Continuing his series of profiles on new contemporary Australian residential architecture, Stephen Crafti visits Cut Paw Paw by Maynard Architects – a highly original cottage restoration both by name and by nature.
The owners of this double-fronted weatherboard cottage in Seddon, in Melbourne’s inner-west, decided this was to be their last home. While the modest lodgings had been added to over the years, it was in relatively poor condition. The generous site allowed for a number of renovation options, however Michelle Templeton and partner Derek Rowe were unsure how to proceed with the renovation. “They originally spoke about adding a two-storey addition. I think in the back of their minds they wanted to leave as much space as possible for a back garden,” says architect Andrew Maynard of Maynard Architects.
So when Maynard suggested a single-storey addition, with as much, if not more garden, the scheme prepared was immediately taken on board. But unlike most single-level extensions, this one completely embraces the garden. While the original four front rooms were retained (two either side of a central passage), the new wing has a warehouse feel, pivoting around the internal garden.
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All images by Peter Bennetts
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The add-hoc lean-tos were replaced by one generous open plan kitchen, living and dining room. The pitched ceiling carries through to the lightly covered courtyard, clad in steel, and featuring a series of steel portals. And instead of creating a hard edge, the courtyard, which links the studio, is blurred. Like sitting beneath a tree, Maynard designed a number of steel ‘branches’ or in this instance, sheets, to provide protection from the northern sun. To fully embrace the outdoors, the architects even included a freestanding bath in the courtyard.
One of the first questions raised by Maynard to his clients was about how they wanted to live. “They provided us with a list of rooms, one of which was designated for Derek’s music and audio production business. Given how much time he spends working from home, it didn’t make sense to just walk into another room off a corridor,” says Maynard, who located the studio on the opposite side of the courtyard garden. “It seemed crucial to place the studio as paramount to the design,” adds Maynard. So one wall for the outdoor room is a red brick boundary wall and the other is supported by a series of portals.
The treatment of the floors also blurs the lines between indoors and out. The kitchen, for example, features polished concrete floors. However, the adjacent dining area is finished in timber, like the deck that extends into the courtyard garden. There’s also a small patch of garden on the edge of the dining area, planted with herbs. But to appreciate the full effect of the design, one needs to retract the glass sliding and bi-fold doors. In the warmer months, the inside and outside are read as one.
However, there is considerably more to the Seddon house than an innovative way to bridge the indoor and outdoor areas. The original portion of the house has been cleverly reworked. Two of the front rooms on one side of the passage have been completely transformed.
What was originally a bedroom is now an office for Michelle. Part of this space was redistributed for the couple’s walk-in dressing area to their main bedroom. And rather than just the usual plaster wall, Maynard inserted a large plywood sliding door that leads to the passage. When this door is left open, instructions for breakfast in bed can easily be heard. “They recently had a party in the house. The bedroom door was left open and people were sitting on their bed. You also saw people sitting on the stairs (there’s a slight change in level between the original and new wings of the house),” says Maynard.
The kitchen is also unconventional. As well as two island benches, a request from the clients, the bathroom and laundry is concealed behind a sculptured plywood wall. “We were pushing boundaries on this project, but few if any ideas were met with resistance,” says Maynard. “They don’t have children so really do they need rooms that go unused?” The Seddon house isn’t about resale or trying to keep up with the Jones’. It’s about celebrating the way a couple chooses to live and making sure they’re aware of these options from the outset.
Andrew Maynard Architects
03 9481 5110
By Stephen Crafti