141020 Cut Paw Paw House 0985

Grand Designs Australia: Inside out house


Blurring functionality and new techniques make this Melbourne home one of a kind

From the creation of “dwalls” — doors/walls — to the bathtub in the backyard, barriers were pulled down to create something special for this residence.

Comprising a renovation and extension, the brief architect Andrew Maynard was given by homeowners Derek Rowe and Michelle Templeton was to make the house “ridiculously inside out”. Giving an architect permission to let their mind run wild is a rare opportunity that must be firmly grasped with both hands. And Andrew did just that. “Cut Paw Paw is a structure that’s deliberately incomplete,” he says. “We not only tested successful ideas, we also left the building incomplete. The central space is an unclad frame within and surrounded by garden,” he continues. “It is both inside and outside, a new building and an old ruin. It is both garden and home.” Beginning the project with an old weatherboard home, Derek says “the place was really rundown; in some places it was about to fall down. It was perhaps the worst house in a long and lovely street.” Michelle adds that when they stood at the back door, they couldn’t see where the back fence was. “And that was the moment that sparked our interest,” she says. With plans to combine indoors and out, Derek and partner Michelle wanted to blur the “distinction between house and garden” as well as create a place that seemed “somewhat tailored to the architect’s perception of us as people”.

Prior to beginning the project, Andrew says the clients requested the pre-war weatherboard bungalow be demolished and replaced with a two-storey sustainable house. With initial plans scrapped, Michelle and Derek were convinced to make the most of what they had instead of replacing it, thus reducing their environmental footprint. “Sustainability is at the core of Cut Paw Paw,” says Andrew. “We have run the new form along the southern boundary so it’s soaked in sunlight. The openings and windows have been designed to optimise passive solar gain, thereby drastically reducing demands on mechanical cooling and heating. All windows are double glazed and water tanks and solar panels have their place.”

With a home that focuses on fluidity, “dwalls” were the perfect solution to let the couple switch up areas in their home. “The bedroom dwalls allow us to position the new elements up the hallway to wherever we wish them to begin,” says Derek. “This design note in turn becomes an echo of the dining area, where garden and house blur.” With rails etched into the timber floorboards, the master bedroom can be completely closed off or left open on display. With its floor-to-ceiling brick fireplace, white feathered chandelier and side access to the backyard, the bedroom is a rustic but shining example of what the home stands for — old world meets new.

Separated by a steel-framed bi-fold door, the dining room and the outdoor area seamlessly connect. An extensive backyard featuring a standalone tub is a quirky element that brings a whole lot of charm to the spacious area that is dotted with green shrubbery and trees.

All in all, the project was a labour of love for the owners and all parties involved. “The day we moved in, the builders wouldn’t leave,” says Derek. “They loved this place and felt such a strong sense of pride and ownership that they kept coming back for ‘one last thing’.”

Living in a new home gave Derek the motivation to push forward in his career, and he was approached to write his first two-act musical by a theatre producer just two weeks after moving into the house. “I feel the house assisted greatly in giving me a space to write, record and pitch music professionally, as well as offering such a calming, serene environment,” reflects Derek.

With both Derek and Michelle moving forward in their lives, what’s better than coming home to a house that is truly and uniquely their own?

We love
A bathtub under the sun. You can clean off and work on your tan at the same time

Design tip
Having two kitchen islands ensures there’s ample space to work on dinner and socialise with friends

Photography by Peter Bennetts Studio & Tess Kelly