This post-war house in Pascoe Vale South, Melbourne is located in a heritage precinct featuring several homes built with the assistance of the War Service Homes Commission, who provided affordable housing after the First and Second World Wars.
In the several decades since, the red brick detached home had been modified with internal spaces that lacked natural light and additions spanning almost the entirety of the backyard.
‘The planning of the house did not meet the needs of the young family. The bedrooms were located far away from the parents, the kitchen was “landlocked” in the middle of the house with no natural ventilation, and the home just had a general lack of flow,’ says Chloë Antonio, architect and director of Chloë Antonio Architecture.
The clients came to Chloë to rectify these shortcomings while respecting the character of the home and wider suburban area. The architect has experience working with several award-winning practices including Kerstin Thompson Architects, Lovell Burton, and Jolson, and she also founded Bleu Design Store with her husband in Newtown, Geelong.
Chloë removed the 1980s addition entirely to return the house to its original footprint. ‘This left the whole north wall without a facade and informed the design of the brick threshold defining the old from the new,’ she says.
The remaining southern front of the house was turned into the sleeping quarters, while the addition became the north-facing living domain.
All this was achieved on a smaller footprint to the previous home — (183 square metres plus carport, compared to the previous 205 square metres plus garage) — plus a new mezzanine that creates an extra 33 square metres of flexible floor space above the kitchen.
‘The adaptable layout of the mezzanine means optimising the function while minimising floor area and most importantly optimising the site to allow for the traditional backyard,’ says Chloë.
The addition explores Robin Boyd’s ‘windowall’ concept, as reflected in the new north-facing façade where the structure and window are expressed honestly. ‘The steel structure is articulated independently to the timber windows and doors, enabling an understanding and appreciation for how the building is put together,’ says Chloë.
Materials in the addition include concrete, timber, and red bricks that reference the original home. ‘I’m quite proud that among the brutalist materials of concrete and brick there is a gentleness that I can attribute to the orientation,’ says Chloë. ‘The sun-drenched concrete feels almost soft underfoot, the shadows dance on the brick and concrete canvases adding to the texture of the home. ‘It may sound simple, but the house is a beautiful space for living in.’
The previous iteration of this house was fundamentally an internal experience, while the transformed home is connected to its environment and residents. ‘The home is now flexible in the way it opens to the backyard. As much as the turn of phrase bothers me, it really does mean that you bring the outdoor lifestyle in,’ says Chloë.
‘The façade is further dynamic in the way the screens can be manipulated to provide privacy and shade, giving the family control over how they want to experience the day.’
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