A Balcony With a Bathtub Caps This Striking Prefab in Melbourne

In the suburb of St Kilda, a modular home by Modscape works around site constraints to emphasize light and outdoor space.

With its bold, black timber facade, Modscape's recently built three-bedroom house in Melbourne doesn't look like a cookie-cutter prefab home. Yet the structure, built for the owner and her growing family, comprises a series of modules constructed off-site in the company's nearby factory.

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"The client wanted a home that had space for entertaining guests, but also an intelligent design that was flexible rather than unnecessarily large," says Prue Lavery, the design manager at Modscape. "It was important that ample outdoor space remained as [the owner] is an avid gardener and plant lover."

The home is situated in an inner-Melbourne suburban heritage area that’s surrounded by weatherboard-clad, single-fronted residences with pitched roofs. The site was previously occupied by a heritage-listed home, which, in many cases, can make it hard to begin anew. However, since it had been deemed unlivable, permission was granted to replace it with a modern interpretation of the neighborhood vernacular.

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"The timber cladding, pitched roofline, and front veranda of the new build marry it with its neighbors, while providing a contemporary version of its predecessor," says Lavery. The external cladding that characterizes the home is crafted from rough-sawn silvertop ash. The ash is coated in black WOCA—an oil finish—that’s combined with a Colorbond matte finish. "This allows the landscaping to pop and the house to be recessive to the garden," says Lavery. "It was inspired by our Modscape Tamarama Home, which features similar black timber and light timber screens."

A large timber door at the home’s entrance opens into a foyer where the owner keeps her bike. A hall then leads past a bedroom, bathroom, and laundry room before opening into an expansive open-plan living/dining/kitchen area that looks out to the backyard through full-height glazing.

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Throughout the home, matte black and blackbutt veneer joinery matches the tone of the external cladding. In the kitchen, it contrasts with Caesarstone countertops in Osprey.

The second floor is a more private space with two bedrooms. The primary bedroom opens onto a private balcony, where an open-air bathtub is concealed by a timber batten screen. The second bedroom also opens out to its own private balcony.

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It was essential for the client that the home’s design maximize natural light, yet the site’s orientation meant the living areas would have to face south—a less-than-ideal arrangement in Australia, where the sun arcs across the sky to the north. To create a design that captures as much light as possible, Modscape included a series of skylights and an asymmetrical, pitched roof that allows for a row of highlight windows to the east of the bedrooms on the second level. "These work to open up the living space and allow ample natural light to enter the home throughout the day," says Lavery.

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"It was rewarding to create something contemporary that also pays homage to the heritage of the area," Lavery adds. "The client is really happy with her new home—and the speed at which it was built. She was especially excited about her open-air bathtub, and used it the day she moved in!"

First Level

First Level

Second Level

Second Level

Site Plan

Site Plan

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