An Unassuming Edwardian Saves the Best for Out Back

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By Dwell and Rowan McKinnon
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Keeping up street-side appearances, an Australian artist’s home branches out with a modern extension.

With the arrival of their firstborn, Jasper, artist Kate Tucker and her husband, Tom Crago, made plans to decamp from their groovy South Melbourne digs and move to Fitzroy North, another inner suburb. The renewal of this formerly industrial neighborhood had brought boutiques, galleries, and cafes to the area—and with them, a sophisticated, artsy coterie.

The couple purchased a tumbledown turn-of-the-20th-century Edwardian, a former shared rental, in 2011. "The house had such charm," Kate recalls. "Even in its run-down state, it had a beautiful feeling, and light." Realizing the structure would need significant restoration, the family reached out to Emilio Fuscaldo and Imogen Pullar of Nest Architects to plan a remediation that would retain as much of the home’s original appeal as possible. "We lived here for a while before the renovation and learned that there was so much that was beautiful about the house that we should be careful not to mess with it any more than we had to," Kate says.

The original coffered wood ceiling of Kate Tucker and Tom Crago’s home in Melbourne, Australia, provides a dramatic backdrop for a vintage pendant from Angelucci 20th Century. "The bay windows and high ceilings were so lovely, we really wanted to do as little as possible up front," Kate says of the plan for the house. 

The original coffered wood ceiling of Kate Tucker and Tom Crago’s home in Melbourne, Australia, provides a dramatic backdrop for a vintage pendant from Angelucci 20th Century. "The bay windows and high ceilings were so lovely, we really wanted to do as little as possible up front," Kate says of the plan for the house. 

Nest Architects restored original details including bay windows, stained glass, and timber floors at the front of the house. 

Nest Architects restored original details including bay windows, stained glass, and timber floors at the front of the house. 

The architects overhauled the rear of the residence with an open addition that extends the once-cramped kitchen.  

The architects overhauled the rear of the residence with an open addition that extends the once-cramped kitchen.  

Using lami­nates trimmed in Victorian ash for the island cut costs. The white cabinets hide the refrigerator&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.8;">and separate the kitchen from the dining room.</span><span style="line-height: 1.8;">&nbsp;</span>

Using lami­nates trimmed in Victorian ash for the island cut costs. The white cabinets hide the refrigerator and separate the kitchen from the dining room. 

After getting to know their new home, Kate and Tom, a video game executive, decided they wanted a modern extension that would complement the period architecture and its detailed fireplaces, timber floors, and ornate ceilings. Inside, this crossover of old and new is most overtly expressed where the original floorboards abut a new polished concrete slab.

Some contemporary remodeling—new joinery, cabinets, and partitions—of the original part of the house blurs the chronology and presages the dramatic floor juncture. "We wanted to honor the feel of the original house and create a smooth transition into an open, modern space at the back," Kate says. 

A Y chandelier by Douglas and Bec hangs above a vintage table and chairs.&nbsp;

A Y chandelier by Douglas and Bec hangs above a vintage table and chairs. 

The house is located on a tight site surrounded by a brick wall.

The house is located on a tight site surrounded by a brick wall.

In one of the biggest changes to the structure, the original formal living room has been appropriated for the master bedroom, with a large sliding door closing it off from the front library and anteroom. Thanks to the bedroom’s tall bay windows—original to the house—the couple enjoy both glorious natural light and views out to the treetops of a nearby park. 

The extension incorporated a fourth bedroom, a new bathroom and laundry, and a modern kitchen, dining, and living area that sits on the concrete floor. "In a big, open-plan addition like this, we didn’t want to lose the sense of delineation between the different areas," Kate says as she holds her one-year-old daughter, Eleanor. In the extension, cabinetry partitions divide the space, giving the family a "sense of not being on top of each other," and allowing them to use different areas for distinct functions. 

With a fresh coat of black Dulux paint on the trim, the front facade retains its original early-20th-century appeal.

With a fresh coat of black Dulux paint on the trim, the front facade retains its original early-20th-century appeal.

&nbsp;On the back facade, cement render and black-painted steel update the existing terra-cotta roof tiles. Custom glass doors fabricated by TCM Building Group open onto the garden, where a stone path leads to a new building housing Kate’s studio and Tom’s wine cellar.

 On the back facade, cement render and black-painted steel update the existing terra-cotta roof tiles. Custom glass doors fabricated by TCM Building Group open onto the garden, where a stone path leads to a new building housing Kate’s studio and Tom’s wine cellar.

"We love the junction between old and new. As long as everything has integrity, it seems to work."—Kate Tucker, resident

The sloped ceiling, with its exposed steel beam, is finished in hardwood shiplap cladding. Echoing the cabinetry and maximizing space, a custom-made sofa in the living room is fixed snugly into an irregular corner and finished in burnished-tan leather upholstery. Like many of the surfaces—the concrete floor, the kitchen’s stainless-steel worktop—a marble slab on the center island reveals its wear and tear. "It’s the changing patina that excites us," Fuscaldo says. "All the materials have a grain." 

When an existing living room was transformed into a master suite, Nest tapped Mason Cabinets to create a bespoke dressing area.

When an existing living room was transformed into a master suite, Nest tapped Mason Cabinets to create a bespoke dressing area.

An angular new outbuilding fills the footprint of what was once an inground swimming pool, completing an awkward corner at the back of the site.&nbsp;

An angular new outbuilding fills the footprint of what was once an inground swimming pool, completing an awkward corner at the back of the site. 

The finished home—the renovation and its new outbuilding—is not fussy or delicate. It radiates creativity both in its design and in the way it’s inhabited. The palette of materials, the flow and proportions of spaces, and the dialogue between the formal Edwardian interior and the oblique lines of the extension together form a space that suits the many needs of its four residents. 

Its timber shiplap cladding tops a concrete blockwork base. Kate uses the main floor as an art studio, where light through a custom skylight illuminates her work space.&nbsp;

Its timber shiplap cladding tops a concrete blockwork base. Kate uses the main floor as an art studio, where light through a custom skylight illuminates her work space. 

 "We have the ability to be connected to the street or totally secluded, within the same house," Kate says. "It’s pretty special to be able to inhabit a space that changes with us."

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