A Backyard Eucalyptus Becomes the Muse For This Home Remodel

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By Kelly Dawson
When architect Fiona Dunin was tasked with simplifying and modernizing a Melbourne home, she looked to the backyard for inspiration.

"The original house had not been touched in decades," Fiona Dunin, the director of FMD Architects, remarks as she describes the renovation of a one-story midcentury property she completed last year in Melbourne. 

Before she and her team reached its doorstep in the eastern suburbs of the city, the owner had lived in a maze of dark ad-hoc extensions, in which Dunin says did nothing to enhance the quality of the home's surroundings. 

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Dunin and her team repurposed recycled brick to match the original material on the exterior of the home. Brick was also used to build privacy walls that would still bring in light and air. 

Dunin and her team repurposed recycled brick to match the original material on the exterior of the home. Brick was also used to build privacy walls that would still bring in light and air. 

"The main objective was to create living spaces with a strong connection to the landscape, and access to extensive natural light," she continues. "The footprint had to be reduced to having no superfluous spaces." 

Dunin and the owner settled on a straightforward L-shaped layout enclosing two bedrooms and two bathrooms—just enough space to live comfortably alone, and with occasional guests. 

Dunin wanted to carry the theme of the eucalyptus throughout the property, including in the entryway, which has a light resembling branches. 

Dunin wanted to carry the theme of the eucalyptus throughout the property, including in the entryway, which has a light resembling branches. 

But the simplicity is in the bigger picture, and not in its layered finishes. The running details of brick and wood are what give this house its character, and connect it to its history and views. 

One of the home's two bedrooms looks out on to the oversized deck. 

One of the home's two bedrooms looks out on to the oversized deck. 

"The brick reinforces our own determined appreciation for the house's original brickwork," Dunin notes. "And the beams reference the old gnarled Mallee river red-gum eucalyptus at the rear of the property. Its bent form mirrors the form of the ceiling, almost like branches." 

The custom towel rails in this bathroom are also meant to mimic branches. 

The custom towel rails in this bathroom are also meant to mimic branches. 

Custom woodwork on the kitchen cabinetry mirror the slant of the roofline. Recycled brick was used on the upper portion of the wall. 

Custom woodwork on the kitchen cabinetry mirror the slant of the roofline. Recycled brick was used on the upper portion of the wall. 

To look at the house now is to view it in tandem to its place. Floor-to-ceiling windows in an open living area unveil a green canopy outdoors, while an angled timber deck—interspersed with trees that will one day grow as tall as the others—complement the form and look of the ceiling back inside. 

"The beams fold and taper back to the original roof line, which means each beam is unique, just like in nature," Dunin says. 

"The beams fold and taper back to the original roof line, which means each beam is unique, just like in nature," Dunin says. 

The home is unmistakably tied to its surroundings, a renovation that Dunin calls "a direct reflection." That was the point, after all. "It is a rich mix of materials, textures, and customized detail," she says. 

Double-glazed Viridian ThermoTech glass was used for the sliding doors and windows. 

Double-glazed Viridian ThermoTech glass was used for the sliding doors and windows. 

"There are several trees planted within the deck," Dunin explains. "As they grow, they<br>will create separate intimate areas and provide additional shading and privacy."

"There are several trees planted within the deck," Dunin explains. "As they grow, they
will create separate intimate areas and provide additional shading and privacy."

Project Details:

Architect and Interior Design: FMD Architects

Builder: Dimpat Construction

Structural Engineer: Perrett Simpson

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