This project is a story of two houses. The original single dwelling began its life as a shop front dating back to 1881 and is a rare surviving example of a Victorian building with combined retail and residential building in the Parkville locale. The loft, a self-contained 1-bedroom apartment has an entirely different history, one that is solely confined to the present. The journey to this point has been long but rewarding, the original house had changed hands many times throughout its life and was in need of desperate repair.
The interior of the old house hadn’t fared much better. Significant damage to rendered walls, large portions of the timber floor and sub floor rotted and destroyed by termite damage and amenities well below current habitable standards fundamentally made the case for an entire renovation with a strong focus on restoration at its core.
The initial stages of works focused on stabilizing the structure and all internal walls. Works then progressed to defining the internal spaces. The existing building would become the living quarters while a new extension built directly behind would become a wonderfully light filled and open, chefs’ kitchen. The existing structure was restored with period details while the new extension was designed altogether differently, creating a clear distinction between old and new. The treatment of these two separate, yet equally important parts of the home were instrumental in retaining the original architectural fabric of the building, while supporting the need for new modern amenity in a home of this size.
One of the greatest design successes for this project was the creation of an entirely separate dwelling directly behind the existing house, where previously stood a decaying outbuilding and overgrown garden. The client wanted family to be able to comfortably spend time, in their own space whilst visiting and the challenge to design a small but perfectly formed loft was undertaken.
The loft is wholly different to its sister, the main house. Lined entirely with furniture grade plywood and with burnished concrete flooring, the space is intimate and moody. Spread over two floors, the upstairs bedroom is filled with light, generated by two large triangular windows which form the gable pitch of the roof. Proximity to surrounding trees evoke feelings of being inside a treehouse, while the lower floor opens almost entirely onto the laneway behind bringing an abundance of light and air. The loft abounds with childlike joy.
The Client wanted to restore and renovate the heritage fronted existing building, create a new extension to service the existing house and create a self-contained single bedroom loft directly behind the main house.
The original architectural intent was to retain the existing brick perimeter fence to form the base structure of the main house extension together with the loft. Unfortunately, the brick fence wasn’t built with sufficient foundations and wouldn’t stand up to the load required to support the new structures. Instead, the same height of the original fence and detailing was retained in the new design keeping alive the memory of what once was there.
Whilst there were certain considerations that had to be made to ensure the seamless integration of the new extension and the loft externally, internally the space could benefit from modern clean lines and a palette of muted grey, black granite and bluestone with recycled hardwood flooring throughout.
Much of the challenges were experienced early on in the design process when applying for council consent to create a multi-dwelling residence, a lengthy process that was crucial in the overall project success. Other challenges were experienced in the early stages of construction to stabilize the structure as it was at severe risk of collapsing initially. There are challenges that come from restoration, sometimes elements might need to be removed in order to satisfy confidence of future structural integrity but those elements you might believe are crucial to the authenticity of the building, finding a balance between those apposing objectives can be challenging.
The seamless integration between the restoration of the old existing building and the new extension are particularly successful components of the project. The establishment of the loft space is probably the most exciting element of the overall design creating an entirely separate dwelling out of what was essentially wasted space is a great achievement for the practice. Its design compliments the main house, but it is entirely unique. There were no constraints other than space, no need to retain heritage elements as there were none, for that reason it could be unashamedly modern.