Inspiration can come from many places—and when Jane Macrae, founder of Nine Muses Design, was working on a colorful family home in the coastal town of Point Lonsdale in Victoria, Australia, it came from Pink’s hit "The FUN House."
"The process of designing the home was so much fun," says Macrae. "Each time we developed and refined the design, more quirky and colorful elements made it onto the page. I started to label the home "The FUN House," and I would listen to this tune and bop along whilst drafting and smiling."
The clients, Emma and Louis, are creative professionals who have lived in Point Lonsdale, at the southeastern end of the Bellarine Peninsula, for over 17 years—and Louis commutes to Melbourne, a 90-minute trip each way. "They chose Point Lonsdale as their base as it gives their two young boys an enviable lifestyle and a childhood full of sun, surf, and sand," says Macrae. "They were keen to build a house that truly reflected their style—in an affordable way."
Property in Point Lonsdale is generally expensive, however Emma and Louis found a "battle-axe" block that was more affordable, as it didn’t present obvious opportunities. "It was a diamond in the rough," says Macrae. "But, Emma and Louis had a vision and prioritized quality of space and connection with their family. The initial brief was for a funky, creative, and different family home that made the best use of the vacant block and provided enough indoor/outdoor living for an active family."
The result is a colorful and contemporary home divided into three zones—one for Emma and Louis, one for the boys, and a central zone where the family can come together. The three pavilions enclose a north-facing yard, which is visible from the expanse of glass in the dining/living zone.
"The major challenge was the desire for a spacious, adaptable family home with a connection to sunny outdoor living on a compact site where the traditional ‘backyard’ was facing south," says Macrae. "Given the budget, we were also constrained to a single story."
The solution was for the building to hug the southern and side boundaries as closely as possible given setback requirements and a rear easement. By wrapping three pavilions around the rear of the block, Macrae created a usable north-facing front yard that flows from the central living area.
Inside, adaptable spaces were prioritized over circulation, and there is only one hallway in the home—a space in the boys’ pavilion that doubles as both a laundry and storage area. This pavilion features a second living room that can be adapted as a study, guest quarters, or rumpus room; and the boys’ bedrooms have loft beds to allow for play spaces below. Although the footprint is small, all ceiling heights are over 10 feet to make the house feel more spacious.
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The materiality of the interior was inspired by industrial warehouse buildings, and the design makes clever use of a tight budget. The floors in the entry, kitchen, and bedrooms are polished concrete, while timber flooring in the living and dining area adds warmth. The plywood paneling featured in the entry is echoed in the kitchen and living room cabinetry, and the bold orange bulkheads and yellow bathroom reference the clients’ love of pop art.
The home embraces a connection with the outdoors—both through the floor-to-ceiling glazing in the living/dining space and the staggered windows in the bedrooms. "The clients wanted the front elevation to be almost a piece of graphic art," says Macrae. "The majority of the larger windows are positioned to gain solar access and views, and the smaller, staggered windows either frame or cleverly conceal a view whilst providing both light and visual interest."
Macrae and the clients prioritized the street-facing north elevation, and they saved money by using corrugated metal on the other elevations. "The clients are very graphic and artistic people with a love of street, pop, and graphic art, so we wanted to create a look that was vibrant and distinctive," says Macrae. "They love lime green and orange, and were courageous enough to use them in the build. The use of these colors allowed us to give an otherwise conventional form a youthful, distinctive, and vibrant face-lift."
The green pergola in front of the living/dining pavilion responds to the wraparound gable ends of the side pavilions, visually uniting the three parts of the home. "In keeping with the style of the house, the green pergola fills in the angled piece that was removed from the central form," says Macrae. "We then skewed it, as nothing in the house is normal!"
"I just love it because it is a house that has an impact. Even though the site and footprint are small, it feels deceptively big," says Macrae. "I also love how the client embraces and uses the house—it really shows what a good partnership between architect and client can create."
"We have lived in the area for the last 17 years, but this is the first house that has really nailed our style," adds the client. "It is such a pleasure to live in, and the house is designed to continue to meet our family’s needs as our kids grow older."
Interior Design: Nine Muses Architecture & Design
Builder: Greg Blair Building
Structural Engineer: Simon Anderson Consultants
Cabinetry: Geoff Rogers Cabinets
Painter & Decorator: Paul McGrath
Photographer: Matthew Gudykunst
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