A Melbourne Architect Imagines a New Home for Her Sister’s Family

With firm partner Rene Lieu, Sara Tonini of Mani Architecture creates a black facade that hides an array of textured and colorful spaces.
Photos by
Jack Lovel

With their family growing, Trish and her husband, Scotty, were in need of more space. So they demolished their 1950s home, situated in the Melbourne suburb of Coburg North, and commissioned Trish’s sister, architect Sara Tonini of Mani Architecture, to design something new in its place.

Tonini and her firm partner, architect Rene Lieu, got to work by creating a contemporary two-story residence with a saltbox roof. At the heart of the home on the ground level is a kitchen that faces north to capture sunlight. The kitchen connects to a cozy living room, and rounding out the floor is the primary bedroom with a walk-in closet and a tucked-away study.

Upstairs are bedrooms for each of Trish and Scott’s three kids, and a family bathroom, all painted in soothing tones of dark blue. Back on the ground floor, colors and textures combine in a rich tableau. Blacks and whites are set off with wood finishes, a terrazzo floor, exposed stretcher-bond brick, pink walls, and, in the kitchen, a grid of mottled-blue tile that matches the pool in the backyard.

The architects were efficient in planning out the functions of all the rooms so there was no wasted space. "The downstairs is a polished concrete slab, so if we had created a giant living room, then there would be a problem of acoustics and it would feel cold," explains Lieu. "We just wanted to make sure it was efficient and realistically livable. There’s a spot for everything."

With its all-black street-facing facade and unusual form, the home makes for a conspicuous addition to the neighborhood. But a brick facade and lighter weatherboard cladding at the rear make it sympathetic to nearby homes.

Trish, Scotty, and the family are now settled in, delighted with the results of Tonini and Lieu’s work. "Working with Trish was incredible," attests Tonini. "She put her full trust in Rene and I—she fully appreciates everything we did."

More from Mani Architecture:

A Bold and Playful Melbourne Home Dares to Stand Out From the Crowd

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Mani Architecture / @maniarchitecture

Builder/General Contractor: Build Gronow / Anthony Gronow

Structural Engineer: FCDesign

Cabinetry Design/Installation Company: Clear Kitchen Solutions

Photographer: Jack Lovel / @jack.lovel

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