This Melbourne Home (Literally) Embraces The Garden In Its Clever Redesign

While many modern-day renovations are about enhancing the home’s connection to the outdoors, this Melbourne family home goes one step further.

Sonelo Architects have reimagined the Fairfield cottage with a clever extension at the rear, complete with a garden wall that serves as a ‘portal’ between the home and the backyard.

The updated living spaces are harmonious, with original period house and the new Peachy Green-designed gardens — featuring a verdant green palette, both inside and out!

Christina Karras

The view of Garden Wall House from the backyard.

A green frame has been built with wire insets to help promote a vertical garden along the outside of the home.

A mix of native and edible plantings feature in the lush outdoor space.

Bricks were recycled from the site to create raised garden beds and a seating area.

Bluestone stepping pavers break up the grass.

The architectural renovation was all about improving the home’s connection to the gardens.

The sliding glass doors open the new living area to the elements.

New windows and skylights fill the space with sunlight.

Pale timber veneer cabinetries are paired with a muted stone top in the kitchen.

The green interiors hint at the living garden wall that awaits outside.

A pantry is discreetly concealed behind the powder room to create an open flow between the spaces.

The new addition is almost undetectable from the street.

Christina Karras
12th of September 2023
Landscape Designer
Landscape Construction

Fairfield, VIC/Wurundjeri Country

Garden Wall House is a renovated Melbourne cottage that hides a ‘living wall’ amongst its lush landscaping.

Sonelo Architects director Wilson Tang says the idea evolved from the owner’s brief to renovate their cold and dimly lit kitchen, meal and living area, with a particular focus on improving the home’s ‘uninspiring’ connection to the outdoors.

‘The client enjoys gardening, and they are hands-on with their garden maintenance,’ Wilson says. This inspired him to think of new ways to anchor the architecture both ‘physically and visually’ within nature, coming up with a concept for a lush ‘portal’ between the home and the garden.

‘I presented the design concept to client which pivoted around the idea of adding an “inhabitable wall”, a portal between the home and the garden,’ Wilson says.

The idea was to create something similar to the famous hedges and topiaries gateway in the English estate of Levens Hall, or like the arched entrance and glass doors that welcome visitors to the National Gallery Of Victoria. They landed on a more subtle version, creating a wall garden on either side of the extension’s sliding glass doors, where climbing plants will continue to envelop the green frame over time.

The living room itself hides a green colour on the inside panels of the garden wall, while skylights and the glass doors perfectly frame garden views and capture a ‘soft wash’ of sunlight throughout the day.

Wilson says the interiors were all kept relatively ‘low-key’, using an inviting palette of pale timbers, dark terrazzo flooring, and concrete tiles in the new powder room. A pantry is discreetly concealed behind the powder room, helping to minimise any visual clutter.

‘The new kitchen and living remodelling places emphasis on openness and warmth,’ Wilson says. ‘Low, clean line timber veneer cabinetries are paired with muted stone top aim to not detract from the vantages of the garden surrounding greens.’

This verdant green theme was already reflected in the period home’s charming facade, making it a fitting choice for the extension, emphasising its newfound link to the gardens, redesigned by Peachy Green‘s Fran Hale. She created a paved dining terrace in the backyard, softened by a signature mix of soft fluffy grasses and plenty of leafy foliage.

Both native and edible plants feature in the space, with vegetable beds built into recycled brick planters and a raised platform offering a perfect spot to sit down and soak up the sun.

‘It has grown a lot and the new planting has merged with the existing,’ Fran adds. ‘Especially a couple of eucalyptus in the back corner, they have grown quickly, which the client is delighted with.’

Wilson says the ‘magical’ gardens beautifully round out the new addition. It’s now not only a more functional version of the existing family home, but a more wholesome one too.

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