Space for Calm

The Inside of this North Melbourne Home is a Space for Calm


Despite the dark and heavy street appeal, the inside of this North Melbourne home is a space for calm.

You cannot judge a book by its cover. That’s certainly the case with this North Melbourne home that’s enjoyed a recent makeover thanks to Timmins+Whyte Architecture and Design.

From the street, this Victorian terrace is grand and imposing. It has an almost dark sense of majesty as it presides over the unassuming footpath below and a sense of history that’s befitting of such a high heritage-value home.

Step inside, however, and you’ll be amazed at the sense of calm. The feeling in this home is one of relaxed joy, almost as if you are on vacation or at a contemporary day spa. It’s a true delight to be in — yet this was not always the case.

When the homeowners purchased this property, a poky single-storey ‘80s extension was to the rear of the terrace. The existing pool had a dated timber enclosure over it and the garden had overgrown, suffocating the external space. “It hadn’t had any maintenance for quite some time prior to the new works,” Sally Timmins of Timmins+Whyte Architecture and Design says. “But the biggest issue was light, given the original building design is not for the Australian climate and the house was really tired.”

This initial design included a cramped kitchen, which suffered from regular thoroughfare due to its position. The room was a conduit, allowing residents to pass from the front to the back of the house, and it was separated from the living spaces, which only added to its unsuitability.

“Like most heritage houses, the living room and bedroom spaces had beautiful high ceilings and generous floor space, while the kitchen, bathroom and laundry were cramped, dark, little spaces,” Sally says. “Our approach to the design was first and foremost about rectifying those issues. From there, it was about understanding the family’s needs and personalities to tailor the house to suit them.”

This new extension sits in a similar footprint to the previous one — but that’s where any similarities between the two renovations end. While the old space made little design sense and failed to capture the natural light on offer thanks to the home’s north-northwest situation, this new design capitalises on natural light, diversity of space and fluidity of material and shape.
“We demolished the existing dark extension that housed the dining/living area and gutted a bathroom and kitchen,” Sally says. “The new extension included a new kitchen, dining and living space, a study, two kids’ bedrooms, a laundry and two bathrooms, as well as two external courtyard spaces.”

Sally credits the older home and the overgrown state of the yard as two of her design muses. “The inspiration came from reacting to the original dark and heavy internal spaces and an overgrown rear yard,” she says. “We created the opposite for the living spaces and ensured every space had a view to the outside, including the laundry and bathrooms.”

This celebration of nature is evident not just in the building plan but also in the materials. Timber flows throughout the home everywhere from the kitchen to the bathroom in a multitude of delightful textures. A stone splashback in the kitchen flirts with a sense of grandeur without overwhelming the space, and the shape of the features — curved, rounded, ribbed and flowing — is a mirror of Mother Nature’s design style.

This was done to help prevent the house from feeling cramped and to allow the clients to live, cook, gather, lounge, read and socialise in one sunny externally connected space.

“In order to give the functions definition, ceiling volumes and textures were utilised to create zones,” Sally says. “A double-height void space connects the landscaped spaces to the east and west, both visually and physically, and a balcony area becomes a part of the space to read or converse. The scale of the void is grand like the original heritage-listed part of the house at the front. But, unlike its Victorian, heavy, dark, street address, the extension is a light, bright, breathing space of calm.”

As well as feeling like a natural oasis, this home features environmental considerations. “We used passive design techniques to allow natural ventilation and passive cooling,” Sally says, adding that orientation was also important to allow for direct light into the house all throughout the day. “There are solar panels on the roof and a large water tank (bladder) under the front verandah for the gardens.”

In summer, hot air rises and is expelled out via an openable skylight complete with rain sensors to help keep the house cool. “The house is also very well insulated and includes double-glazed windows,” Sally says, adding that the slab was insulated, too, so the temperature inside the home is quite stable year-round. “There is no air-conditioning.”

Outside, the garden enjoyed a similar makeover to the home’s interior. A bike shed with a roof garden is practical and environmentally beneficial, while the pool enjoyed a transformation befitting of this tranquil home.

This article originally appeared in Home Design #24.4 – click here to SUBSCRIBE