A House Full of Texture For A Family of Makers

When you sit down to design a house for three boys, an artist and a builder to live in, you inevitably need something durable. You also pick the most robust material you can. Red brick.

For this house in Northcote, Rob Kennon Architects worked closely with the owners to create a solid, yet textural extension to an existing California bungalow, for a family of makers and doers to live in for the next two decades.

Sasha Gattermayr

Sliding doors connect the outside with in. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

The dominant red brick is softened by timber, but still retains an industrial feel. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

An inviting living nook. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

The owner collects and hangs art alongside her own. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Timber banquette seating in the dining room. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

The red brick fireplace. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Red brickwork everywhere means utility spaces like kitchens and bathrooms can afford to be more clean and simple. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Storage is hidden in the corridor panelling. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Woodworking is a family hobby, so the intricacy of the kitchen cabinetry makes sense. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Hannah’s art studio. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

A study space. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Some say red brick is too much, we say give us more! Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Landscaping breaks up the austere industrial lines of the single level dwelling. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

A sun-lit deck offers treeline views from the neighbouring park. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

A statement outdoor fireplace in – of course – red brick. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Sasha Gattermayr
2nd of March 2020

Red brick is bold choice for your primary material. Rob Kennon knows that, but for this new extension to a California bungalow in Melbourne’s inner north, he leaned into it. ‘We took a plunge with the red brick,’ he admits. ‘It was quite a big call when it’s so dominant, it’s a material you can get sick of.’

But if there was ever a family that emanated the bold sturdiness and functional texture of red brick, it was these clients. With a painter, a builder and three sons who make furniture, restore motorbikes and practise woodworking, it was essential that the house had a crafted feel. ‘Spaces allocated to making and creating were important’, arguably, they’re the residence’s entire lifeblood.

Brickwork wraps the exterior, funnelling inside to form divider walls, an external fire place and studio spaces. This distinctive textural red surface can be glanced at from every angle, while a timber fence and internal timber panelling provide a material balance. ‘Timber and clay have a synergy,’ Rob explains of the union, prefacing the choice with the need to eliminate flatness, and provide a warming element to the natural palette.

Landscaping is used to break up the solidity of the structure. A courtyard separates the studios from the main dwelling, garden views spill into the living area and vantages of the sky and treeline are borrowed from the neighbouring park.

The addition to the original California bungalow remains determinedly on a single level, the new floorplan ‘a maze of functions that meld into each other’ to allow the family to be constantly passing, viewing and interacting with each other and their work. The family of craftspeople required dedicated tinkering spaces, so the old driveway was transformed into a separate painting studio, and a mechanical and timber workshop.

This durable space is more elegant than meets the eye. Though ‘the focus is on light and function rather than decoration’, the careful balance of materials is the real triumph here, precisely measured to create a home that is both robust and hardwearing, and full of character.


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