Sustainable Homes

A Thoughtful Northcote Renovation Brings Family Together With An Open Backyard Kitchen

At this Northcote home, ‘family is everything and pizza is a close second’ after a considered renovation by Melbourne-based architecture firm, Breathe.

Initially an old Edwardian, the revived Fireside House prioritises functionality, liveability, and sustainability, drawing on the client’s upbringing in the country and a love of spending time outdoors by the fire.

Christina Karras

Inside the cosy Fireside House. Photo – Tom Ross

The new living room leads to an outdoor entertaining area. Photo – Tom Ross

Timber details fill the home with warmth. Photo – Tom Ross

The renovation included minor updated to refresh the original home, and a new extension. Photo – Tom Ross

The family now makes the most of their pergola and outdoor kitchen. Photo – Tom Ross

‘The new kitchen, living and dining space is definitely the heart of the house and seeing how much the family loves to occupy these spaces is really rewarding.’ Emily says. Photo – Tom Ross

‘The space feels voluminous, light and airy yet also cosy, warm and lived in – it feels like a home,’ Emily adds. Photo – Tom Ross

Luckily, they were also able to retain the Edwardian’s charming heritage facade! Photo – Tom Ross

Christina Karras
25th of May 2022

Fireside House combines past and present in a thoughtful update of a Northcote family abode. The original house was an older, leaky home, with a floorplan that was less than ideal for its current owners, a family of four who love coming together to cook and entertain.

‘There was also an extension that was added in the ’80s which provided a new kitchen and open-plan living area but it didn’t take advantage of the site’s northern aspect and garden,’ Breathe project lead Emily McBain says.

But the clients had also loved the heritage charm of the home, leading the architects to retain the house’s period facade, in addition to all the floors and external walls. Instead, internal alterations to the existing dining room and cosmetic updates were able to efficiently breathe new life into the property. And the old extension was removed into order to make way for the new kitchen, living and dining area that now form the heart of the home.

‘At the end of the hallway, a timber-clad portal with bluestone tiled flooring distinguishes a threshold between the old and new,’ Emily explains.

The ‘fireside’ concept was inspired by the owner’s childhood in the country. Emily says these cherished memories of being outdoors are reflected in little details throughout. Bluestone tiles reference their ties to Port Fairy, while the backyard’s open kitchen and dining pergola, centred around the recycled red-brick pizza oven by Brick Chef, serves as the figurative fire where the ‘family of cooks, bakers and pizza makers’ come together frequently.

Sustainability was the final key pillar of the redesign. Materials including recycled timber floorboards and locally made bluestone were chosen to give the home a warm and cosy atmosphere, and carefully installed without glue to ensure re-use at the end of the building’s life. The house is also gas-free, with an all-electric services system connected to 100% GreenPower and a 9.6kW PV array, which has provision for future battery storage.

‘Whilst we only extended the existing footprint by 10sqm, the design includes a personalised space for each family member and of course, for Pepper the dog,’ Emily adds.

‘We created a peaceful sanctuary for the busy family, one that they take great pride in.’

See more of Breathe’s work via their website.

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