The stunning Eyelid House from award-winning architect Fiona Winzar is an example of how intelligent design can transform the ordinary to the extraordinary
Speaking with Renovate & Extend, Fiona Winzar describes in detail the extraordinary transformation of the Eyelid House. “Although my practice is young, I have been a registered architect for 15 years and have been working in architecture for 20 years. My philosophy about architecture is that every design project is unique, involving a process that starts with a blank canvass, with no preconceptions. Listening to each client is vital; location and budget presents a new scenario that demands an individual response.
“Transforming this typically dark and pokey single-fronted Victorian terrace into a generous light-filled open-plan three-bedroom and two-bathroom house was the challenge. Upon getting to know the clients it became evident that a pristine white box with designer furniture was out of the question. Accordingly, the design approach is responsive to the clients’ way of life, the site and the existing building. Part of the explorations involved taking familiar or traditional materials like corrugated iron, masonry, steel, plywood, stained glass and tiles and using them in unexpected ways both inside and out. Simple and complex geometries are combined with clean and rustic materials.
“The key design feature of the extension to this house is the roof form. It appropriates the pitched corrugated iron roof commonly found in the old fabric of South Yarra. The shape has been manipulated like an eyelid and is highlighted with contrasting stripes of Colorbond, mimicking the traditional striped verandah roofs of many Victorian terraces. The eyelid shape prevents any awareness of the gigantic neighbouring three-storey apartment block and provides shade and weather protection to the rear glass façade facing east. It’s an effective solution toward sustainability. The result is a contemporary design that simultaneously creates a sense of romance and the rustic.
“Despite the brilliant location, there were some major difficulties and constraints to overcome. The site is affected by a heritage overlay, restricting alterations to the front part of the original dwelling and any visual impact on the street caused by an extension, plus the site was super tight with restricted access. A domineering three-storey apartment block along the south boundary presented privacy issues and visual bulk and more privacy issues came with a busy three-storey hotel at the rear.
“Primarily the brief was for a friendly family home with an open-plan kitchen, dining and living area that could open onto a rear courtyard, three bedrooms, a generous main bathroom, and an ensuite. The kitchen had to feature a raised bar/bench to conceal mess from the open-plan dining and living areas. Wheelchair access was required to the ground floor by way of a ramped pathway from the front gate to a side door. A Bosch solar, gas-boosted hot water system had to be incorporated. The option to collect rainwater was required.
“The original front porch was dilapidated and needed replacing. The clients wanted wheelchair access for the ground floor, so while the front entry was replaced with recycled bluestone stairs, a ramped and paved pathway is provided for a rear entry point directly into the living area at the back. The original front part of the house includes three rooms off a long corridor and was refurbished, while the rear part of the house was ‘bowled over’ to make way for a new two-storey extension. The front rooms have been recycled as two bedrooms and a main bathroom (in place of the old living area). The front bedroom was adapted to allow for French doors and sliding timber blinds to open onto the front porch, making the bedroom more open and making the verandah more useful as a place to play or enjoy the sunset.
“The corridor leads straight into the new living area at the same level, with an open tread stair up to the first floor. The openness of the stair and windows above and beyond allows for an inviting view from the front door through to the courtyard. The light captured exclusively from the east and west is used to increase daylight available to the old corridor. The main living area is a generous open plan with a dining area and galley-type kitchen along its southern wall. Built-in seating elements gently direct how one should use and furnish the living and dining areas. There is a full-length bench seat that doubles as a daybed below the stair, including storage underneath, a cantilevered concrete seat adjacent to the fireplace and an external concrete seat into the courtyard.
“The first floor includes the main bedroom, a study space overlooking the courtyard, an ensuite and rear deck with views to the beautiful copper dome of the Jewish Synagogue and city skyline. The dome of the Synagogue is recaptured at the top of the stair landing as one descends the stair.
“Colour is used sparingly but has a significant impact. The stained-glass, Turkish-tiled splashback to the stove, the bathroom tiles and soft furnishings feature blue and green tones. The emphasis on blue and green hints at water, sky and greenery in this virtually urban environment.”
Eyelid House, South Yarra, 2006
Awards: Residential Houses Architecture Award 2007
Royal Australian Institute of Architects Victorian Chapter
The project was designed by Fiona Winzar Architects
103/129 Fitzroy Street, The George, St.Kilda Vic 3182
Phone: 03 9593 6464
The project was built by Third Pig Constructions Pty Ltd
Phone: 9681 8755
Licence number: DB-U 13655
Engineer: MacLeod Consulting, South Yarra
Photographer: Emma Cross, Gollings Photography, St.Kilda
Mob: 0416 213 564
FLOORING: New ground floors inside and out — ‘Boralstone’ polished concrete in ‘Latte’
New first floor in Victorian ash
All timber floors finished in ‘Bonatec Traffic’ matt finish
WALLS: Boral Designer Blocks in Alabaster
KITCHEN: Benchtop: ‘Quarella Quartz-based Alabaster’
Joinery: ‘Brims veneered ply panels in Victorian Ash’
Tapware and sinks: Reece
SANITARY FIXTURES + BATHROOM FITTINGS: Fittings and tapware from Reece, Armadale Vic
Tiles from Buckleys Ceramics, Armadale Vic
LIGHTING: Decorative pendants from ‘ECC lighting’ and ‘Richmond lighting’ and all other fittings from ‘Ambience lighting’
HEATING/COOLING, AC, VENTILATION, SHADING: Fireplace by Jetmaster
AC single unit by LG
Stained-glass design by Fiona Winzar and fabrication by stained glass consultants and fabricators — Norm Bielby of Armadale Stained Glass, Vic
OUTDOOR: Landscaping, decking, shading or paving details: Boralstone paving