WORDS Stephanie Matheson
From its street façade, this modest terraced house in Fitzroy, Melbourne doesn’t give away much. All five metres of it (width-wise) are blending neatly into the neighbourhood, and apart from a new, light coat of paint, don’t allude to the fact that this building has been transformed well beyond its rather traditional frontage. But don’t be fooled by the understated appearance.
The street-facing front two rooms are in fact the only rooms of the original house that remain – everything else has been completely redesigned and rebuilt to suit the lifestyle of a young, urban family. Spatial designer Dan Geyfer, mastermind of this redesign completed by Dan Geyfer Design, says: “Daniel and Leah essentially wanted to turn inner city living on its head. They wanted the convenience of inner city living without compromising on space, function, interaction, flexibility and light.”
“We wanted a design that not only accommodated everyday living, but enhanced it,” explains the couple. “With our young daughter Clementine, we spend more time at home, so we wanted to create a stylish but practical living environment. Not in an over the top/expensive appliance kind of way, but alternatively in a functional way.”
The design process was key to the success of this renovation, which is reflected in the fact that at 12-months the design time was almost as long as the construction time of 14-months. “Extensive testing was done on the spatial design of each floor until every square millimetre of space had been attributed a specific role in the client’s everyday lives,” explains Dan.
With flexibility and interaction as a focus, all spaces and design elements were selected and adapted in order to facilitate and promote conversation and activity between occupants. Good examples of this are ledges, steps and custom seating, as well as built-in furniture and cabinetry, some of which are used across different spaces in the house. All of the home’s fixtures, fittings, materials, finishes and colours are carefully chosen to support the clients’ goals.
There are two living areas, which both flow seamlessly to the outdoors to offer more space for entertaining. The upstairs area, as most areas in the house, shares several uses and functions.
“It is part retreat, part family room, part study, part living and part outdoor living/entertaining,” says Daniel and Leah.
“The interior of this space is highly customised to our lifestyle. There is a custom day bed to lounge back and read a book, have a wine (drinks ledge at end of daybed), play with Clementine or watch TV. This element is strongly integrated with the study in that the timber of the day bed ‘continues’ perpendicular to the bed, becoming a generous-sized desk. The television is literally recessed into the back of the balustrade, so as not to project into the space at all, thus leaving the floor clear.”
The upstairs living space is also the lightest in the house, but space and light are delivered throughout the home through unusually high ceilings and strategically placed skylights, windows and doors.
Says Dan: “From a design perspective the built form is strongly driven by the need to provide natural light to the narrow site and south facing ground floor living spaces.” An internal courtyard in the middle section of the house distributes light into one of the bedrooms, the bathroom and the dining room/kitchen.
As a real point of difference, the whole rear façade of the house is tiled, as are seats, benches, planter boxes and balustrades.
No corner of this house has been left untouched – every millimetre thought through. What results is a clever mix of forms and materials that create an overall impression of space and tranquillity. At a modest 178 square metres of floor space, this home shows how the ‘high life’ is possible in a smaller space and with an affordable budget.
The idea of interaction and flexibility is what drives it all. It doesn’t matter if we are downstairs or upstairs, there is plenty of room for our daughter Clementine to play, read books et cetera, and importantly, participate in activities and interactions with use,” says Leah.
“The spaces accommodate this somewhat ‘organic’ living – there is no designated play room or family room; several spaces, including those external, can accommodate this.”
Daniel adds: “Spaces can accommodate two, three, four or five activities and are not exclusive to any particular one. As a result, we can be ‘living’ the weekend at home, but interaction and activities during these times are more reflective of a short holiday or weekend away.” -R