Gezellig House - West Melbourne

The Gezellig House – West Melbourne

‘Gezellig’ is a Dutch word that is difficult to translate into English; it roughly refers to all things cosy, comfortable, relaxing, enjoyable and gregarious. ‘As long as it’s gezellig, everything’s good!’ This was the feeling our clients were looking for in a transformation of their converted-warehouse home.

PassivHaus with creative re-use

The emphasis on this renovation was on sustainability. Specifically, our clients wanted to pursue the voluntary European building standard known as ‘Passive House’ (PassivHaus), which provides a comfortable internal environment while reducing household energy use by up to 90 per cent.

In terms of layout, our clients were looking for a functional retrofit of their existing home, a converted two-storey warehouse in Melbourne’s inner-west. This, combined with the requirements of the Passive House standard, required completely re-establishing the existing internal structure using quality energy solutions and lasting materials.

Nevertheless, we were still able to pursue our philosophy of creative re-use and avoid unnecessary waste, though this did mean a small amount of compromise and, therefore, a failure to gain official PassivHaus accreditation. Still, what was achieved was a 7.1 Star rating under the Australian NATHERS energy efficiency rating tool.

This project represented the very best of sustainability and low energy consumption. The essence of the standard is that all thermal energy inside the home must retained for as long as possible. In order to achieve this, air-tightness, triple glazed glass, thermal bridging and two different types of insulation became jigsaw pieces of our architectural puzzle. In the words of Verity Campbell of Sanctuary magazine, this meant ‘an airtight layer on the inside’ and ‘a whole-building wrap-around barrier with bulk insulation and a weather-protection layer’.

Function, space, gezellig

Our interior design pays homage to the building’s warehouse heritage with the use of exposed steel beams, natural timbers and metal finishes throughout. The ground floor and the first floor function as two different spaces. The ground floor is a series of separated spaces, cleverly working bedrooms, a study, bathroom and laundry together. Upstairs, the house opens up to create a grand, expansive living area enjoying city views, daylight access and outdoor living. Once decorated with the owners’ eclectic collection of books and furniture, the home struck a warm equilibrium between function and industrial aesthetics – a testament to the gezellig ideal.


The project was shortlisted for the 2016 AIA Victorian Chapter Architecture Awards in two categories – Additions and Alterations, and Sustainability.

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