A Grand Victorian Glows Like a Lantern After a Luminous Retrofit

Timmins + Whyte carves out a sun-soaked haven in a heritage-listed Melbourne home.
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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.

Whitewashed Tasmanian oak slats line the ceiling of the kitchen, which is designed to be hard-wearing for a family with a passion for cooking. Custom joinery surrounds the space.

Ice Green marble from Signorino Stone forms the backsplash and countertops. The island bench was custom built with 2PAC grooved MDF in the front and Tasmanian oak legs. The bespoke kitchen hood is made from folded metal with a bronze detail seam up the middle.

"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."

A day spa–like feel is achieved through an abundance of natural light that illuminates the warm interior palette of pinkish hues and honey-colored Tasmanian oak.

The warm and luxurious bathroom features a Toto washlet with water jets and a heated toilet seat. The large shower with timber floor slats faces a view of the garden.

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.

The Lantern House extension is passively cooled in summer with operable skylights, ceiling fans, louvered windows, and remote-controlled blinds that shield the upper windows.

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."

A view from the courtyard looking through to the rear garden. By framing the outdoor landscape—including two courtyards, front and rear yards, and two small roof gardens—as a series of "rooms," the architects created an indoor/outdoor living experience where the indoors are filled with natural light all day.

Tide Design created the dining table, dining chairs, and living room lounge chairs.

The polished concrete floors are Madrid Imagecrete from Hanson. Double-glazed Miglas windows let in an abundance of natural light.

Shop the Look
Design Within Reach Terassi Lounge Chair
Inspired by 1930s-era furniture they came across on a visit to Timberline Lodge in Oregon, Studio Tolvanen gave the Terassi Collection (2017) round tapered legs for a leaner profile and rustic yet crafted appearance.

A Cheminees Philippe Radiante 846 2V fireplace clad with Austral La Paloma Miro white brick separate the open-plan living space from the small office and bathroom.

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 open-plan living space enjoys a seamless connection with the outdoors. The kitchen stools are by Earl Pinto.

Matte white Colorbond cladding wraps the timber-framed extension. Blue stone pavers wind around the pool.

To open up the backyard, the architects removed the existing timber enclosure that once covered the pool.

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.

The scale and grandeur of the home’s beautiful heritage-listed front facade inspired the scale of the double-height space with a mezzanine balcony in the extension. A large water bladder hidden beneath the front veranda is used for irrigating the gardens.

The view from mezzanine balcony in the double-height space.

"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."

The double-height space helps the relatively small footprint of the extension feel open and light, "almost like being outside," says Timmins.

The upper floor of the extension houses two sun-soaked bedrooms.

"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."

In the evening, the home lights up like a lantern.

Lantern House floor plans

Lantern House site plan

Lantern House elevations

Lantern House elevation

Lantern House elevation

Lantern House section

Lantern House section

Related Reading:

A Melbourne Victorian Is Lovingly Renovated to Extend its Life Story

A Flourishing Garden Grows Inside This Glass-Roofed Melbourne Victorian

A Cool Melbourne Cottage Riffs Off of its Victorian Neighbors

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Timmins + Whyte Architecture / @timminswhyte_architects

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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