When a couple bought a late-19th-century Victorian for their family of five, they knew right away that a renovation was in order. Despite the home’s high heritage value, the property had long suffered from lack of maintenance, and it was disconnected from the outdoors and natural light.
Having fallen in love with the work of Timmins + Whyte, the couple reached out to the Melbourne-based architecture firm to help them open up their dark house with a sunny extension where they could live, cook, and gather with friends and extended family.
"The clients both work in the mental health and psychology space, and they wanted their home to give them a sense of calm, quiet, and well-being," says Timmins + Whyte Director Sally Timmins. The firm tore down a 1980s addition to make way for a new extension that celebrates indoor/outdoor living. "The main living and kitchen space is quiet and soft, and feels like a day spa or meditative space."
Sustainability was also a key design tenet. In addition to the extension’s energy-efficient features, which include rooftop solar panels and passive cooling, the clients emphasized their desire for a "forever" home that would respond to changing needs, including the possibility of housing an elderly parent for long stays.
Drawing on the husband’s Japanese heritage, the architects took cues from Japanese architecture with a minimalist design approach and a focus on nature.
"The house is a series of choreographed spaces with views to the outside from every angle," says Timmins. "It feels soft, light, and unfussy. The main living area and kitchen now feel part of the whole site, and will evolve and change with seasons as the garden grows."
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Taking a leaf from Japanese garden design, the architects named the new addition the Lantern House. The name not only alludes to the tōrō, the traditional stone lantern commonly found in Japanese gardens, but also references the way the extension glows like a lantern at night.
The key to creating a spacious feel in the open-plan extension’s relatively small footprint was the insertion of a double-height void. "In order to give the functions definition, ceiling volumes and textures were utilized to create zones," explains Timmins.
"A double-height void connects the landscaped spaces to the east and west both visually and physically, and a mezzanine balcony area becomes a part of the space for reading or conversing."
"It was important for the house and the team to be flexible and adapt to changing needs and requirements," shares Timmins. "We think a series of adaptable, well-designed spaces help achieve this—rather than having a lot of rooms that with the same feel but very different functions. There is an experience of compressed and expanding spaces as you move through the house."
Builder/General Contractor: Barkers Burke Construction
Structural Engineer: Robin Bliem and Associates
Landscape Design Company: Mud Office
Lighting Design/Interior Design: Timmins + Whyte
Cabinetry Design/ Installation: SM Creative Kitchens
Landscape Build: Josh Norman Landscapes
Colorbond Cladding Installation: Unique Metal Cladding Systems
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