When our clients for this project first came to us, it was for an interior design project. The clients already had plans drawn up and simply wanted us to design a fit out for their house. But it quickly became evident that some of the planned elements were not going to work the way the client wanted.
So we started from scratch and worked through the complex planning issues and site constraints that this project presented.
The long thin site is located in a heritage area, with Council imposing strict controls on heights and visibility. Far from feeling constrained, though, we used the height restrictions as an opportunity to create a subtle architectural roof form that satisfied our client’s needs as well as Council’s heritage requirements. Our sloping roof form means that the new upper level is not highly visible from the street, yet remains full of light. We also deliberately set the building to align with the neighbor’s footprint – again so that we could avoid difficulties with neighbors and the Planning Department in the initial negotiations. A beautiful existing palm tree was donated to the Council and now grows happily in a Port Phillip Council park.
Thin narrow terraces present real design challenges to avoid creating a house that feels like a set of train carriages. Using every inch of width available to us we brought light into the house from different places and connected the parts to create an interesting whole.
The original terrace was preserved – right down to the cornicing, tuck pointing and slate roof and we carried the ceiling heights and proportions of the old section through to the new parts of the renovation. We ensured a strong connection between the front and rear of the dwelling as well as between the upper and lower levels at the rear of the property. The central staircase is the place where the different parts of the house intersect. It marks the place where old meets new and where the upstairs connects to downstairs. The beautifully crafted and generous staircase – made of reclaimed and new timber combined – is light and lofty and forms the busy hub of the family home. Close to the beach, there is now an openness to the house that allows the sea air to move in and through.
This is a project where the owner/client was also the builder, so our relationship to the building process was different to the traditional architect administered project. Far from being a compromise – what we witnessed was a builder taking great care to complete a project for his family and the end result speaks of his dedication and skill. Together, we have created a beautiful home.