Newlyweds Frank and Amy fell in love with a gorgeously detailed, Art Deco–style home from the 1930s in the coveted backstreets of Melbourne’s leafy Kew, but they knew a renovation was in the cards to turn the dark, camped cottage into a comfortable home for their future children. So, they turned to the architects at Mihaly Slocombe.
The original 1,120-square-foot house had three bedrooms and a bath, but its inefficient layout rendered one of the bedrooms unusable. Central elements of the redesign were an improved floor plan, greater access to light, and a extension that divided the home into three zones: the adult retreat within the original cottage, the family living areas on the ground floor of the addition, and the two kids’ bedrooms and a bath on the floor above.
"The layout for Deco House came to us very easily, but finding the right three-dimensional form was a huge challenge," say the architects, who nearly doubled the footprint of the home to 2,142 square feet. "We sought to simultaneously imbue the home with its Art Deco–inspired character, address passive solar design principles, resolve unusual siting requirements, and comply with difficult town planning conditions."
Siting was a challenge due to tight setbacks from a neighbor to the south, while a shared driveway to the north necessitated a careful balancing act between privacy and outlook.
Negotiating these realities and meeting maximum building envelope permissions, Mihaly Slocombe created a stepped, bullnose roof and curved forms that help ground the light-filled, two-story addition in the Art Deco era.
A contemporary interpretation of the Art Deco period, the new extension inverts the material palette of the original house—a white building with red-brick detailing—with its red-brick form and white metal detailing. An arch motif and metallic highlights are also carried out throughout the interior.
A sense of timelessness pervades the updated four-bed, two-and-a-half-bath Deco House. Concrete, timber, and white marble in the extension take cues from the original timber floors and decorative white plaster ceilings from the 1930s period cottage.
The architects also drew inspiration for Deco House’s strong form and beautiful brickwork from contemporary Melbourne projects such as Jackson Clements Burrows Architects’ Harold Street Residence and the MRTN Architects’ Carlton Cloister project.
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Sustainability was also a key design tenet. Informed by passive solar design principles, the extension mitigates unwanted solar gain in summer with perforated screens to the north and a translucent canopy to the east. The walls and roof have been fortified with high-performance insulation, and the timber-framed windows are fitted with double glazing.
The home also includes a low-energy heat pump for water, a 10,500-liter underground rainwater tank that feeds into the irrigation system, as well as a green switch at the front door that shuts off all non-essential circuits.
"We’re super proud of how serene and beautiful Deco House is to inhabit, how it captures the changing quality of light across the seasons and each day, and how the natural material palette imbues each room with a sense of warmth and welcome," say the architects.
Builder/ General Contractor: Basis Builders
Structural Engineer: Adams Engineering
Land Surveyor: Webster Survey Group
Quality Surveyor: Construction Planning and Economics
Building Surveyor: Grimbos Building Surveyors
Stylist: Bea and Co
Furniture: Great Dane Furniture
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