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This project is one of several new centres that involve the adaptive re-use of existing commercial building stock.

These projects present unique design challenges requiring equally original solutions. This design involves the removal of a large portion of the existing roof to meet the department’s outdoor play space regulations.

We are a small architecture firm based in metropolitan Melbourne and often work in the residential sector. We wanted to share our perspective on the current discussions around social housing and housing affordability in the property market. This post references a Radio National podcast called the Minefield between Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens titled ‘Housing (un)affordability: Is social housing a moral imperative?’ We also refer to a piece reposted by Architecture Australia titled ‘Tackling housing unaffordability: a 10-point national plan.’ Both pieces can be found through the links at the bottom of this post.

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Clients will often approach us with hopes of improving the liveability of their homes though will have concerns of overcapitalizing their properties. More often than not, our professional opinion is that if you are going to be there for another 5 to 10 years, it doesn’t matter too much. You’ll capitalise that expenditure over time and enjoy living in it. If you do something that’s well designed, that suits your needs, that will naturally attract a fairly large sector of the market later when you do sell. We recommend not designing with future occupiers in mind unless you’re selling soon. Overall, there can be a balance and a reduction in risk of overcapitalising when a client doesn’t make their home too specific for them but rather, rely on us as professionals to make that space work no matter who’s using it. Good design will always come back to the intentions of efficiency and usability. Which is a priority that quite often, comes above looking good. Looking good comes as a natural predecessor.

De Carlo Images

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A recent project that involved internal, interior based works, was in a family home in Ascot Vale. The project is a great example of how smaller aesthetic changes can make monumental differences to the experience of a home. The client first approached us with the main concern being the aesthetics of the living, dining and kitchen areas of their house that they’d lived in for over 20 years. This encompassed the entire rear area which was very dated and very dark.


Before: the dated, dark kitchen.                            After: the new kitchen in adjusted location

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The Processes Involved and Services Available
Our interior design services are most often engaged in conjunction with our architectural services. Though other circumstances may involve client’s purchasing a new house where they want to adjust interiors to allow an infusion of their own style. Quite often, if clients have lived in a house for a long time but have entered a different life phase (a growing family, older children moving out, retirement etc.), rather than opting for a total renovation or moving to something smaller or larger, a refurbishment of interiors can be a great way to respond to changed needs, especially when a client is working with a lower budget. In other projects, clients have contacted us when the finishes in their home feel a bit dated or worn. Adjusting some key elements in the interior of these client’s homes can allow a house to be refreshed, increasing the usability of spaces and the joy in inhabiting them.

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Passive Systems
For this project, just as in all of our projects, a range of passive solar design practices were applied to the scheme. When considered in the initial design phase, they can be quite straightforward. The large expanse of glazing is facing north toward the sun. An overhang at 63 degrees shades the glazing to let the winter sun in while blocking out summer sun. A pergola structure snakes around the side of the building. It becomes larger on the western side to shade lower western sun. The form of the sun shading reflects how you’d naturally use the space at different times of the day. Where the overhang widens, a shadier, cool spot is created that can be used in warmer weather.

RG927c_0037Above: The North facing glazing screen by the pergola structure

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Maximising Space Efficiency
More often than not, the thing that drives budget is building area. The cheapest scheme always involves less building. Being smart about the planning, means reusing repurposed space in a simple way to allow for less building area. The other driver is the complexity of construction. The chosen scheme did more in less building and encompassed quite a simple structure over the top with the amount of external walls limited i.e. not too many ‘ins and outs.’ We didn’t really change the main fabric of the existing house. We treated the old and new as two distinct areas. Budget-wise, this was an important approach.

201504_WEBSITE PLANS_170419Above: The finalised plan. The area to the east is the existing cottage with a new bathroom, laundry and ensuite extension. To the west is the new area with kitchen, dining, living and study areas connecting to the north facing garden.

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The Clients
The clients for this project were a couple living in Brunswick with their two young children. Originally, their issue was that they had relatively modest requirements, partly due to money, but also because they wanted to be sustainable. They saw the benefit in opting for a small footprint. The clients had previously worked on an initial design with a different architect that didn’t provide a satisfactory outcome. The other architect had designed quite a large, two-storey renovation which, by the time it was priced, was twice their budget. The clients were really disappointed and so the first discussion with us was – “Well, it may be a nice design, but we really don’t want to build something that’s twice our budget.”

RG927c_0029Above: The front yard of the Allan Street Cottage
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