Figr Architects’ renovation of a modest inner-city worker’s cottage in Cremorne, Melbourne, has resulted in this surprisingly contemporary addition, which outperforms its modest footprint, and avoids many of the cliches often seen in the typical extension of a Victorian home.
‘We rejected the idea of big for the sake of big,’ explains architect Adi Atic. ‘From the outset, we wanted to create a small, comfortable home which would sustain a growing family for years to come’.
The approach was to shun traditional ‘open-plan’ living, instead creating two separate living areas which act as private sanctuaries for the couple who live here. ‘The idea is that these small rooms provide an escape from living on top of one another in an open plan scenario,’ says Adi.
A few sacrifices were required to make this possible. Fixed elements, such a kitchen island bench, were omitted, whilst space enhancing features, such as the covered veranda, were created to maximise the footprint of the home without adding bulk.
The rear exterior of the home, clad in distinctive repeating timber battens, cleverly stitches together old and new, whilst providing various opportunities for dramatic sunlight to penetrate the building. Inside, a central double-height ‘tunnel’, clad in spotted gum, carries through from the original home to the new addition.
‘A dramatic contrast of material and volume change creates a conflict between shadow and light, and signifies the transition from old to new’ Adi explains. ‘This threshold creates the desire to move toward the light entering the new space’. Not all design details here are quite so intellectualised though… a pop of pink lighting, concealed in a black steel channel, is a lighthearted reference to the client’s love of Star Wars – specifically, Darth Vader’s Light Saber! Meanwhile, we’re told the spotted-gum cladding is a metaphor for Dagobah, the forest where Yoda went into exile. (At this point we can’t tell if Adi is pulling our leg!?)
Pop culture aside, the materials palette here is worth noting for its lack of white plaster – the tonal qualities of various timbers, along with plywood surfaces, raw cement sheet and black steel combine to create a warm, richly layered and dramatic interior. This is a clever, compact home that packs a distinctive design punch!