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A Thoroughly Tactile Terrace

Architecture

The terrace house typology is well established in the inner suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney, and the renovation of these heritage sites offers medium density living in our populated cities. But the narrow and constricted sites require inventive architectural responses to breathe new life into the dark back corners!

Emlyn Olaver of Olaver Architecture walks us through their North Fitzroy house renovation, where light and materiality bring warmth and tactility to the space.

15th April, 2019

Inside the North Fitzroy terrace renovated by Olaver Architecture. Photo – Josh Robenstone.

Photo – Josh Robenstone.

Photo – Josh Robenstone.

Photo – Josh Robenstone.

Photo – Josh Robenstone.

Photo – Josh Robenstone.

Photo – Josh Robenstone.

Photo – Josh Robenstone.

Photo – Josh Robenstone.

Photo – Josh Robenstone.

Photo – Josh Robenstone.

Photo – Josh Robenstone.

Miriam McGarry
Monday 15th April 2019

Renovating a Melbourne terrace is no easy feat – the narrow homes are renowned for their dark corridors and difficult flow between spaces. When a young couple with a North Fitzroy terrace approached Emlyn Olaver, of Olaver Architecture, the brief was to update the home to ‘provide a comfortable, warm house with plenty of natural light, made for entertaining, cooking and indoor plants.’

Having worked on eight terrace houses before, Emlyn approached the north facing residence as a site of potential experimentation. The property offered ‘ideal orientation, rear access, and an existing brick boundary wall’. With a view across the surrounding rooftops, and the lights of the nearby footy oval glowing in the distance, Emlyn designed a home that let the outside into the previously cloistered home.

The architect introduced a double height living room, bathed in daylight that spills into the home through the expansive void. In contrast to this generous opening, a low ceiling kitchen and sunken living room provide a cosy, human scale. Stepping down into the living area creates a connection with the backyard, where the floor sits flush to the natural ground level, and brick paving creates a continuous path between inside and out.

The warm timber lined renovation is aesthetically sophisticated and charming, but the real proof of success is in the owners’ experience. With a new baby born JUST after the couple moved in, the clients explain ‘appreciation for the beauty of this house has really gone to another level now we’re spending so much time here. We couldn’t have asked for a better space to spend maternity leave!’ Emlyn has been back to visit several times and can confirm that the indoor plants are also alive and thriving. This tactile house gently but confidently cleaves a new life for the terrace home.

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