Suburban Verve

Architect David Luck inserts bold new structures to increase the useability of an Edwardian cottage in inner-city Melbourne.

Architect David Luck has long relished the challenge of making small inner-city spaces feel big. His latest project – a renovated, double-fronted Edwardian house in Melbourne’s Prahran – does exactly that, and was ready just in time for its owners to embrace summer.

With delicate lacework and a tessellated, tiled verandah, the house retains its period facade, a vital part of the brief to David. Other requests were straightforward and utilitarian: a low-maintenance, sustainable design offering ample daylight, off-street parking, a guest bedroom suite and the ability to entertain in a casual way. “You walk into this house expecting a typical ‘cottage’ feel and yes, there is that, but it very quickly becomes something else that’s far more exciting,” David says.

A pair of square, newly restored traditional rooms lies just inside the front door on either side of the central hallway. Polished ironbark floors gleam before their open fireplaces, beneath three-and-a-half-metre ceilings and decorative cornices. The larger of the two is now the guest bedroom, with a dressing area (including a discreet pull-down ladder to an attic) and bathroom with marble finishes. The smaller room looks into a central garden courtyard, which buffers a segue to the new rear extension and second storey. Here the house shifts from closed rooms to a long, open zone incorporating the kitchen, living and dining areas. A full-width retractable wall of glass opens to the paved backyard flanked by a small garden – an outdoor room beneath the canopy of a second-storey overhang, for alfresco entertaining or private parking.

Stacked marble boxes contain the handbasin and bath in reference to the kitchen joinery.

Stacked marble boxes contain the handbasin and bath in reference to the kitchen joinery.

Image: Shania Shegedyn

David has created an arrangement of open, dynamic spaces at the rear to encourage movement. “I flipped the kitchen over. We put the living room on the side towards the front of the house so that it faces the inner courtyard, and put the kitchen at the back facing the dining area. In this way, it becomes a hub space that relates to activities in the backyard as well as the interior living area.” The kitchen features capacious drawers beneath a white stone bench, adjacent to separate, concealed laundry and pantry facilities. The two volumes that contain them are linked aesthetically by alternating caramel-coloured marble brackets at their outer edges, creating a seven-metre-long ensemble that starts at the kitchen and terminates at the hearth near the living area. “This stretches the space, and visually joins the kitchen and dining area with the living area,” David explains. Another visual device is the white ceramic tile side fence, which appears to be the living room wall when viewed through the large windows.

Upstairs, David flipped the spaces again. “Where the downstairs is open and breezy, the upstairs has walls and a sequence of rooms connected in a linear fashion,” he explains. Designed as the owners’ retreat, the first of the two upstairs rooms is a living area that faces a private deck inserted between the old and new roofs. The main bedroom follows, with a dressing room that doubles as a passageway to the ensuite from the stair lobby.

At the rear of the house, above the carport, is the owners’ favourite spot – the ensuite. Flooded with early morning sunshine from the louvre-laced outdoor deck, this ensuite features a bath and a matching marble vanity, which appears to float thanks to a mirrored splashback extending to the floor. The double-sized shower has a glazed door that slides to enclose the adjacent toilet. David’s spatial philosophy is largely expressed in the north-facing slot windows that run the length of the upper level. They offer a panoramic view of the surrounding Prahran rooftops and chimneys, and also give the impression that the wall beneath them (which runs nearly the complete length of the house) and the building itself is a single great, long structure.

The guest bedroom with polished ironbark floors and lofty ceilings.

The guest bedroom with polished ironbark floors and lofty ceilings.

Image: Shania Shegedyn

Careful articulation of the old and new parts of the home also contributes greatly to the overall enjoyment of the house. “It’s a great approach to take because you can go for broke on both – the old can look old and genuine, and the new parts can be fully aligned with the new appliances and technologies they enclose,” David says. These new elements have strong sustainability credentials – 4000-litre water tanks, gentle northern daylight for critical living areas, neutral mass and solar panels that send unused power to the public grid.

“Bringing in light from lots of different directions contributes to a sense of wellbeing,” says David. “Positioning yourself in a great urban space allows you to live in it comfortably for a long time and not feel the need to move to the suburbs.” And with endless warm months for entertaining on offer, these owners will have a glass and crackers in hand – and the doors wide open – for many years to come.

Products and materials

Colorbond Klip-lok roofing ‘Surfmist’.
External walls
Acrylic rendered compressed cement sheet.
Internal walls
Timber stud work with square set plasterboard.
Natural anodized aluminium box sections double glazed.
Natural anodized aluminium-framed clear glass; hollow core MDF on concealed sliding tracks.
Recycled ironbark; ceramic tiles; carpet.
Giro pendant.
Miele appliances; Stone Italia benchtop.
Villeroy & Boch WC; Zero basin; Bette Solo bath; Fantini mixers.


David Luck Architecture
South Yarra, Melbourne, Vic, Australia
Project Team
David Luck, Alice Davies
Engineer Bruce Adams Consulting Engineer
Site details
Location Prahran,  Melbourne,  Vic,  Australia
Building area 220 m2
Budget $400,000
Category Residential buildings
Type Houses, Residential
Project Details
Status Built
Design, documentation 3 months



Published online: 1 Feb 2010
Words: Annie Reid
Images: Shania Shegedyn


Houses, February 2010

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