An Australian Renovation Gives New Life to Midcentury Style
When a couple fell for the charms of an early 1960s house near Melbourne, they were equally excited by its history as its possibility. And so they tasked Nest Architects with a renovation that would honor its midcentury bones without being an homage to a bygone era.
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Looking toward the Case Study program for inspiration, the team at Nest decided to keep as many of the original details as possible while introducing a new take on open-plan living that uses permeable dividers to separate the distinct functions of the rooms.
The midcentury reference also gave the firm a material palette that they could carry throughout the project: cork, timber, veneer, and handcrafted glazed tiles. A dose of graphic black paint and laminate is used throughout the space to crisply tie everything together.
To bring the outdated home into the 21st century, the architects embarked on an investigatory process they compare to that of a bird building a nest. As they develop a plan, factors like weather, orientation, history, and sustainability are given equal consideration as the residents' dreams and memories.
"The look and feel of the house changes every time you visit. It’s never boring and it’s certainly not a one-hit wonder."
—Emilio Fuscaldo, Nest Architects
For this project, Nest decided to balance historical references with a fresh organizing geometry that ensures no two views of the house are ever the same—inside and out.
Hints of cool color peek out from beneath the exterior metal cladding, and interior spaces are divided in such ways that views are layered, changing depending on the angle at which they are glimpsed.
All the while, a series of built-in storage is used to divide the space without closing off rooms, creating a main living area that is logically divided while still having the bright, airy feeling of the popular open floor plan.
Just as shifting perspective provides new views, the entire project is layered with details that reveal themselves over time. On the exterior, new metal cladding adds a contemporary twist to midcentury-appropriate cinderblock, while interior materials like cork and timber are remixed and matched throughout house, always with a grounding dose of graphic black paint.
In addition to the materials, the architects focused on other elements that saved the house from the bulldozer.
The newly enlarged and redefined kitchen, dining, and living areas on the main floor were arranged to highlight their connection to the outdoors.
As much of the original floor-to-ceiling glazing as possible was kept, while new windows and doors were added to continue the views through the house.
The result is a light-filled interior with rich material details that reflect the residents within.
Cover photo by Lauren Bamford.