An Australian Cottage Gets a Japanese-Inspired Makeover and a New Home Office

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By Marissa Hermanson
A weatherboard cottage in Melbourne gets a renovation and extension that make it a tranquil, live/work sanctuary.

When your office is also your home, it can be a challenge to separate work from play. But in this contemporary cottage located in Melbourne, Australia, Austin Maynard Architects struck the perfect balance, creating both a domestic sanctuary and functional workspace for a couple and their three cats. 

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With the property bookended by two streets, the architects designed two front yards.

With the property bookended by two streets, the architects designed two front yards.

Sliding glass panels allow the kitchen and dining area to seamlessly flow into the Japanese-inspired garden.

Sliding glass panels allow the kitchen and dining area to seamlessly flow into the Japanese-inspired garden.

To meet the homeowners’ requests, the Victoria, Australia–based firm created a bright and airy house where they could work from home, and also easily entertain friends and family. 

Damon  Fuhrer  Landscapes created a Japanese-inspired garden that incorporated bamboo, moss-covered boulders, and a water feature. 

Damon Fuhrer Landscapes created a Japanese-inspired garden that incorporated bamboo, moss-covered boulders, and a water feature. 

The 1,055-square-foot clapboard cottage, originally built in 1927, was enlarged with a 732-square-foot addition containing a first-floor master suite and second-story office. Also, the original footprint of the residence was revitalized with an updated kitchen and bathroom.

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Although the master suite overlooks the back street, shutters offer privacy.

Although the master suite overlooks the back street, shutters offer privacy.

The roof garden, lush with edible plantings, is accessible by ladder. 

The roof garden, lush with edible plantings, is accessible by ladder. 

Drawing inspiration from the homeowners’ love for meditation and taking cues from Japanese gardens and Buddhist retreats in Kyoto, tranquil gardens were created off the master suite, dining area, and bathroom. And with the property bookended by two streets, Austin Maynard Architects designed two front yards for the home. 

Large sliding glass panels allow the master suite to seamlessly flow into the lush gardens, while also giving the room plenty of privacy. Along the back of the property, an oversized panel of shutters allows the homeowners to transition between privacy and street views. 

A red metal spiral staircase leads to the second-story office.

A red metal spiral staircase leads to the second-story office.

The home office is paneled in wood with perforated steel shelving.  

The home office is paneled in wood with perforated steel shelving.  

Carpeted in turf and edible plantings, the roof is accessible by ladder, and also provides a layer of insulation for the home. Inside, up the spiral staircase and perched on the roof, is the home office: a crow’s nest overlooking the roof garden, back deck, and gum tree in the back garden.

On the exterior of the office, a mural dubbed "Awakened Flow" by Seb Humphreys echoes the tranquil energy of the home. 

On the exterior of the office, a mural dubbed "Awakened Flow" by Seb Humphreys echoes the tranquil energy of the home. 

Paying homage to Japanese "onsens" (bathing hot springs), in the bathroom a sunken brick basin was designed with a removable wood top to create a shower platform. The wash room opens to a private garden that is nestled between the original cottage and the master suite addition. And, hidden in the bathroom’s cabinetry, a secret passage leads to the kitchen. 

The shower area and sunken brick tub were constructed using red clay bricks salvaged from demolition sites around Victoria. 

The shower area and sunken brick tub were constructed using red clay bricks salvaged from demolition sites around Victoria. 

A private garden is accessible by a glass panel.

A private garden is accessible by a glass panel.

To accommodate cooking and large gatherings, the homeowners also requested a high-functioning kitchen with custom-designed storage and top-of-the-line appliances like double ovens, Zip HydroTaps, and sous vide cookers.

The kitchen cabinetry was fabricated using 100-year-old timber salvaged from Yarraville’s sugar mills. 

The kitchen cabinetry was fabricated using 100-year-old timber salvaged from Yarraville’s sugar mills. 

The stainless-steel and timber island maximizes space with a secret hatch that opens to add extra surface area for food prep. 

The stainless-steel and timber island maximizes space with a secret hatch that opens to add extra surface area for food prep. 

Floor-to-ceiling white cabinetry maximizes kitchen storage.

Floor-to-ceiling white cabinetry maximizes kitchen storage.

Sustainability also was taken into consideration. The home was designed to increase solar gain and reduce the need for mechanical heating and cooling with double-glazed windows and solar panels. Rain tanks also were installed to collect roof water to use for flushing toilets and watering the garden. 

Project Credits:

Architect: Mark Austin with Austin Maynard Architects

Builder/general contractor: Stuart Burgess with CBD Contracting 

Structural engineer: Robin Bliem with R. Bliem & Associates 

Landscape design: Damon Fuhrer Landscapes

Mural: Seb Humphreys with Order 55

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