A Nuanced Rear Addition in Melbourne Amps Up an Indoor/Outdoor Connection
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A Nuanced Rear Addition in Melbourne Amps Up an Indoor/Outdoor Connection

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By Melissa Dalton
Subtle detailing in the extended Thornbury House ensures that the new living spaces balance intimacy with family activity.

The owners of Thornbury House in Melbourne, Australia, gave Olaver Architecture a fairly straightforward brief: they needed flexible, new living areas at the back of the house that could host several activities at the same time—while preserving as much of the backyard as possible. 

Olaver Architecture responded with a modest "box on the back" that hosts a combined kitchen, dining area, and living room overlooking the backyard, as well as an upper-level, principal suite. 

Throughout Thornbury House, Olaver Architecture was deliberate about applying "minor alterations to simple forms," to make the so-called "box" addition feel more special. Starting at the entry, a timber-clad, curved corner creates flow.

The firm tucked an entry bench into the curved wall to create an easy spot for taking off shoes by the door, then lined the passageway with shelves. A curved bench under the stairs creates a nook.

A view of the addition from the back, clad in timber and cement sheet. The lot is a substantial, north-facing plot, and the extension takes advantage of the large yard with expansive glass doors across the facade.

The house was designed with passive heating and cooling strategies in mind, which are so successful that there is no air conditioning. The thickened wall over the north-facing glass forms an eave, which helps to modulate incoming sunlight in the summer. "In winter, the sun can penetrate well inside the living and dining rooms, warming the floor slab," says the firm. Additionally, "the double height of the living space provides stack ventilation, with an operable highlight window naturally drawing hot air up and out." Cross-breezes are encouraged by effective window and door placement.

An alcove off of the laid-back living space provides another spot for "impromptu reading or rest," say the architects, which allows family members to engage in separate activities within the same space.

A floor-to-ceiling curtain is set up to provide additional privacy and light modulation when needed.

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The kitchen got a place of pride in the addition, as the family loves to cook, and the lowered ceiling differentiates it from the adjacent living area. The custom island received a rounded corner that echoes the entry. "The unusually shaped island bench responds to the geometry of the external glazing, which was in turn angled to respond to exterior views," says the firm. Circular legs on the island gives it a furniture quality and imparts a "lightness" to the large piece. The lattice over the window provides dappled, natural light and will eventually be covered in vines.

Kitchen finishes include a black, porcelain tile backsplash, Caesarstone counters, parchment-colored Laminex laminate cupboards, and wood accents in Victorian ash veneer from Fethers.

The powder room is a retreat from the main living areas. The firm set off the Victorian ash storage and mirror unit by surrounding it with black hexagon tile. A "sky tunnel" in the ceiling floods the room with natural light.

Thornbury House ground floor site plan that shows how the addition meets the existing house

Thornbury House site plan showing the second level of the addition

Related Reading: A Melbourne Home Decreases in Size to Amp Up Its Outdoor Connection

Project Credits:

Architect: Olaver Architecture / @olaver_architecture

Builder: Grbac Constructions

Structural Engineer: Meyer Consulting

Landscape Design: Olaver Architecture 

Interior Design: Olaver Architecture 

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