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A Victorian Terrace Transformed, With Minimal Intervention

Architecture

Victorian terrace homes are highly coveted in Melbourne and Sydney, but… have you ever wondered why? More often than not, these heritage homes, though delightfully quaint, are cold, energy inefficient, and very, very dark.

In the Newry House by Austin Maynard Architects, a Victorian terrace in Melbourne’s inner north is totally transformed, with surprisingly minimal intervention.  The architects reconfigured this home by making an elegant central incision – and bringing the garden indoors, along with bucketloads more natural light.

2nd April, 2020

Light spills in from the heavens above. Photo – Tess Kelly.

Pops of green add life and colour. Photo – Tess Kelly.

No windows? No problem. Put glass in the roof instead! Photo – Tess Kelly.

Warm timber cabinetry softens the black steel finishes. Photo – Tess Kelly.

Let there be light! Photo – Tess Kelly.

Custom-built banquette seating fuses kitchen and dining together. Photo – Tess Kelly.

The slim kitchen separates living and dining areas. Photo – Tess Kelly.

Why conceal a staircase when you can make a feature of its geometric contours instead? Photo – Tess Kelly.

A damn fine staircase. Photo – Tess Kelly.

Natural light upstairs meant the interiors could afford to have darker, forest green tones. Photo – Tess Kelly.

A study nook. Photo – Tess Kelly.

A classic Carlton facade. Photo – Tess Kelly.

Amelia Barnes
Thursday 2nd April 2020

‘As an architectural ‘operation’, it’s akin to keyhole surgery, where a small incision is made to access and fix the problematic central core.’ – Mark Austin

Melbourne’s Victorian terrace homes may be beautiful, but they’re prone to one major problem –  a lack of natural light. To overcome this issue in a recent Carlton project, Austin Maynard Architects thought, why not add an internal conservatory full of warmth, light and plant life?

While the studio admits they’d usually be more inclined to ‘chop off a limb and add a new cyborg arm,’ the limited nature of this project’s budget led to a more restrained approach. ‘Their brief was not to build bigger, but to design better – to reconfigure the layout to optimise living space and maximise storage,’ explains Mark Austin, co-director of Austin Maynard Architects. By adopting an alternative strategy, the architects were able to address many of the house’s shortcomings, without disrupting the majority of its existing rooms. ‘As an architectural ‘operation’, it’s akin to keyhole surgery, where a small incision is made to access and fix the problematic central core,’ says Mark. 

Renovations saw the middle section of the house gutted, with the old timber floor replaced by a hydronically heated, concrete slab. A wall separating the kitchen from ‘one of the smallest, darkest, bleakest dining rooms to ever exist’ was also removed, opening up the entire living space. Finally, part of the ceiling was demolished and replaced with a pitched glass roof with sliding, remotely operated awnings. These awnings are positioned above the dining room, allowing this room and its new indoor garden to be partially or fully shaded as required.

New materials introduced in the renovation include warm timbers for texture, and perforated steel on the stairs, that allows light to better flow throughout the home’s two storeys. Installing these elements brought their own set of challenges to the project, as all construction items had to be brought in through the front door. ‘The builders did an amazing job by thinking everything through from the very start, breaking down elements, and ensuring they could be lifted by people not machinery,’ Mark says. 

Every room in Newry House is a delight to inhabit, but Mark’s absolute favourite part is the updated dining room. ‘It’s lovely to sit among the garden while the sun shines through the glazed roof,’ he says. With the lightest touch, Mark and his team have managed to transform this once dark terrace into a bright, modern family home – and you’d never guess it from the street!

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