An Emerging Architect Turns a Victorian Terrace House Into a Lush Inner-City Oasis

An Emerging Architect Turns a Victorian Terrace House Into a Lush Inner-City Oasis

By Mandi Keighran
This luminous Melbourne home makes the most of a tight floor plan on a small, inner-city site.

When Ellie Taylor renovated a traditional Victorian terrace house into a light-filled home, she was both architect and client. "It felt a little like driving blindfolded at times," she says. "Ultimately, however, it gave me a richer experience and deeper understanding of what future clients are looking for when they approach an architect."

The home is a traditional, single-fronted Victorian terrace. The architects reinstated many of the original features that were missing from the front of the home before the renovation.

The young architect co-founded her practice—Lande Architects—with Lachlan McArdle in July 2019. When Ellie and her husband purchased the traditional, single-fronted Victorian terrace on Charles St in a relatively untouched state, the emerging practice decided to use the project to help launch their business.

Each room in the home has views to one of two courtyards or the roof garden. A window seat in the living room embraces the transition between interior and exterior.

Before the renovation, the layout of the home was typical of an original Victorian terrace, with a lean-to kitchen and external bathroom. "The small parcel of land was very restrictive on the layout of the extension. So, this was developed quite quickly," says Ellie. "The challenge was in creating light, airy spaces which connected the inside of the house with the external pockets."

The kitchen/dining space is oriented sideways, making the most of the narrow site and opening out onto the rear courtyard to create an indoor/outdoor living space.

The open-tread spiral staircase was chosen in response to the tight site—it allows light through, and the space beneath it is still useable.

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The addition includes a new bathroom and living arrangement on the ground floor, and a new master bedroom with an en suite bath and walk-in wardrobe on the first floor. While the two front rooms on the ground floor—with their high ceilings and pleasing proportions—were retained, the entire spatial arrangement beyond was transformed. "We believe that we all need to adapt and reuse more, and build no more than what is necessary," says Ellie. "So, it was important to retain what was feasible."

The original proportions of the ground-floor bedroom at the front of the house were retained.

The bathroom was brought to the front of the home, so that it was easily accessible to the bedrooms, and the rear of the home—described by Ellie as "the lean-to section"—was opened up to create a large kitchen/dining/living space. "To respect the original dwelling, we wanted to create separation between the new and the old," says Ellie. "On a tight site, this is difficult." 

White penny tiles reflect natural light in the bathroom.

To fill the home with natural light, they created an internal courtyard that opens onto the second bedroom, the living space, and the bathroom. An added benefit of this approach is that the courtyard provides cross ventilation for the living areas.

Even the bathroom opens up to the internal courtyard. This courtyard also enabled the rear extension to be completed without blocking natural light to the second bedroom on the ground floor.

Another courtyard at the rear of the home, opening to the kitchen and dining area, allows outdoor space and views to permeate the house—every room enjoys a green outlook. "On such a tight site, we needed every inch to work hard," says Ellie. "Different rooms provide unique views of the same green spaces, creating the sense that the home has more than just two courtyards."

Large timber-framed glass sliding doors open the kitchen/dining space to the rear courtyard on two sides.

A green roof on the first floor brings a sense of greenery into the master bedroom and helps the modest floor plan feel generous. "Besides looking great, these green pockets throughout the house deliver warm sunlight and fresh air," says Ellie. "We aimed to open the house up to the north wherever possible to achieve passive solar gains, and the green roof helps to regulate this throughout the year." 

The master bedroom on the first floor has views over the green roof, bringing a sense of life into the interior and visually breaking up the view of the surrounding rooftops.

The kitchen is located at the center of the home and oriented to the side, so as to utilize the length of the block. Large sliding glass doors let natural light flood the space—and they open to the courtyard to establish an indoor/outdoor living area.

The bespoke concrete kitchen island and dining table is the focus of this part of the home. The rest of this room has been kept intentionally minimal.

The angled joinery reflects light down the hallway and offers functional storage. It also naturally directs people from the living area toward the kitchen.

In order to save space on the tight site, the kitchen and dining areas have been combined. "As many Australians eat meals and congregate at the island bench, we thought—rather than having two eating areas, with seats at an island bench—let’s incorporate the dining seating into the island bench," says Ellie. "This concrete form is the focus of the room, which was important as, to me, this is the most important space in a home—it brings people together." The use of concrete kept the material selection tight and simple, reflecting the minimal approach.

The architect integrated a dining table into the kitchen island, embracing the common Australian practice of gathering informally in the kitchen.

"With property prices rising, a majority of Melbournians are restricted to smaller sites, like this one, if they want to live close to the city—but this shouldn’t stop them from creating a very livable, light, and airy home," says Ellie. "This project proves that even the smallest sites in Melbourne are valuable and can create homes that most people feel are only achievable on larger sites."

Drawing light into the interior was the main priority. Large north-facing openings and skylights ensure natural light is in abundance.

Plans for Charles St by Lande Architects.


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