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A Curvy, Unexpected Renovation For A Heritage Home

Architecture

Based on the pristine 1904 facade of this home, you might think it’s easy to imagine what lies inside… but this is a property full of surprises.

The Mason house in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs offers something unexpected at every turn, from a two-storey extension with bold, curved forms, to a rooftop terrace. (How many period homes can claim that?)

Sarah Bryant, director of Bryant Alsop Architects, talks us through the design process. 

6th February, 2020

The beautiful period facade. Photo – Jack Lovel.

The existing house was restored and a contemporary two-storey extension added to the rear. Photo – Jack Lovel.

The ornate plasterwork of the 1904 house was restored. Photo – Jack Lovel.

Elegant features in the Mason house by Bryant Alsop Architects. Photo – Jack Lovel.

Sarah Bryant, director of Bryant Alsop Architects, calls Mason a ‘bold, heroic design’ that ‘avoids opulence.’ Photo – Jack Lovel.

Mason is ultimately a quiet and restful house. Photo – Jack Lovel.

A restrained material palette was chosen for this area as not to compete with the period features of the original rooms. Access to the rooftop terrace is via the ribbon staircase. Photo – Jack Lovel.

Outdoor space remained important for the owners. Photo – Jack Lovel.

The extension explores geometric forms to pull light deep into the house. Photo – Jack Lovel.

Amelia Barnes
Thursday 6th February 2020

‘We believe that by contrasting the old with the new, each is made stronger.’ – Sarah Bryant

Purchasing a period home with no heritage overlay offers plenty of possibilities – from demolition (please don’t) to total restoration. The owners of this 1904 house in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs opted for somewhere in the middle, forming what Sarah Bryant, director of Bryant Alsop Architects, calls a ‘bold, heroic design’ that ‘avoids opulence.’

This property holds sentimental value for the client, who visited the house as a child and wanted to respect its origins. Minimising the structural impact was therefore important, so the existing house was restored and a contemporary two-storey extension added to the rear.

Changes made to the original rooms of the house were minimal, other than restoring ornate plasterwork and removing features from a 1980s renovation. The existing floorplan remains in place, except for the front two rooms made into a main bedroom and en suite. 

The extension on the other hand explores geometric forms to pull light deep into the house. Bryant Alsop’s design features a clear delineation between old and new, but with new spaces in proportion to those existing. ‘We believe that by contrasting the old with the new, each is made stronger,’ says Sarah. ‘We drew upon the formality and vertical language of Victorian buildings to inform a dialogue between existing and contemporary forms where the scale of new spaces are proportionate with the original house.’ A restrained material palette was chosen for this area so as not to compete with the period features of the original rooms, or the rhythm and repetition of the new curved forms. 

In order to preserve valuable outdoor space, the extension was designated to one side of the block next to a lawn, and a roof terrace was created above the living room. Enclosing this outdoor deck is a cantilevered steel arbour for plants that will eventually shroud the space with greenery. ‘It’s a secret, and surprising space that is unexpected with fabulous views back to the city,’ says Sarah. Access to this space is via a central ribbon staircase, which brings a playful and sculptural quality to the more formal Victorian house.

Mason is ultimately a quiet and restful house, where elegant heritage features meet contemporary family life.

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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 bea@thedesignfiles.net