Renovating a heritage home in one of Melbourne’s older suburbs can be difficult. There are several restrictions on what can be changed, but architecture firm Taylor Knights got it right with their creative renovation of this 1930's classic. While maintaining some key design elements of the original home, the team completely re-imagined the interaction between indoor and outdoor space.
To suit their clients, a family with young children and evolving needs, Taylor Knights reconfigured the existing interior to allow for flexible use, providing opportunities for communal activity as well as privacy, always with a focus towards the garden.
Moving from the perfectly maintained 1930’s brick and stucco façade, past the fanciful mullions on the front door and the graceful panel work in the front hall, Taylor Knights drew a subtle path pulling visitors through the increasingly bright and modern renovated spaces to the unexpected lushness of the garden in the back.
The success of this transition relies on Taylor Knights’ modern interpretation of some of the historic design. "We actively sought to identify typical motifs within the existing home," says lead architect Peter Knights. Thus, the arch of the front door, its mullions, and the entrance hall panelling served as motifs, and was worked into the steel mullions of the new interior glass walls, and in repeating arches and circular designs throughout the renovation.
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The reconsidered living room and parlor perfectly combine Taylor Knights' modern sensibility and the stylish best of the original home, with an arched and glittering mirrored bar in the parlor and a Tudor arch over the living room fireplace that matches the arch over the front door. "From an aesthetic perspective," says Knights, "it was an exercise in restraint and simplicity to compliment the original features."
Wanting to re-use any original, viable materials, the team pulled up timber that was no longer required and repurposed it, using it for both the ceiling in the lounge "as a way of bringing warmth into the space" explains Knights, and as formwork in the concrete addition.
A delicate circular timber screen serves to separate the lounge while allowing garden light to filter back down the hall. Importantly, says Knights, it also allows for a glimpse of the garden the moment you enter the front door. A sliding white panel beside the timber screen hides a TV, and when opened it separates the space from people walking past.
The heart of the renovation is the pavilion addition, situated at the top of the three-tiered garden, its thick concrete frame supporting double-glazed glass walls. This addition houses the kitchen and the dining room, and provides a gateway between the house and its garden. Natural light pours into the new spaces, while sliding glass doors invite easy interaction with the user-friendly garden.
The pavilion is carefully integrated into the landscape, serving as a sheer, cliff-like backdrop to the pool and also as a base for a rooftop garden, whose foliage spills over the edge. Despite its ultra-modern design and material, the pavilion has a weight and dignity that suggests an almost classical permanence. "We wanted the addition to feel timeless," says Knights, "like it immediately belonged to both the past and also the present."
To this end, Taylor Knights focused on craftsmanship. Using original floorboards for the pavilion formwork, the team coaxed the grain impression of the timber onto the concrete ceiling, almost matching the wood on the living room ceiling. In addition, the thick pavilion columns have precise vertical layers, hinting at the details of the home’s original brickwork steps, and recalling the interior pillars between the living room and the entrance hall.
The glass walls are set back in their concrete frame, which, says Knights, provides shifting light and "passive shading" in the kitchen and lounge.
The window that stands out, literally, is the kitchen bay window, which is placed at an angle to allow for a triangular lounging nook inside. Taylor Knights installed a similar window in the reading room in the original wing of the house, the angled pane of glass jutting out from the brick, encapsulating the contrasting styles of the renovated home. Both window seats allow the lounger to be at once inside the house, yet part of the garden as well.
In addition to the abundance of windows and glass walls, Taylor Knights infused the house with light via skylights and even a small courtyard in the master suite.
Add a captionPhoto by Derek Swalwell
The garden itself, tiered on three levels—now four if counting the inaccessible rooftop garden—has a pleasing mix of casual, native greenery and refined spaces for activities, from the pool and spa to the paved walkways and children’s play area.
Related Reading: A Contemplative Melbourne Home Wraps Around a Garden
Architect: Peter Knights, James Taylor, Julie Sloane, taylorknights.com.au / @taylorknightsarchitects
Builder: Dimpat / @dimpat__
Landscape Design: Ben Scott Garden Design / @benscott_design
Steelwork: Tescher Forge / @tescherforge
Joinery: Luna Joinery / @lunajoinery
Timber Furniture & Joinery: Made by Morgen / @madebymorgen
Building Surveyor: Fotia Group /@fotiagroup
Photography: Derek Swalwell / @derek_swalwell
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