Nic’s House Northcote


The principle notion behind this renovation is that a typically dark and narrow terrace house may be transformed into a sunny and spacious home within a modest building area. As such, the design focuses upon bringing controllable sunlight back into the centre of the house.

The original Victorian context has been retained, however the new design addresses the north facing garden accompanied by primary living spaces at the rear. This is a different value system to that of the original Victorian approach, which was primarily centred upon the presentation of a fine street facade to the public, with service areas accessible at the rear. By addressing the street view in this manner the renovation remains consistent with the traditional terrace house and with that of adjacent properties, but as one moves through the property towards the rear a gradual transformation takes place. What eventuates is a design which references that of a typical small Northcote warehouse.

Organized into two zones, the house comprises bedrooms and a study to the front, living and dining to the rear, and is separated by central services facilities. Pragmatically, this provides useful sound isolation. The single living space is larger than normal to allow flexibility, while the long corridor is reduced in scale by opening up the bedroom with double doors. The ‘saw tooth’ roof of north facing clerestory windows address the client’s requirement for light and space throughout the house. This sense of spaciousness is enhanced by the use of long flexible storage cupboards which minimise the need for extraneous furniture.

The landscape approach is bold, creating visual interest from both inside and outside. The long external storage cupboard allows the retention of a sense of space in what is a relatively small backyard.

The cost of the northern highlights is directly offset by valuable energy saving benefits. They provide more natural light further into the building and have openable high windows that passively release excess heat in place of air conditioning.

Sustainability characteristics include: a relatively small footprint for a three bedroom house; high insulation values; passive solar control with appropriate sun shading; active systems such as solar hot water; the use of highly engineered composite windows that are very airtight; and general use of recycled materials.

Post occupancy, the owners have indicated their joy of living in the house due to the light and views of the sky from different angles through the roof. Little surprises like these greet the family every day, adding strongly to the overall architectural experience of this house extension.

  • Location:
    Northcote, Melbourne, Australia
  • Builder:
    M + M Colautti Pty Ltd
  • Photographer:
    Rory Gardiner
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