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A Faithfully Updated Mid-Century Melbourne Home

Architecture

When any distinctive mid-century house hits the rest estate market in Melbourne, design enthusiasts wait in fear, to see if the property will be demolished and replaced by a shiny new development. It is therefore so refreshing to see a 1960s house that has not only been retained, but has been given a sympathetic, architect-designed makeover!

MRTN Architects are the designers behind the sleek, restrained renovation of this Frankston South house, which was originally designed in 1963 by architect and football legend Jack Clarke. 

 

15th June, 2020

This 1963 home has been sympathetically restored and renovated by MRTN Architects. Photo – Derek Swalwell

The renovation introduces terracotta tiles and American walnut – materials that are complementary to the mid-century character of the house but not original to it. Photo – Derek Swalwell

”The floor tiles in particular are a beautiful fired terracotta tile. No two tiles are the same, and they really help to introduce richness to the house,’ says architect Antony Martin. Photo – Derek Swalwell

Coral wool carpet casts a beautiful pinkish light onto the living room walls. Photo – Derek Swalwell

One of the biggest alterations made in renovations was the roof pitch being redesigned. Photo – Derek Swalwell

A hit and miss brick wall brings light and shadow into the new en suite. Photo – Derek Swalwell

Working with a limited budget, the decision was made to limit renovations mostly to the original footprint, with a very minor addition of only six square metres. Photo – Derek Swalwell

The landscape architecture was completed by SBLA Studio. Photo – Derek Swalwell

Crazy paving in the outdoor area. Photo – Derek Swalwell

Natural light streams in through floor-to-ceiling windows. Photo – Derek Swalwell

The exterior showcases the original mid-century design. Photo – Derek Swalwell

Amelia Barnes
Monday 15th June 2020

‘We like to think that we upgraded the interior finishes in the way that would have been originally intended, if the materials or budget allowed.’ – Antony Martin.

This recently renovated house in Frankston South by MRTN Architects was originally designed in 1963 by influential architect, Jack Clarke. Clarke not only co-founded the practice today known as Clarke Hopkins Clarke, he also ran the iconic Small Homes Service begun by Robin Boyd, and was a professional Aussie Rules player inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 1996!

This property was owned by the same family with five children, until it recently sold for the first time. While the house was well loved by its original owners, it had barely been renovated or updated in any way over its 50+ year lifespan, and was in need of a little love. ‘There was a lot of work to bring it up to a contemporary standard in terms of construction, insulation and water tightness, but on the other hand, we did not have to strip away insensitive alterations and additions to the original,’ explains Antony Martin of MRTN Architects.

The new owners had not deliberately sought to own a mid-century house, but they understood the architectural significance of the property, and wished for its unique character to be preserved. ‘They really got how there are fewer and fewer of these houses left in Melbourne, and they recognised the positive contribution they could make by saving it,’ says Antony.

Working with a limited budget, the decision was made to limit renovations mostly to the original footprint, with a very minor addition of only six square metres. 

One of the biggest alterations made to the home, although not immediately obvious, was the roof pitch being redesigned . ‘By redesigning the roof, we were able to address ceiling heights and water tightness, but we like to think it has been done in a way that is indistinct from the original intent of the roof plane,’ says Antony. The home’s insulation was also improved, a highly functional kitchen was installed for the ex-chef owner, the original bathroom was reworked, and a new en suite has been added.

The interiors were also significantly updated, replacing what was formerly quite a simple and utilitarian materials palette. ‘We like to think that we upgraded the interior finishes to allow the house to be finished in the way that would have been originally intended if the materials or budget allowed,’ says Antony. ‘Our palette introduces terracotta tiles and American walnut – materials that are complementary to the mid-century character of the house but not original to.’ Another material introduced is coral coloured wool carpet, which ties in perfectly with the original red brick and casts a beautiful pinkish light onto the living room walls. 

This project is a prime example of the power of restraint when updating a mid-century home. The owners have not only saved this house from likely demolition, but along with MRTN Architects, they’ve created a quality home to last many more decades. 

See more MRTN Architects projects here

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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