by Neometro
 

New Kid on the Block

Architecture - by Stephen Crafti

Kensington is not known for its strong contemporary architecture, with many of its inner city streets lined with Victorian cottages and larger period homes. However, architect Tim Hill’s new house, designed for his family, creates a strong architectural statement in the neighbourhood. “Victoria (Tim’s partner) and I were living around the corner, in a house I designed. But it was never really designed as a family home,” says Hill, co-director of Tandem who with Victoria, now has a five-year-old son.

Photo: John Gollings

While the couple wasn’t ensure exactly what the next move would be, they got friendly with neighbours, who were about to sell their 1950s shack nearby and move to the country. It was an opportunity Hill could not pass up. “The house was dilapidated, with many of the windows boarded up to keep out the rain,” says Hill. Although the house was ‘basic’, it came on a 312 square-metre site and importantly was on a corner that offered a northerly aspect. There’s also a heritage-listed brick building on the site, once used as a stable for horses. Used by the former owner, an artist, as a studio, the 1880s building was transformed by Hill into a separate guest wing.

Photo: John Gollings

However, the 1950s cottage, with its strawboard walls, was well beyond repair. “I wasn’t quite sure what form the house would take, but I was keen for it to engage with the garden on all fronts,” says Hill. The triangular-shaped site, opposite a railway line, assisted Hill in coming up with a suitable triangular form, like the site. The property has a 15-metre-wide frontage and tapers to five metres at the rear. But rather than being sharp-edged, the new two-storey house is curvaceous, coming into the site to create protected outdoor nooks. The home’s ‘pleated’ façade, made from steel, accentuates the form, as do the recycled bricks used to form the home’s base and anchoring point. “We decided to use a lot of recycled bricks found on site. It also seemed appropriate to pick up on the materials of some of the neighbouring homes,” he says.

Photo: John Gollings

The shape of the triangle informed the layout for the two-storey house. At the apex of the triangle is the kitchen, with its singular back leading to the cottage-style garden and detached guest wing. On the street side is the dining alcove, with banquette-style seating and also a sunken organic-shaped lounge, divided from the entry by built-in joinery made from poplar ply. A similar arrangement can be found on the first floor, with each bedroom, including the main bedroom directly above these functions. Pivotal to Hill’s design is a double height void, with a set of retractable doors linking the open plan areas to the northern garden. When one stands on the ‘bridge’ (the link separating the two bedrooms from the main bedroom) and these doors are fully retracted, there’s a sense of being outdoors. “We wanted there to be a strong connection to the garden wherever you are in the house,” says Hill.

Photo: John Gollings

Materials are simple and fairly robust. Polished concrete floors feature at ground level and timber features extensively throughout the home. Bathroom pods, for example, are wrapped in timber and poplar ply was used extensively for the ceilings. “The poplar is one of the lightest shades of timber,” says Hill.

Other features of the Kensingston house include a variety of window shapes, framed in Corten steel. Placed to frame selected views, these windows also allow the neighbourhood to be ‘read’ differently depending on where one stands in the house. Hill also incorporated large porthole-style windows to the south. “We wanted to be able to purge the hot air during the warmer months,” says Hill. “Having the doors open below creates important cross ventilation,” he adds.

The kitchen in the Kensington house is a pivotal point when family and friends come over. The organic-shaped island bench, made from recycled bricks and a concrete bench, is framed by poplar pine joinery. “It is quite a simple house, but you could say that it’s quite complex at the same time,” says Hill, who enjoys sitting in the sunken lounge (400 millimetres below ground level), with the garden beds framing his view. “You literally feel as though you’re sitting in the garden, particularly when the northern light hits your back.”

Tandem can be contacted on 9600 4117

 

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