto stools, Armadillo & co rug. The coffee table was made by Amy’s grandfather, Jack Hallett, in the late 60’s. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

The GORGEOUS courtyard through to the studio, where all external materials are all selected to weather. Wall light from Davey Lighting from Dunlin Home, vintage Hans Wegner wall unit from Grandfathers Axe, yellow chairs from Stylecraft, Silvertop Ash hardwood cladding and deck and limed Baltic pine ceiling. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

‘I love lying on the sofa looking out at the garden and the established White Cedar that shades the garden,’ muses Amy. ‘The bluestone hearth from the original kitchen was salvaged and repurposed as the back step.’
Outdoor paving is Bamstone bluestone. Inside are Vintage Hans Wegner Plank Chairs from Grandfather’s Axe, art is by Dean Brown and Elle Linklater. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Amy Hallett, Darren Kaye and their children Thomas (1) and Millie (5) at home. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

View into the living room. Cushion from Empire Vintage, Vintage Hans Wegner. Plank Chair from Grandfather’s Axe. The landscape design was by Simone Bliss of SBLA. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Architects Amy Hallett and Darren Kaye lived in their modest South Melbourne home for five years before taking a leap of faith, and knocking it down 2.5 years ago.

The original Victorian home had been modernised in the late 1950’s. ’The old house was rather the odd bod on the street, and virtually nothing remaining from the original Victorian facade’ recalls Amy.

However, despite its quirks, the pair were keen to retain a few key features in their new design. ‘We loved that the previous owners had moved the kitchen from the typical position at the back of the house, to the front, where it caught the morning sun and engaged with the street’ Amy recalls. ‘They were responding to some of the shortcomings that so many Victorian cottages typically suffer from, that is having the living areas at the back of the house regardless of orientation. We lived in the old house for five years and loved living with the kitchen at the front of the house. This was the starting point for the design of the new home, and led to the introduction of the courtyard into the centre of the house.’

Working collaboratively, Amy and Darren have created a clever 3 bedroom + study home that feels understated, and consistent with the surrounding streetscape. ‘The original home was heritage listed but the condition was so poor that it could not be saved’ says Amy. ‘Our design was considered by Council to be of high architectural merit and so they lifted the heritage listing, enabling us to build a new home’.

Based just one street back from the beach, the bright and breezy family home takes its design cues from relaxed ‘beach house’ styling, with a neutral, pared back materials palette. ‘Aesthetically the old house always had the feeling of a beach shack, and we wanted to achieve a similar relaxed atmosphere in the new home’ Amy explains. And, with two young kids in residence (Millie , 5 and Thomas, 1) robust materials were selected to ensure longevity – from hardwood cladding, to burnished concrete and terrazzo floors, oak, and bagged recycled brickwork.

Thanks to the cleverly designed internal courtyard, every room connects to the outside, maximising space, and ventilation throughout. Like all great architectural projects, though, first and foremost, this home is all is about light. ‘The light in the house is beautiful, in the middle of winter it is flooded with sunlight, and in the summer it is filtered, dappled and soft’ Amy explains. ‘It is complex and constantly changing.’

Project Team :

Architect – Topology Studio
Builder – Lew Building
Landscape Architect – SBLA

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