A Cosy Melbourne Family Home Designed To ‘Catch’ The Sun

Like most Victorian weatherboard houses, this Melbourne family home was originally built without much consideration for its orientation, and lacked natural light.

A family of four had lived there for eight years before finally engaging Drawing Room Architecture for a renovation that would reshape the Montmorency property around its sunny rambling garden.

Passive design principles and large windows were carefully placed to fill the interiors with sun, creating a cosy and relaxed backdrop for the owners’ busy everyday life.

Christina Karras
Editorial Styling

Monty Suncatcher by Drawing Room Architecture.

Inside the renovated light-filled home. Thonet Erinna dining chairs. Vintage boardroom table used as dining table.

Splashback Italian terrazzo 82 from Acropolis Marble.

Framed picture by Dylan Mortell.

A nook has been used to create an impressive pantry.

Bobby barstool by Design By Them. Pendant by South Drawn.

Jardan sofa. Spotted gum engineered timber floors by Havwoods. Coonara Aussie stacker combustion wood heater. Birch Ply bookshelf.

Vintage armchair reupholstered in Warwick Fabric.

The new bathroom.

The home’s retained its period charm. Zuster timber bedside table. Freedom lamp. Antique dresser. Arworks on wall by Carl Breitkreuz.

Reclaimed southern blue gum timber from CERES Fairwood features on the exterior. Pergola made from blackbutt timber.

Sliding doors now open the living room to the sunny garden.

Awnings shield the windows from intense heat.

The original weatherboard exterior remains.

Christina Karras
Editorial Styling
14th of November 2023
Interior Design
Structural Engineer
Sustainable Consultant

Montmorency, VIC/Wurundjeri Country

This house has well and truly earned the nickname ‘Monty Suncatcher’, after a transformative renovation by Drawing Room Architecture.

Located in Melbourne’s north-eastern suburb of Montmorency, the Victorian weatherboard has retained its classic facade, but the rest of the residence has been reconfigured to make the most of its garden surrounds — and harness the sun in more ways than one.

‘Originally it was like so many Melbourne homes built in the last century,’ Drawing Room Architecture principal Nicola Dovey says. ‘Orientation hadn’t been considered with the layout of the rooms, so the living areas faced south and got no direct sunlight and the back garden couldn’t be seen from indoors or easily accessed.’

The brief was to improve the home’s natural warmth, in addition to addressing its other dated quirks with a new extension. Plus, at Nicola’s suggestion, the owners were keen to take the opportunity to switch from gas to all-electric appliances.

They took a sustainable approach to these updates, with Nicola explaining they wanted to ‘work with the smallest building footprint’ possible to keep the budget and resources down.

Passive solar principals informed key design decisions, including converting the existing living room into a main bedroom in order to make way for the extension’s open-plan kitchen, walk-in pantry and living area, characterised by a series of double-glazed windows that look out into the backyard. Deep awnings and minimal eastern and western windows also screen out the harsh heat in summer, while still ‘catching’ the sun as much as possible.

‘When spaces are well considered with maximum storage, and have high lofty ceilings, internal areas can be compact and still work really well and not necessarily feel small,’ she adds.

In effort to anchor the home within it’s ‘beautiful rambling garden’ and leafy canopy of existing trees, they used a natural material palette of reclaimed southern blue gum timber from CERES Fairwood to craft most of the extension. ‘We needed to use two different widths of boards to make up the quantity we needed, hence the random spacing of thick and thin panels on the exterior,’ Nicola explains.

For the interiors, Nicola collaborated with the owner’s mother, interior designer Kerry Smith, who bought an especially personal touch to the spaces. Ply lining features across the walls, ceilings and joinery, while the spotted gum hardwood floors offer durability and plenty of character, which helps disguise dust and dirt until cleaning day. There’s a similarly practical story behind the light terrazzo splashback. It brings a hints of colour to the pared-back setting, while also avoiding showing stains and general wear and tear.

Now, Nicola says the light-filled home is a relaxed and cosy backdrop for the family’s ‘busy everyday life’, all framed around their beloved garden sanctuary.

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