Park life: Clifton Hill House

Click to enlarge
The extension raises living spaces from the existing house to capture views to the adjacent reserve and Melbourne city.

The extension raises living spaces from the existing house to capture views to the adjacent reserve and Melbourne city. Image: Derek Swalwell

1 of 11
An integrated stair/joinery spine connects the lower level kitchen and upper level spaces.

An integrated stair/joinery spine connects the lower level kitchen and upper level spaces. Image: Derek Swalwell

2 of 11
Bright green joinery an accent that contrasts with an otherwise neutral material palette.

Bright green joinery an accent that contrasts with an otherwise neutral material palette. Image: Derek Swalwell

3 of 11
The upper level living and dining area.

The upper level living and dining area. Image: Derek Swalwell

4 of 11
White tile lends a sense of light-filled spaciousness to the bathroom.

White tile lends a sense of light-filled spaciousness to the bathroom. Image: Derek Swalwell

5 of 11
The living area enjoys an outlook over the nearby public reserve.

The living area enjoys an outlook over the nearby public reserve. Image: Derek Swalwell

6 of 11
A small, high window infuses controlled northern light into the kitchen below.

A small, high window infuses controlled northern light into the kitchen below. Image: Derek Swalwell

7 of 11
Period features have been retained in the existing dwelling.

Period features have been retained in the existing dwelling. Image: Derek Swalwell

8 of 11
White surfaces in the existing dwelling lift light levels.

White surfaces in the existing dwelling lift light levels.

9 of 11
External timber has a charcoal stained finish, mimicking a Japanese technique of timber charring, known as ‘shou sugi ban’.

External timber has a charcoal stained finish, mimicking a Japanese technique of timber charring, known as ‘shou sugi ban’. Image: Derek Swalwell

10 of 11
Entry to the existing dwelling.

Entry to the existing dwelling. Image: Derek Swalwell

11 of 11

Peeking out over its back fence at a nearby public reserve, a house extension in Melbourne’s Clifton Hill brings precious green space into the heart of family life. We talk with Nathanael Preston of Preston Lane, the project’s architects, about transforming what was a gloomy building into a light-filled house for contemporary living.

AAU: What’s the central idea behind the project? What makes it unique?
NP: The central idea behind the project really comes from making the most of the site’s location, which backs onto a public reserve and laneway. This unique opportunity allowed the house to be reoriented so that the new living spaces open to this space at the rear of the block and enjoy views back to the city of Melbourne. The new living spaces are raised half a level from the existing house to maximise the views, allow for some privacy from the rear public reserve and also allow for car parking below, accessed from the rear lane. The compact extension is organised around a central courtyard, located between the old and the new, which also then allows for eastern and northern light into the rear extension. The split-level provides some volume and a small, high level splayed window back to the north infuses controlled northern light into the kitchen below.

AAU: What did the clients want their house to be? Conversely, what didn’t they want it to be?

NP: The clients wanted a robust house that worked on a practical level for their young family, as well as in relation to the site and its opportunities. Opening to the park and city views seemed the obvious solution, together with the courtyard arrangement and operable windows, which introduce good light and ventilation through. They also wanted a sense of fun and were not scared to inject some colour into the house. In fact, we were probably more restrained when it came to colour… perhaps they got us across the line on this decision! Our clients wanted to transform the existing dark house into a series of light filled contemporary spaces to live everyday family life in – not a precious show piece. We find clients are increasingly receptive to the use of bold colours, which we have learnt, when used, should be embraced. You need to really go for it – no half measures! In this instance, a bright green painted brick splashback and matching joinery finish provides an accent that contrasts against an otherwise neutral material palette.

An integrated stair/joinery spine connects the lower level kitchen and upper level spaces. Image:  Derek Swalwell

AAU: Does this project build on any ideas from earlier projects by the practice?
NP: Joinery and detailed threshold spaces between inside and outside are really important in all our projects. This project specifically features a plywood clad seat/reveal to provide shading for the north facing window and, simultaneously, create a usable space externally. Internally, the integrated stair/ joinery spine has a dual purpose. Firstly, it connects the lower level kitchen and the upper level spaces, where the spine mediates the scale and becomes the TV and fireplace joinery. Secondly, the lower stair treads that angle outwards act as an extended casual seating area to the kitchen area.

External timber has a charcoal stained finish, mimicking a Japanese technique of timber charring, known as ‘shou sugi ban’.  Image:  Derek Swalwell

AAU: What lessons did you learn from this project that you’ll carry into future work?
NP: During the course of the project, there was constant discussion about the use of a Japanese technique of timber charring, known as ‘shou sugi ban’ for the external timber cladding. We even used a blowtorch and made some samples to test the effect of this on timber. We were excited at the result, which was a beautiful, oiled midnight finish. While this unfortunately didn’t get across the line on this project (the external timber has a charcoal stained finish) it’s definitely on the radar down the track! Exploration and experimentation with materiality forms an important part of the design process on every project. We are constantly learning and experimenting with the different properties of various materials and are excited when perhaps a more standard and even cheap material is used in a different, exciting way that perhaps it wasn’t intended for.


More projects

Bush modernism: Ivanhoe House

Bush modernism: Ivanhoe House

This “open and transparent” addition is tucked neatly behind a weatherboard house, taking inspiration from the client’s love of modernism and fond memories of growing up in a Merchant Builders home.
Coastal barn: Glass House Residence

Coastal barn: Glass House Residence

Representing the socially conscious ideologies of its designers, this cleverly stitched-together, barn-like family home is “engaging, honest and refreshingly straightforward.”
 ‘Bold and refined’: Orange Regional Museum

‘Bold and refined’: Orange Regional Museum

Crone Architects’ addition to the civic precinct of Orange in New South Wales is a highly refined building and suite of generous public spaces that “grow” out of the landscape and connect seamlessly with the existing pedestrian network.
Urban patterns: Waterloo Street Townhouses

Urban patterns: Waterloo Street Townhouses

This converted warehouse project responds to increasing housing density with quality spatial thinking. The design of the townhouse insertions respects the original structure’s heritage while adding a new layer of function and detail.
Intimate volume: Higher Ground

Intimate volume: Higher Ground

DesignOffice has teamed up with the owners of famed Melbourne cafes Top Paddock and The Kettle Black to turn a cavernous former power station into a refined and welcoming all-day dining venue in the CBD.
Artisanal values: Fish Creek House

Artisanal values: Fish Creek House

Robust, tactile and honest, the design of this new house responds instinctively to its setting, celebrating the human experience and artisanal values.

Most read

2017 WA Architecture Awards

2017 WA Architecture Awards

The Australian Institute of Architects announced the winners of the 2017 Western Australian Architecture Awards on Friday, June 23, at the Crown Towers II Ballroom.