To the letter: M House

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Striking clerestory windows funnel northern light into the extension, the winter sun falling onto the dining table.

Striking clerestory windows funnel northern light into the extension, the winter sun falling onto the dining table. Image: Peter Bennetts

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Demolishing the existing lean-to structure, the architect designed a bold new volume to house the kitchen, dining and living spaces.

Demolishing the existing lean-to structure, the architect designed a bold new volume to house the kitchen, dining and living spaces. Image: Peter Bennetts

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The home is clearly read as an “M” from the southern elevation; the two distinct gables speak of the original structure.

The home is clearly read as an “M” from the southern elevation; the two distinct gables speak of the original structure. Image: Peter Bennetts

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The lowered courtyard, carved out of the addition, has decking that doubles as seating.

The lowered courtyard, carved out of the addition, has decking that doubles as seating. Image: Peter Bennetts

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Spaces serve multiple functions: a kitchen end becomes an office nook; a piano transforms the eatery into a music room. Artwork (L–R): painting by Rosanne Freak-Poli; Friedensreich Hundertwasser print, <em>Rainforest</em>.

Spaces serve multiple functions: a kitchen end becomes an office nook; a piano transforms the eatery into a music room. Artwork (L–R): painting by Rosanne Freak-Poli; Friedensreich Hundertwasser print, Rainforest. Image: Peter Bennetts

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The efficiently planned bathroom features a sunken bath with bright blue handmade tiles.

The efficiently planned bathroom features a sunken bath with bright blue handmade tiles. Image: Peter Bennetts

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Items such as tiles, the dining table and pendant lights serve as a reminder of their makers and the collaborative process for the home’s design.

Items such as tiles, the dining table and pendant lights serve as a reminder of their makers and the collaborative process for the home’s design. Image: Peter Bennetts

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The front facade of the original Victorian bungalow has been refreshed.

The front facade of the original Victorian bungalow has been refreshed. Image: Peter Bennetts

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Make Architecture's renovation and extension of this Victorian bungalow amplify the simple pleasures of daily living and confirm the ideals of quality over quantity.

When Anna and Lloyd, the owners of M House, first laid eyes on their Northcote property, it was admittedly not love at first sight. The exterior of the Victorian bungalow had become bland and failed to spark interest in its unsuspecting owners-to-be. They had driven past it numerous times on the pursuit of their perfect home, but it wasn’t until an inspection a week before the auction that Anna and Lloyd knew their search was over. Taken by its setting, they also saw opportunities in the generously sized backyard and the sequence of spaces already established.

It was several years before the couple with two small children began to ponder the idea of renovating. Weighed against the demands of work and raising a young family, this decision was not made lightly. Their budget was modest, their plan conceptual and at first imagined as somewhat of an invigorative exercise. However, when Mel Bright of Make Architecture was appointed as their architect, a solid brief started to take shape and conversations began about the way they currently lived in the house and what they thought their lives there could be like.

The home is clearly read as an “M” from the southern elevation; the two distinct gables speak of the original structure. Image:  Peter Bennetts

The house’s north–south orientation meant that the two front bedrooms were regularly bathed in sunlight, with the rear of the house receiving only small amounts of light and often shrouded in darkness. A third bedroom and centrally placed lounge and kitchen followed, while a lean-to structure erected at the back of the building housed a bathroom, laundry and toilet. During early conversations between Make and the clients, it was revealed that weekends were often spent soaking up the morning warmth in the front bedrooms. With such longed for amenity afforded only to these two rooms, clearly the ensuing extension would have to offer its occupants access to sunlight at both the front and rear of the house.

In its original stages, much of the design work was also concentrated on balancing the plan for the new portion against the clients’ desire to retain as much backyard and outdoor area as possible. Demolishing the existing lean-to structure, the architect designed a bold new volume to house the kitchen, dining and living spaces, with a lowered courtyard carved out of the addition. Its decking also acting as bench seating, the courtyard allows space for an outdoor table and presents itself as an additional breakout zone.

The existing three bedrooms and their fire mantels were refreshed, while the central room became a designated lounge and place to “hunker down” in the evenings. The addition of two skylights draws controlled light into the walled-in space, ensuring its connection to natural daylight is maintained. Timber flooring runs throughout the house, its finish changing from dark to light to signify the transition between old and new.

Items such as tiles, the dining table and pendant lights serve as a reminder of their makers and the collaborative process for the home’s design. Image:  Peter Bennetts

The additional form takes its inspiration from the existing double-hipped roof, the success of this geometry becoming evident as the design developed. The new portion was sliced at either end, creating two distinct gables that speak to the original structure. The relationship between the two elements is best viewed when standing at the rear of the house, looking back through the angling geometry of the clerestory windows at the seeming mimicry of the existing roof, which now sits just below the new, its two chimneys projecting out from its silver corrugations. These clerestory windows funnel northern sunlight into the extension, the winter sun falling directly onto the dining table.

The front facade of the original Victorian bungalow has been refreshed. Image:  Peter Bennetts

Internally, the ceiling can’t help following the angles of the “M,” as it is distinctly read from the southern elevation. Lining boards, painted white, fold into the ceiling and appear to extend through the facade to become the external timber lining of the deep eaves and side walls. Throughout the interior, the materials palette is representational of both the clients’ taste and an aesthetic consistent with Make’s design ethos and philosophy. Items such as the handmade kitchen tiles, the dining table and the pendant lights suspended over it were chosen not only on appearance, but also for the connection to their makers that would continue to remind Anna and Lloyd of the collaborative process through which this project was completed (“Oh yeah! These are Bruce’s lights!”).

For both the architect and clients, M House was “about the modest things that tried to make their lives better.” Luxuries such as ensuites were abandoned to keep costs down, their saved resources injected into more worthy areas. And as is the case in much of Make’s work, spaces in this house do many things: a kitchen end becomes a home office nook; a piano set off the dining space occasionally transforms the eatery into a music room.

For all concerned, this home is about the small pleasures, making design efficient and the creation of delightful spaces that confirm the ideals of quality over quantity. For Anna and Lloyd, it’s also about the memories of a process wonderfully enriched by its contributors.


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