An Action-Packed, Compact City Home

You don’t need a large site to design an extraordinary house, just big ideas. 

This existing art deco home in Northcote is a prime example, having been cleverly updated by Rob Kennon Architects for maximum functionality. 

At only 135 square metres, the house is significantly smaller than the average new Australian home (reportedly 186.3 square metres – a figure that takes into account apartments as well as houses), but compromises nothing in the way of aesthetics or practicality.

Amelia Barnes

This art deco house in Northcote has been majorly updated for improved functionality. Photo – Brooke Holm

The kitchen is partially separated from the new living area by joinery. Photo – Brooke Holm

Lighting is recessed between rafters to minimise glare in the extension. Photo – Brooke Holm

Lattice shelving wraps the kitchen, acting as a filtering tool, an organiser and the structure at the same time. Photo – Brooke Holm

‘It’s very much a workers kitchen in that it hides the clutter, but you still feel connected,’ says architect Rob Kennon. Photo – Brooke Holm

The bathroom is at the centre of the home. Photo – Brooke Holm

By avoiding the urge to apply finishes to its bones, the home projects confidence and honesty. Photo – Brooke Holm

A study is incorporated into the extension’s rear wall. Photo – Brooke Holm

An entry garden and undercover bicycle store were integrated into a new side entry. Photo – Brooke Holm

The galley kitchen/laundry is attractive, but at no expense to functionality.  Everything is accessible, easy to use and easy to clean. Photo – Brooke Holm

Amelia Barnes
16th of September 2020

Not every home extension is about gaining additional space. Sometimes, it’s simply about creating better quality space. 

This was the case for the Lees House, which saw the renovation and extension of a semi-detached art deco home in Northcote. 

When engaged to design this project, Rob Kennon, founding director of Rob Kennon Architects, found the existing house largely ‘unliveable’ and with plants growing through it. The young family clients weren’t in need of a considerably larger home, but a comprehensive overhaul that would encourage a more efficient and convenient existence. 

A key driver for the project was updating the driveway, which was bigger than the single car household required. Rob turned this previously unused outdoor space into a side house entry, and undercover bicycle storage area tailored to the owner’s lifestyle. 

The original portion of this house contains three bedrooms and bathroom, while the kitchen, living, dining and study areas are in the new 55 square metre rear extension. ‘Sitting neatly under the eave line of the semi-detached art deco home, this addition appears secondary and independent to the primary structure,’ says Rob. This extension adopts a T-shaped floor plan to help compartmentalise the various areas of this open-plan space. 

With limited space to work with, every inch of this extension has been designed with practicality in mind. The television is hidden by a removable piece of plywood, the lighting is recessed between rafters to minimise glare, the laundry has a retractable clothes line, heating is integrated within the slab, and the air conditioner is hidden within a cupboard above the kitchen. 

The kitchen is also in this new portion of the home, but this room is partially separated from the living area by joinery. ‘The lattice shelving that wraps the space acts as a filtering tool, an organiser and the structure at the same time,’ Rob says. ‘It’s very much a workers kitchen in that it hides the clutter, but you still feel connected.’ 

Rob summarises this project best when he says, ‘The great thing about this project is they prioritised quality over quantity. It’s not a big area, but it’s action packed.’

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