A Bold and Playful Melbourne Home Dares to Stand Out From the Crowd
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A Bold and Playful Melbourne Home Dares to Stand Out From the Crowd

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By Lucy Wang
In Fitzroy North, an all-female architecture team crafts a “family home of the future” that champions great design.

Proving that great architecture can—and should—be accessible, Melbourne-based Mani Architecture completed a unique family home that’s purpose-built for the housing market. It’s a rarity in Australia, where architect-designed homes make up less than 10% of residential properties.

The front of the home features a built-in table and benches, as well as a bumblebee mailbox that Tonini says "makes nearly every passerby smile or giggle…young or old!"

A view of the rear of the home. Recycled materials, such as salvaged red bricks and steel window details, were repurposed from other building sites.

"Architecture should not be seen as a luxury service," says Mani Architecture founder Sara Tonini. "We want to change this stigma, we want to educate, we want to teach, and we want to showcase the importance of well-designed and well-executed spaces."

Taking cues from historic European architecture, the facade is clad in overlapping cedar shingles that will develop a silvery patina over time.

Ceramists at locally based Glost Studios created bathroom basins to match the custom color palette.

Acting as the client, Tonini’s team pitched the property concept to developers and, after securing three silent investors, purchased a lot in the Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy North. While the site’s existing dwelling was far too damaged to save, the architects kept the same building footprint for their new-build. They approached the project as "a real-life test case for what good design can achieve, even on a budget."

The home’s four bathrooms are tiled with custom ceramic tiles in four different colors. The pink upstairs bathroom is the only one with a tub.

The home features two separate entrances so that part of the home—which can be completely closed off—can be used as an AirBnB or for a second family.

Designed over the course of a year, One MANI House was created in close collaboration with local artisans and built with locally sourced, durable, and cost-effective materials.

In addition to bold contemporary design elements, the two-story house emphasizes adaptability. It shows how a well-designed home can transform to serve a variety of homeowners—from empty nesters to multigenerational households.

The only bedroom on the ground floor can be easily adapted into an AirBnB with a private entrance. It features a built-in bed and a black ensuite bathroom.

A look inside the black ensuite bathroom on the ground floor.

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"This project was all about collaborating with other suppliers, makers, etc," says Tonini, who advocates supporting local creatives and a "handmade" approach. "The biggest challenge was getting people on board, as it was the first time anyone had heard of this type of project."

Local artisan Daniel Poole designed timber built-ins that help maximize space in the house.

The built-in solid American oak dining table by Daniel Poole can seat 18 people.

After 14 months of construction, Tonini’s team occupied the home and hosted home tours for months before putting the home on the market, where it received considerable attention for its one-of-a-kind design and detailed craftsmanship. The property was purchased by a young family for an undisclosed amount.

The light-filled lounge includes a 10-seat built-in sofa. The floors throughout are engineered American oak.

This stand-up study nook with built-in storage can also be used as a bar.

"We wanted to create a home that pushed the boundaries—a home that had everything within a small footprint—to show people the value of good, thought-out design," explains Tonini. "This home shows the power and value that comes by working with an architect. It’s adaptable, space-saving design, rounded out with bold surprises."

A lime-green backsplash adds a playful pop of color to the kitchen, which is fitted out with American oak veneer cabinets in a dark lime finish.

The skylight over the stairs, and an abundance of north-facing glazing flood the interior with natural light to make the home feel more spacious.

The 645-square-foot upper level comprises three bedrooms with built-ins as well as two bathrooms.

The master bedroom features a built-in headboard and closet made from solid walnut and walnut veneer. The black wall lamp is a replica Serge Mouille wall light.

The upstairs ensuite bathroom is covered in orange tiles. All the tiles used in the bathrooms, kitchen, and service area are by Classic Ceramics.

Behind the white wall with the oval window lies the central plunge pool, one of the architects’ favorite features in the home.

A long "secret" service area tucked behind the kitchen includes storage and laundry facilities.

A peek inside the blue powder room, off to the side of the service area.

The architects currently have a smaller version of the One MANI House in the works for 2020, and they are in talks to design a Two MANI House.

Indoor/outdoor living is emphasized with sliding glass doors and timber flooring that continues to the outdoor deck.

The backyard BBQ area includes a sunken dining table.

Located on a long and narrow plot in Fitzroy North, the One MANI House includes four bedrooms, three-and-a-half bathrooms, and a suite of built-in furniture. The home offers nearly 3,300 square feet of living space spread out across two floors.

One MANI House floor plans

Related Reading:

Concrete Arches Shroud a Minimalist Forever Home in a Melbourne Suburb

A Melbourne Home Gains a Gorgeous Glass-Fronted Addition

This Transformed Melbourne House Resembles a Quirky Village

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Mani Architecture / @maniarchitecture

Structural Engineer: KB Engineering Consultants

Landscape Design/Lighting Design/Interior Design: Mani Architecture

Cabinetry Design/ Installation:  Daniel Poole

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