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  • Life, art and politics combines this 1940's Reno
  • 1940s homeHome renovationMelbourne renovationrenovate magazineRenovation

Life, art and politics combines this 1940's Reno

ARTICLE Clare Chapman PHOTOGRAPHY Peter Bennetts and Tess Kelly

The engaging spaces of this inner-Melbourne home were borne of discussions between client and architect about life, art and politics.

Words such as nurturing, stimulating, inspiring, character and discourse were thrown about; and it was clear to architect Andrew Maynard from the outset that this was a project that would tell a story. It would be a story about more than just the clients, who lived in the property with their eight-year-old twin boys. It would be a story about life and society, about community and about legacy.

The home is sited in Melbourne's inner-north near the winding Yarra River, and has views over the chimneystacks of the old Amcor paper mill. The majority of houses in the area are humble weatherboard and brick abodes. It is an area of close-knit community-driven residents who often congregate in the neighbourhood for a barbeque or catch up.

So it was with these ideas and the site's wider context in mind that Maynard put pen to paper and started forming ideas for what would be a dramatic renovation project that offered striking spaces and narratives, both externally and internally.

The renovation needed to provide considerable extra space while being adaptable to change as the children grow, as well as incorporating a sense of playfulness and community.

"As homes increase in size, they increasingly appear as hostile monoliths," Maynard said. "When a home is extended, often the monolith crashes into the original, the later looking like an alien cancerous growth on the former. Tower House is anti-monolith - a village externally and a home internally. The house defies logic as the exterior appears to be a series of small structures, while internally the space and functions are large and connected."

Instead of simply extending out the back of the house, which would have created a west-facing extension, the main addition - which houses the new dining area, kitchen, master bedroom with bathroom, WIR and study - was placed along the site's southern boundary, creating an L-shapes house when connected with the original.

The original house now holds the boys' two bedrooms, a shared bathroom, the laundry and powder room, and a living space.

"Within the original house we have hidden sliding panels which allow the large, shared rooms to be divided into small spaces," Maynard said. "This allows for a variety of different activities to take place, whether shared or private."

The second extension is a playful rendition of a study area. Oddly, the street is missing a number of five; this house is number three, and it stands next to number seven. "We decided to introduce our own number five to the street, in the form of the boys' study tower," Maynard said.

The tower explores the notion of creating a vertical home, which is generally against the norm in Australia where houses, like the land itself, are wide and flat. "The boys' studio is a wholly vertical space with a bookshelf running from floor to ceiling. The boys' desks are at the base of the studio where they can studiously work."

Yellow open-gridded fiberglass steps lead up on to a net, which hangs in the cavernous vertical space above. Windows look out to the surrounding trees - pine that offer added verticals in the tower's immediate context.

"It's a really calm place, and an inspiring one, for both the boys and their parents. It's a study space without just being the typical desk area. This is a space that's inspired, while also relaxed and comfortable. What better place could there be to read, than floating up there in the treetops?"

But it isn't just the tower that utilises a playful, relaxed aesthetic. The boys' father also has his own spot in the house - a room in the roof space above the kitchen in the main additions, which is lined with synthetic grass and contains nothing more than a banana lounger and a book. Due to its conspicuous location above the kitchen, it creates a unique hideaway in the centre of the house.

The boys' mother also enjoys her own sanctuary in the renovated home in the form of a reading room designed for thought and contemplation. This room is slightly lower than the rest of the house and sits at the far end of the main addition. Dut to its lower elevation, while sitting at the deck, it almost feels like you're submerged in the garden. "Lined with dark spotted gum, the library room has an age and wisdom that is in contrast to the playfulness of the boys' study."

The exterior materiality of both the main extension and the study tower is a play on texture while connecting the structures with local materials. The main extension is a collection of what appears, from the exterior, to be individual structures butted against one another and connected by panes of glass. Each 'structure' is of a differing height and pitch, which gives rise to the village-like feel.

The extension makes use of an industrial profile white Colorbond metal, which with its strong lines adds a distinct verticality. This is paired with cedar shingles to reflect the context of the site. The interior utilises a relatively pared-back palette with predominantly polished concrete floors, plywood walls and white plasterboard.

The garden in the central courtyard created by the L-shape of the house's new footprint is wild; the clients wanted a garden that appeared to be threatening to take over. The front garden, though, is tended, communal vegetable patch; neighbours are invited to help themselves, and if they wish, do some gardening from time to time.

All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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  • Delilah Southon
  • 1940s homeHome renovationMelbourne renovationrenovate magazineRenovation

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