In the early stages of this project, Rob chatted with the client about simply removing the dilapidated south facing lean-to and replacing it with a big, inexpensive ‘box’ to increase the amenity of the client’s Coburg weatherboard. The simplicity of this brief was taken on board to keep the budget in check, though our response recognised a few important opportunities to enhance the liveability and spatial experience of the dwelling.
A significant challenge was to allow light into the spaces on this south-facing block. Utility spaces, and those rooms that didn’t require north light (the laundry and the ensuite), were pushed to the south-facing rear of the existing double-fronted home. The ceiling heights of these spaces were lowered, allowing an east-facing kitchen ceiling to be raked up, establishing a more generous living and dining space. This also afforded room for linear, north-facing skylights to penetrate the ceiling above the island bench. An east-facing courtyard was slotted between the kitchen and living areas, providing the living space a northerly aspect and easy cross-ventilation, and allowing the kitchen morning light and views to a distant gum.
The interior integrated as much clever joinery as possible. Rather than presenting a series of clad walls, we designed flip-up panels to hide the kids’ toys and used the depth of the south-facing window reveal to tuck away shelves for photo frames and cookbooks. Pragmatism dictated a kids’ homework and craft desk sequestered beneath the low ceiling required on the west boundary, allowing the clutter of a young family to be confined. A kitchen wall coated with blackboard paint allows the building to record the daily comings and goings.
The exterior shell is augmented with a sustainable, cost-effective, batten-and-board cladding system, similar to the standard paling fence but chunkier, giving the skin a robust depth. The house has a lush green lawn, which suits the kids, and is kept watered with slimline, corrugated water tanks situated on the side of the house – as is the easily accessed kitchen garden sitting beside the back deck.
Although the original project was sculpted to create something more detailed than a simple ‘box’, the modesty and functionality of this initial scheme is still present. The new works provide the house with a pleasant flow and amenable volume, enhanced by the slender central courtyard. Each space has been given its own character through varying ceiling levels, amplified access to natural light and shifts in texture.
2013 Houses Awards Shortlist House Alteration and Addition under 200 m²
Photography by Derek Swalwell