Australian firm Rob Kennon Architects strengthened the home’s connection to the outdoors.
In 2013, Rob Kennon Architects overhauled a 1980s extension to an Edwardian family home that sat atop a lush hill in Kew, a suburb of Melbourne. “The previous addition didn’t have any good connections to the garden. It didn’t bring the outdoors into the building,” Kennon explains. By stepping it down with the contours of the sloped land, they established a healthier relationship with its surrounding environment while creating a sculptural work of art.
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The property is not just steep, but also narrow, which limited the type of scenery and sunlight the previous addition's rooms enjoyed. Kennon engineered the west side of the new house to zigzag inward, permitting both south- and west-facing windows in each section. The slanted western windows also tilt slightly north, which brings in more light. “That’s how you can get winter sun and afternoon sun into the house, whereas previously the addition didn’t have any relationship to the sun,” Kennon explains.
A timber rain screen made of locally-sourced spotted gum clads the house. “It’s basically like a tortoise shell in that it’s a protective layer, a shield, that allows the building to be protected from the sun and insulated from the cold,” Kennon says. Because of its high density, the Australian hardwood stands up well against the elements.
Throughout the first level, the height of the ceiling stays the same while the floor descends with the landscape. These steps provide natural divisions of space in the open-plan house. The floor also transitions from European oak in the kitchen and dining room to Supertuft wool carpet in the living area.
A Benjamin Hubert Float light from Great Dane hangs above the dining room table. The playfully sized western windows showcase the sky and garden while minimizing views of the nearby neighbors. “They’re apertures to the outside that increase privacy,” Kennon says.
In the kitchen, black-cushioned bar stools by Erik Buch pop against the blonde wood counters, custom white melamine cupboards, and milky ceramic tile backsplash. The kitchen sink is by Franke, the faucet by Grohe, and the fridge by Liebherr.
A central winding staircase connects the original house to the new addition. Exposed framing flanking the staircase creates an intimate study with plenty of shelving space. A Nud pendant light from Great Dane hangs above the built-in desk.
In the serene upstairs bathroom, Kennon paired Chinese Bluestone floors from Defazio with white ceramic wall tiles from local supplier Classic Ceramics. The tub is by Bette with a Roger Seller faucet, while the bathroom sink is by Argent with a Grohe faucet.