A Textured Melbourne House Woven Into Its Enchanting Gardens

Local House is located in a historical estate in Melbourne’s North-Eastern suburb of Eaglemont — designed by the very same architects responsible for designing Canberra’s city plan — featuring winding roads, parklands, and homes that are ‘secondary’ to the natural landscape.

So when owners of this property engaged Zen Architects to replace their 50s abode with a sustainable, contemporary home designed for ageing in place, it was only right that the redesign would embrace its leafy surrounds.

Built from textural, natural materials sourced locally, the new house has ‘unlocked’ a connection to the garden that the owners hadn’t experienced before, even after 30 years at the property. Step inside!

Christina Karras

Local House by Zen Architects is located in Eaglemont, amongst Melbourne’s north east suburbs.

It’s one of the houses within the historic Mount Eagle Estate, which was designed by Marion Mahoney and Walter Burley Griffin in 1914.

The estate was designed in line with principles of the ‘Garden City Movement’, which encouraged urban planners to create communities surrounding the central city and separated with stretches of greenery.


Local House is a contemporary, sustainable home that reinterprets the character of its historically significant suburb.

The recycled brick and natural render on the exterior are in keeping with the area’s local heritage and look, yet offering a contemporary aesthetic.

It’s called the Local House because almost all of the natural materials used in the build were sourced from Victoria.

Hooded north-facing windows maximise sun in winter, while excluding summer sun, and provide privacy from the street.

Passive solar design means the home is also low-impact on the environment, low-energy, which also lowers the ongoing cost for the owners entering their later stages of life.

The natural materials are softened by lush greenery and layered native gardens.

The Victorian Ash timber pergola is reflected inside with exposed beams above the entry, library, kitchen and sitting room.

The living room features Castlemaine slate pavers on the floors that are also used in the external garden zones.

Wide windows create newfound garden views.

The ceiling height varies throughout the home, opening up in communal spaces for entertaining while lower ceilings create more intimate spaces elsewhere.

The refined timber kitchen.

Built-in timber joinery help ensure a minimalistic look.

A self-contained wing to the west features the guest bedrooms and a yoga room.

Rendered walls also bring a rustic character to the interiors.

The kitchen and bathrooms continue the robust material palette using large format porcelain tiles, timber veneer joinery and stainless steel benchtops with integrated bowls.

Rustic gold tapware brings a sense of quite luxury to the bathroom.

One of the cosy bedrooms.

The project took 12 months of design and planning, before a 14-month build.

Christina Karras
13th of July 2023

Eaglemont, VIC/Wurundjeri Country

The brief behind this striking build in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs was layered — much like the resulting house itself.

The Eaglemont property is home to a couple who had been living there for almost three decades before they approached Zen Architects to create something new on the site, purpose built for their next stage of life. It also had to be sustainable and well-designed, with enough space to accommodate the owners, as well as visits from their four adult children and new grandchildren.

But most importantly, it had to respect its natural environment and history of its location within the Mount Eagle Estate.

Marion Mahoney Griffin and Walter Burley Griffin planned and designed the picturesque subdivision in 1914, with winding roads and community parklands that follow the curving topography, and dwellings that are secondary to the natural landscape,’ Zen Architects director Luke Rhodes says.

The designers created spaces ‘free from stylistic precedent’, and the guidelines for Mount Eagle Estate recommend architects take the same approach today, while complying with heritage and vegetation overlays.

This encouraged them to replace the existing house, which was ‘under-utilised’, sprawled across multiple levels, and lacking connection to the gardens. The new build, now called Local House, sits higher on the hill of the sloping block, in order to make the most of the north-facing garden at the rear.

‘Working with the contours [of the site], we were able to create a single level home that is accessible, designed for ageing in place whilst reducing the footprint by almost 100 square metres,’ Luke says.

Each zone is differentiated by textural and natural materials that help weave the landscape inside and outside the house. A raw palette of Victorian Ash timber beams and Castlemaine slate flooring define the garden zone and the sweeping living area; private spaces like the bedrooms are warm and light; and the recycled brick and natural render on the exterior reflects the houses in the heritage neighbourhood.

‘Almost entirely sourced from within Victoria, the materials will age gracefully,’ Luke notes.

The home is also all-electric and thermally efficient with an 8.3-star NatHERS rating thanks to its passive design. Carefully placed windows optimise natural sunlight for warmth, allowing natural light to fall over the tactile and textural interiors. Luke says each room takes on its own character, which ‘changes throughout the day and the year, constantly offering up surprises for our clients.’

Outside, a diverse native garden awaits, with flowering plants amongst the layered greenery that will grow in and around the building over time, softening the robust structure.

‘By repositioning and reorienting the new house we have been able to unlock a new appreciation for the site from the client who has lived on the site for nearly 30 years,’ Luke says. ‘The connection to the garden and the access to natural light and breezes has drawn the client into the garden unlike ever before.’

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