An Art Deco Dwelling Receives a Sleek, Contemporary Extension

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By Lucy Wang
Originally built in 1938, the revived Shadow House in Melbourne merges contemporary and Art Deco features.

When the owners of an old home in a Melbourne inner suburb first approached Nic Owen Architects, they had plans of replacing the existing dwelling with a pair of townhouses. However, after learning that the local council had listed the home for its high heritage significance—the residence was built in 1938 in an Art Deco style for librarian John Patrick O’Brian—the architects persuaded the clients to abandon demolition in favor of a sensitive renovation and expansion project instead.

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Built in 1938, the Shadow House retains its original curved entry porch.

Built in 1938, the Shadow House retains its original curved entry porch.

Happily, the owners agreed to the proposal and to a design that defers to the architecturally significant features of the original dwelling, from the highly distinctive gabled and hipped roof to the unusual brick window hood details.

Unsurprisingly, a major challenge was following the local council’s regulations, which required that all ground-level work be reduced in height and set back from the original structure. "This created an interesting but challenging framework to achieve the desired amenities required by the owners," say the architects.

Unsurprisingly, a major challenge was following the local council’s regulations, which required that all ground-level work be reduced in height and set back from the original structure. "This created an interesting but challenging framework to achieve the desired amenities required by the owners," say the architects.

"Our approach was to create a shadow of the existing form, a modern sympathetic ‘copy’ of the O’Brian house which offers a simple homogeneous sculptured form, carefully positioned to complement the original building," explain the architects of the 1,370-square-foot project, aptly named the Shadow House.

Since the council wouldn't allow off-street parking or a dedicated crossover, the architects created a "hidden" sliding side gate (seen open in this image) to provide vehicle access if needed.

Since the council wouldn't allow off-street parking or a dedicated crossover, the architects created a "hidden" sliding side gate (seen open in this image) to provide vehicle access if needed.

In addition to more usable space and a contemporary refresh, the owners wanted the renovation to provide a stronger connection with the outdoors and greater access to natural light without compromising privacy—a challenge given the site’s corner location next to a busy, south-facing street.

A long fence built from Colorbond standing-seam metal panels shields the home from the busy street.

A long fence built from Colorbond standing-seam metal panels shields the home from the busy street.

To obscure unwanted views, the architects erected a long fence on the south side built of the same black Colorbond standing-seam metal panels used to clad the new extensions. These monolithic volumes feature rooflines that mirror the existing roof pitch, and were designed with a "simple, clean aesthetic, removing all superfluous visual elements."

A cozy outdoor patio is located next to the dining room.

A cozy outdoor patio is located next to the dining room.

The majority of the existing home was retained save for the rear lean-to shed, wet room fit-outs, and an internal wall, while the extensions enlarged the living areas and made room for an extra bedroom. Strategically placed windows and skylights flood the interior with natural light.

The glazing and doors are double-glazed Capral 400 series aluminum.

The glazing and doors are double-glazed Capral 400 series aluminum.

Spotted gum flooring was used throughout the living spaces. The ground floor houses the kitchen, living room, and dining areas as well as two bedrooms. The upper floor contains the master suite.

Spotted gum flooring was used throughout the living spaces. The ground floor houses the kitchen, living room, and dining areas as well as two bedrooms. The upper floor contains the master suite.

"The Shadow House, a three-bedroom residence on a small site, offers a sympathetic response to historically sensitive, inner-city living," notes the firm.

The modern kitchen features Caesarstone "Snow" counters and cabinets with a two-pack polyurethane finish. The appliances are mainly by Miele.

The modern kitchen features Caesarstone "Snow" counters and cabinets with a two-pack polyurethane finish. The appliances are mainly by Miele.

Large walls of glass let plenty of natural light and views into the expanded home.

Large walls of glass let plenty of natural light and views into the expanded home.

The original Art Deco style can be seen in the interior arch openings.

The original Art Deco style can be seen in the interior arch openings.

The stairs to the upper floor are bathed in natural light, thanks to a large skylight placed on the north side of the extension's roof.

The stairs to the upper floor are bathed in natural light, thanks to a large skylight placed on the north side of the extension's roof.

Upstairs is the carpeted master bedroom.

Upstairs is the carpeted master bedroom.

The master bath is outfitted with a Caesarstone "Snow" countertop and hoop pine plywood cabinetry.

The master bath is outfitted with a Caesarstone "Snow" countertop and hoop pine plywood cabinetry.

The Shadow House existing floor plan

The Shadow House existing floor plan

The Shadow House ground floor plan

The Shadow House ground floor plan

The Shadow House first floor plan

The Shadow House first floor plan


Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Nic Owen Architects / @nicowenarchitects

Builder/ General Contractor: Melpro Building

Structural Engineer: Jonicha Consulting 

Lighting Design, Interior Design, Cabinetry Design: Nic Owen Architects

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