An Earthy Makeover Warms an Edwardian Home in Melbourne

An Earthy Makeover Warms an Edwardian Home in Melbourne

By Mandi Keighran
Robust materials, including red brick and concrete, come together to create a durable and modern home.

When the owners of an Edwardian house in Melbourne, Australia, decided their kitchen was "falling apart" and in need of a makeover, they called architect Sarah Bryant, founder of Bryant Alsop Architects. It was soon agreed, however, that it would be a waste to only renovate the kitchen; so much of the house was in desperate need of attention. 

The owners wanted to celebrate natural and robust materials that would stand the test of time and avoid the "preciousness" so often associated with period homes. The result is Pine House, an honest and bold renovation with durable finishes that are suited to real family life. 

A red brick and concrete island acts as a centerpiece in the kitchen. The benches to the rear and side of island are made from Dekton Sirius reconstituted stone and are surrounded by black laminate cabinetry. The tiles used for the backsplash are Tierras by Patricia Urquiola for Mutina.

The young family of four had been living in the Edwardian house, built sometime around 1900, for a number of years. The original period house had been renovated on a tight budget in 1990, with the addition of a rear extension with a kitchen, living space, and mezzanine level. The ground floor space beneath the mezzanine was too low, with a ceiling height just under seven feet.

"Despite the large volume, the space felt claustrophobic and oppressive," says Bryant. Like many period homes, it was also cold and dark inside. Many of the large Edwardian rooms had been divided into smaller spaces and the beautiful period features—including decorative plasterwork, stained glass, and an original fireplace—had been covered up.

The original fireplace in the sitting room, which features colorful inlaid tiles, was restored and tall oak shelving was added to either side. "This room is a successful mix of classic period and relaxed Australian styles," says architect Sarah Bryant.

The central hall has three arches with ornate decorative plasterwork, which was restored during the renovation. It is an example of the work done by the original builder, Henry Langdon, at the turn of the century.

While the 1990 addition was structurally sound, it didn’t maximize the potential of the interior space. "The obvious solution would have been to take off the addition and extend the original building," says Bryant. "But, we couldn’t come at it from a sustainability perspective. We briefly explored 'new' versus 're-worked' options, and couldn't find merit in putting this sound building into landfill." 

So, the design team decided to adopt an approach of "keep, re-use, or remove". They kept the red brick outer shell of the 1990 extension and completely gutted the interior, including the removal of the large steel mezzanine. They also restored the sub-divided rooms—including the master bedroom and one of the children’s bedrooms—to their original proportions and grandeur. "Without a doubt, it was more economical to reuse the existing 1900 structure," says Bryant. "This has the added bonus of it not ending up in landfill." 

The trusses were made by the building team from solid Australian hardwood and are critical in supporting the roof structure where the mezzanine level previously sat.

The removal of the mezzanine revealed the incredible volume of the family's living, kitchen, and dining area. As the steel mezzanine had been a structural element, a new structure was required to support the roof. "We introduced exposed Australian hardwood trusses to exaggerate the scale, and bring warmth and character into the large volume," says Bryant. This volume was organized around a central two-way fireplace that divides the space into the kitchen and dining area, and then the living area.

The two-way fireplace that divides the living space sits on a red brick and concrete plinth, echoing the use of materials in the kitchen island. The lighting in the living area is from NAU and Oty Light.

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Red brick was a key building material in both the original home and the 1990 addition, so the design team made the decision to embrace and celebrate it in the renovation. Red brick is used in the main living space as the plinth under the fireplace and cabinetry unit, and as a feature base to the concrete island bench. It is also repeated externally in the garden walls and a custom wood store. Other durable materials used are spotted gum timber, concrete, black metal, charred hardwood cladding, and terra cotta. 

The kitchen cabinetry conceals two doors—one to a walk-in pantry and another to a small addition—housing a coat room, laundry, and powder room—that connects to the back yard.

The island bench—a concrete bench top with red brick "legs"—is the focus of the open-plan kitchen. The terra cotta tile backsplash in the kitchen, created using Tierras tiles by Patricia Urquiola for Mutina, is another key feature. "We had seen the range of Mutina tiles some time ago and had been waiting to incorporate it into a project," says Bryant. "This house was perfect and we built the palette around this special feature." It also echoes the use of geometric feature tiles in the bathroom.

The en-suite bathroom features a palette of soft blues, grays, and whites. The geometric tiles are Deco Dusty Blu from the Spritz range by Perini.

A black-framed servery window connects the kitchen to the covered deck, enabling a relaxed indoor/outdoor style of living.

With a south-facing block, it was imperative that the renovation maximized the sense of light and connection to the outdoors. The removal of the mezzanine allowed the creation a dramatic double-height window—approximately 15 feet high and seven-and-a-half feet wide—that spans almost the full height of rear facade. It connects the interior with the back garden and floods the formerly dark space with indirect natural light. 

The window seat in the living area introduces a personal scale into the dynamic room, and connects the living space with the exterior.

There are fixed highlight windows at the upper level and bi-fold doors at the ground level that lead from the dining space to the rear deck. "We couldn’t have done this if the orientation had been anything but south facing," says Bryant. "But, with the indirect light, it works beautifully." There is also a servery window from the kitchen to the deck, facilitating a relaxed indoor/outdoor living space. 

The external brick walls are part of the 1990 addition. The upper part had been rendered in acrylic and painted butter yellow. This was removed and the section was re-clad with a charred solid timber shiplap cladding. An enormous double-height window floods the living space with natural light.

The exterior brickwork is complemented by a charred shiplap element, which echoes the interplay of red brick and dark elements in the home's interiors. "We wanted to continue the boldness of the color palette to the exterior, and also find a cladding that was sustainable and didn't require a lot of maintenance," says Bryant. "It seemed a natural choice." 

While the renovation added just 193 square feet to the footprint of the home, it has increased the livability and function of the home enormously. "Re-using the previous elements to create a whole new space with a distinct and cohesive feel was very rewarding," says Bryant. "It is also a strong reflection of the owners and their attitude towards life." 

Ground floor plan for Pine House by Bryant Alsop Architects.

Explore more homes in Melbourne:

Vaulted Skylights and Concrete Columns Connect This Melbourne Home With the Sun

A Contemplative Melbourne Home Wraps Around a Garden

This Renovated Victorian in Melbourne Literally Says "Hello" to Passersby


Project Credits: 

Architect of Record: Bryant Alsop Architects 

Builder: Martin Brothers Building 

Structural Engineer: Ipsum Structures (formerly Structural Edge Consulting) 

Pool: Falcon Pools

Interior Design: Prue Gordon for Bryant Alsop Architects

Cabinetry Design: Contour Cabinets

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