A Welcoming Family Home Radiates Out to the Neighborhood in Melbourne

Gardiner Architects buck building trends by connecting a family home to the surrounding neighborhood.

"Today we see suburbs full of bigger, grander houses with high fences and tiny backyards," says Gardener Architects. "In our opinion, these houses that foster a family life conducted primarily inside, miss the mark." 

When the firm was approached by the owners of a California-style bungalow in Melbourne, the project team was struck by how the family of five know all of their neighbors and are active in the community. As a result, they came up with a plan to renovate the home so that it serves the way the family lives: connected to the neighborhood.

Gardiner Architects clad the bungalow in timber shiplap and sheet metal. "The external form of the Californian bungalow had the defining feature of the typical gabled roof," says the firm. "The roof of the new section takes the vernacular form of the gables offset from the retained roof. We liked this sensitive approach that saw the new extension not dominating the existing. In a sense, it could've always been there."

Flexibility, practicality, comfort, and spaciousness were all in the brief, as well as natural connections to the oft-used backyard and the surrounding neighborhood. "In terms of this single residential project, a focus on community set foundations for a house to avoid being a primarily internalized experience," said the firm.

The two-story addition as seen from the back. A green roof provides extra gardening space for the family.

The first order of business was to break down old ideas of formal spaces versus informal spaces. "The entry to a Californian bungalow is typically through the formal front door," said the firm. "Moving away from this, we supplemented an additional entry off the side lane. The old idea of coming in the front door, where you find the ‘nice room’ that the children aren’t allowed in, that has the crystal cabinet and granny drinking sherry is broken down."

The side entrance is located off a lane and marked with a mural painted by Alex Scott Douglas. "All the neighbors know that when you visit, you go down the lane," said the firm.

The informal side entrance leads right into the open living space, which hosts a family room, dining room, and kitchen.

Large windows can be stepped through and connect the new living spaces with the backyard. Built-in bench seats provide convenient storage.

The view from the front door looking down the hall towards the living spaces in the addition. One of the front rooms now serves as a master suite for the parents, while the kids’ bedrooms are upstairs.

"There's always food production happening, craft projects, children’s art and toys around, as well as a dog and the chooks," said the firm. "We prioritized making small gestures, avoiding the house feeling contrived where every beautiful thing has its place. Instead, a backdrop is laid that allows the house to evolve and change alongside the family."

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The kitchen units are composed of blackbutt veneer and have a matte finish. The counters are Caesarstone.

A hardworking pantry was essential for the family. "They’re also very keen cooks," said the firm. "They preserve fruit, make kombucha, keep bees, and grow a lot of herbs and vegetables. The open walk-in pantry, plenty of bench space, and storage are all approaches that allow for lots of food to be produced." Pantry inserts are made from Maxi Film birch plywood in black, so that the pantry space recedes.

 A pass-through window at the sink connects to the backyard.

"They also identified that they enjoy eating outside, so the relationship to the garden was really important. To enhance this, we incorporated a kitchen window that opens to become a servery and large glazed doors that allows the dining to flow out onto the deck," said the firm.

The indoor/outdoor connection was important for entertaining as well. The windows and doors can be thrown open, and people can sit close to the kitchen, inside or out, with the raised platform doubling as informal seating.

The existing living room received modern built-in storage and blue paint that syncs with the addition.

In the master suite bathroom, floor-to-ceiling glass connects the shower to a private side yard.

The powder room features Botanica Jungle Fever wallpaper by Emily Ziz.

Upstairs, there are three kids’ rooms and a shared bathroom. The stair landing fosters a lot of storage. "Longer views of trees in the distance are captured from the upstairs bedrooms. A snippet of the outside is seen through a small triangular window at the top of the stairs, providing a view that’d be missed otherwise," said the firm.

Brilliant blue tile from Classic Ceramics cascades down the wall, wraps the tub, and covers the floor in the kids' bath.

A view of the solar panels and extra gardening space on the green roof.

The floor plan


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