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An Exhilarating Melbourne Home That Embraces The Great Outdoors

Architecture

Wakanui Trail House by Ben Callery Architects is as close as one gets to nature in Melbourne’s inner-north. 

Designed for a family of avid campers, a new timber extension embraces the home’s leafy surrounds on the edge of Northcote’s All Nations Park. Spatial strategies of prospect and refuge meet mystery and risk, facilitating a dramatic relationship with the outdoors, and an exhilarating platform to appreciate nature. 

2nd May, 2022

Wakanui Trail House is a home for a family of avid campers that embodies their affinity for the outdoors. Photo – Jack Lovel. Styling – Bea + Co 

The site backs onto Northcote’s All Nations Park (a former brick quarry, subsequently landfill, and now parkland) with a meandering trail through native bush and mature eucalypts. Photo – Jack Lovel. Styling – Bea + Co 

The clients were seeking an extension to comfortably accommodate their growing family. Photo – Jack Lovel. Styling – Bea + Co 

The kitchen in the new extension. Victorian ash and Tasmania oak flooring express the inherent warmth of the home.  Photo – Jack Lovel. Styling – Bea + Co 

Spatial strategies of prospect and refuge, mystery and risk, create a dramatic relationship with nature. Photo – Jack Lovel. Styling – Bea + Co 

Recycled timber rafters from the existing roof have been repurposed into sliding doors and a pendant light made by the builder, Keenan Built. Photo – Jack Lovel. Styling – Bea + Co 

‘My favourite part is the overall feel in the new spaces that are both calming while also quite exciting,’ says Ben. Photo – Jack Lovel. Styling – Bea + Co 

Sustainable features include all electric appliances, hydronic heating and cooling, and solar panels. Photo – Jack Lovel. Styling – Bea + Co 

The first-floor bedroom provides a secluded refuge overlooking the treetops. Photo – Jack Lovel. Styling – Bea + Co 

A sense of slight risk is created by the cantilevered balcony and open void’s slender balustrades stimulating a feeling of exhilaration while looking out to nature. Photo – Jack Lovel. Styling – Bea + Co 

Relaxed bedroom interiors. Photo – Jack Lovel. Styling – Bea + Co 

At the heart of this home are principles of biophilic design that nurture a love of place and connect the owners to nature. Photo – Jack Lovel. Styling – Bea + Co 

‘Our great clients encouraged us to run with the idea of a transparent back fence that would make the parklands feel like an extension of their backyard,’ explains Tim Shallue from Ben Callery Architects. Photo – Jack Lovel. Styling – Bea + Co 

While there was no heritage requirement to retain the existing California bungalow on site, both the clients and architects recognised its contribution to the streetscape. The upper-roof pitch of the extension matches the existing home. Photo – Jack Lovel. Styling – Bea + Co 

Amelia Barnes
Monday 2nd May 2022

‘It feels like you’re in a spectacular part of the bush, not in the middle of suburbia.’ 

The owners of this Northcote home are an outdoorsy family with a love of hiking, camping, and mountain bike riding. When engaging Ben Callery Architects to extend their California bungalow, the family of five were seeking a house that reflected these interests, capturing an affinity for the natural environment through biophilic design.

‘We wanted it to connect the family with the elements physically and on a deeper level,’ says Ben Callery. ‘We sought to interact with the elements, sun, and airflow to create natural comfort.’

While there was no heritage requirement to retain the existing California bungalow on site, both the clients and architects recognised its contribution to the streetscape. A complementary two-storey extension was therefore designed, featuring an upper-roof pitch matching the existing house. 

Blackbutt timber on the extension facade will gracefully silver over time — looking beautiful without dominating the weatherboard bungalow below — while recycled timber rafters from the existing roof have been repurposed into sliding doors and a pendant light made by the builder, Keenan Built.

Ben Callery Architects designed the interior floor plan to provide privacy and connection between family members, achieved via an openable void at the centre of the home.

Both a challenge and blessing of this home is its location, being so open to the public realm. Blinds and shutters control exposure to the interiors, however, the back fence made from salvaged wharf timbers and steel mesh is largely transparent. 

‘Our great clients encouraged us to run with the idea of a transparent back fence that would make the parklands feel like an extension of their backyard,’ explains Tim Shallue from Ben Callery Architects. ‘Walking through the front door and looking down the hallway, it feels like you’re in a spectacular part of the bush, not in the middle of suburbia.’ 

At the heart of this home are biophilic design principles that nurture a love of place and connect the owners to nature. The architects have employed deliberate design strategies to create a dramatic relationship with the outdoors, such as a cantilevered balcony that provides an exhilarating place to observe the landscape, and slender balustrades around the interior void that create a ‘sense of slight risk.’ 

‘We want our building to connect occupants with nature using natural light and natural materials, and engage with the elements to create natural comfort with minimal energy input,’ says Tim. ‘The combination of natural materials, natural light and visual connection with the treetops is very tranquil.’

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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