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An Open-Plan Home Partially Inspired By A Hitchcock Film!

Architecture

Open floor plans are exceptionally popular in contemporary homes, but how do you ensure these spaces still feel intimate?

Wickham House by Modo Architecture answers this very question, by introducing variations in volume and materiality to subtly define different spaces within its open communal living area. 

This is just one way this Melbourne home challenges current design norms. While its appearance is strictly contemporary, look closer and you’ll see how Modo have specifically tailored the design to suit the owners, with a nod to mid-century and brutalist architecture.

22nd September, 2020

Wickham House by Modo Architecture is a family home in Melbourne’s Strathmore. Photo – Derek Swalwell

The property features an inviting front garden. Photo – Derek Swalwell

The house (actually an elaborate film set) in Hitchcock’s thriller North by Northwest was a point of inspiration for the design, ‘specifically the feeling of weight from the brick structure, the lightness from the glass and timber, and the play of volumes internally,’ says Michael. Photo – Derek Swalwell

‘Our approach to this was to position the pool right in the centre. This then becomes the visual and formal anchor for the moment you walk in,’ says Michael of the pool’s placement. Photo – Derek Swalwell

Blinds surround the pool, allowing this to be closed off from the living areas as required. Photo – Derek Swalwell

A barbecue area in the outdoor area. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Large windows take in garden views. Photo – Derek Swalwell

This hallway reading nook enjoys ample natural light. Photo – Derek Swalwell

Also integral to this home is the way the floor plan essentially hugs the outdoor lap pool. Photo – Derek Swalwell

While its appearance is strictly contemporary, look closer and you’ll see how Modo have specifically tailored this house’s design to suit the owners and their context. Photo – Derek Swalwell

Variations in volume and materiality subtly define different spaces within the home’s open communal area.  Photo – Derek Swalwell

The concrete block wall facilitates thermal mass to passively cool and warm the house. Photo – Derek Swalwell

A steel staircase with fine balustrades divides the living room from the kitchen, without fully eliminating the visual connection between the two. Photo – Derek Swalwell

The living room’s raked ceiling allows the room to feel generous, while bringing in additional northern light. Photo – Derek Swalwell

‘It was also important for us that all rooms shared commonalities and felt unified, so our use of block wall and timber cladding was key to holding them together,’ says Modo director Michael Ong. Photo – Derek Swalwell

The upper storey looks directly out to a mature tree in front yard. Photo – Derek Swalwell

The use of timber extends to the bathroom cabinetry. Photo – Derek Swalwell

Amelia Barnes
Tuesday 22nd September 2020

‘They wanted the house to feel open, but not disconnected.’ – Michael Ong

This Strathmore project (10 kilometres north-west of the Melbourne CBD) started with a relatively simple and standard brief for a family home, but clever planning by Modo Architecture has resulted in a unique design showcasing substance and personality.

The idea of open-plan living was floated early in the design process, and while both Modo and the client (a family of four) expressed interest in this arrangement, they were keen to avoid common drawbacks. ‘We spoke about how the idea of a modern, open living plan is often a large room with loose furniture, creating this ‘gymnasium’ and ‘hollow’ atmosphere,’ says Michael Ong, director of Modo. ‘They wanted the house to feel open, but not disconnected.’

In response, Modo designed the communal areas of the home as a generally open layout, but with subtle differences in materiality and volume that clearly distinguish spaces from one another. The kitchen, for example, adopts the form of a double-height space, whereas the adjacent dining room features a lowered timber ceiling. ‘This softens the acoustics and minimises echoes, creating a more intimate space, while the lowered height encourages you to sit deeper and relax more in your chair,’ explains Michael. A steel staircase with fine balustrades divides the living room from the kitchen, without fully eliminating the visual connection between the two. 

Also integral to this home is the way the floor plan essentially hugs the outdoor lap pool. This placement of the pool was very deliberate, Michael explains. ‘Our approach to this was to position the pool right in the centre. This then becomes the visual and formal anchor for the moment you walk in,’ he says. ‘Reflection from the water is bounced into the house throughout the day, and the pool not only becomes a place for the kids to train, but a visual element that adds to the interior.’

The use of concrete block work and various flat-roofed forms references the client’s love of mid-century and brutalist architecture. The Vandamm house (actually an elaborate film set) in Hitchcock’s thriller North by Northwest was also a point of inspiration, ‘specifically the feeling of weight from the brick structure, the lightness from the glass and timber, and the play of volumes internally,’ says Michael. Let this inspiration be the only similarity to living in a Hitchcock film! 

See more from Modo here.

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