Until a recent renovation by Archier, this double-fronted, weatherboard Victorian home in Coburg was rundown, with poor insulation and a lean-to in dire need of attention. The connection to the garden was also lacking, with the heavily trafficked kitchen buried deep within the house.
For the avid gardener who lives here, accentuating the outdoors (including two existing, mature fig trees) was one of the most important elements of the project. In response, Archier designed the extension to be as set back into the garden as possible. ‘Although we knew it was going to be large, we wanted the form to be recessive and have the foliage pop against it, making the most of the existing planting already on the site,’ says Chris Gilbert, founding director of Archier. The use of dark timber cladding gives the home a natural, tactile appearance, while emphasising its natural surrounds. ‘From very early on I saw a glass box with dark accents – a lantern in the garden perhaps,’ Chris says. ‘The glass now reflects the landscape, and the plants contrast strikingly against the burnt black timber, really amplifying the garden.’
The interiors also feel like an extension of the garden, incorporating natural materials throughout. While no detail has been spared in the design of these rooms, they retain a comfortable, homely feel that is too often lost in newly designed projects. ‘Ultimately, the project needed to be its own entity with a soul and presence, not just a glass box with pretty finishes,’ says Chris.
Adding to that casual, welcoming feeling is the kitchen, which features a sunken level and a relatively low island bench. ‘A typical kitchen island can dominate and command a space, but having it lowered means it’s the same height as the dining table,’ Chris says. Kids can access it from the dining side easily, and the dining chairs can interchange between the table and the bench.’ The client’s styling is also to thank for creating this atmosphere. ‘There’s a calmness – it’s homely and special without being overly curated. It’s the perfect balance of liveable and beautiful,’ says Chris.
The design of two hammock-like netting ‘rooms’ intended for reading and relaxing instills an added sense of playfulness within this home. ‘We wanted to provide an extra rumpus space for the kids, but because of the desire to have the building recessed within the landscape, we were constrained for space,’ explains Chris. ‘The net provided an additional hangout space which was somewhat undersized, but wouldn’t require any furnishing.’ Both nets are suspended above the ground level, and can be seen from below, enabling quiet spaces that still feel connected to the remainder of the house.
Chris says the success of this project is largely due to his relationship with the client, which resulted in a true design collaboration. ‘I think it shows that architects aren’t necessarily the purveyors of designs; we’re here to facilitate a conversation about how a particular client can live better and it can be a really nice process,’ he says. ‘In this case we brought a home to life, as well as a friendship.’
View Archier’s website for more of the architecture studio’s projects.