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Grand Designs Australia: Opposites Attract


A residence that proves opposites attract

HOUSE: Richmond House

LOCATION: Richmond, Melbourne

Our natural surroundings are often the biggest influencers when it comes to design, and the best homes are those that take cues from the suburbs in which they reside. In this case, a residence by Rachcoff Vella Architecture is all things Richmond — cultural and historic with a dash of eccentricity for good measure.

This home was once a poorly renovated 1930s brick dwelling until architect Tony Vella was approached by a young family to design a house that would grow and adapt with them. Maximising the city views and embracing the suburb’s character was also high on the agenda, but the concept was simple: create a contemporary home.

But that’s easier said than done, especially when dealing with obstacles that can’t be overlooked. “The house required careful design consideration when it came to the clients’ brief, the inherited heritage overlay and streetscape restrictions,” explains architect Tony Vella.

In order to preserve the heritage-protected elements, Rachcoff Vella collaborated with SJB Planning to ensure the original residence and new design could exist in harmony. “The challenge was to surgically unpeel the badly built additions to allow for a clean break from the heritage house and create new living platforms,” says Tony.

“It resulted in a built form that could stand alone, juxtaposed proudly against the existing building. Like a campervan hitched to the family work horse, the two forms complement and contradict each other, demonstrating how old and new can occupy the same space comfortably.”

Continuing with the concept of connecting a ‘campervan’ to the existing house, the connection between the structures was intentionally defined, with rooflines playing a significant role in highlighting the differences between the two forms.

The driving force is the blond Scandinavian flooring which inevitably becomes the hero when wrapped into the joinery, stairs and walls

A project full of contrasts, the light brickwork on the façade of the home works against the dark timber cladding, establishing a sense of light and shade. “Soft touches to the existing building included a new front porch and timber slat fence,” says Tony. “This allowed for some cohesion between the new works and the refurbishment of the old building, while important period details were maintained internally and externally.”

In the three bedrooms, three living spaces, kitchen, dining room, ensuite, bathroom, garage and roof terrace, the clients chose to work with a palette that was all about black and blond. “A calm and simple interior was part of the brief, which would allow the occupants and the busy urban environment to take centre stage,” says Tony.

“The driving force is the blond Scandinavian flooring which inevitably becomes the hero when wrapped into the joinery, stairs and walls.” To conceal services, a black box was inserted into the middle of the first floor, creating a pod that also offers a light-filled stairway to the rooftop terrace.

“This black and blond theme is evident throughout both interior and exterior, noticeably the bricks vs timber relationship,” says Tony.

Challenging the stereotypical family home, this residence mirrors the urban context it now forms a part of. “This project was important as it challenged our thought process,” says Tony. And with challenges come the greatest rewards, as proved by the Richmond House.

Written by Annabelle Cloros

Photography by Tatjana Plitt


Originally in , Issue 5.6