by Neometro

Tegle House

Architecture - by Stephen Crafti

Tegle is Danish for the word ‘brick’, a material that’s beautifully expressed in a new house designed by Inarc Architects. As well as a high brick fence constructed in a Danish brick imported by Petersen into Australia, the house, located in the Melbourne suburb of Armadale, extensively features exposed brick walls. “In one of our early conversations, we showed our clients this brick, quite exquisite,” says architect Reno Rizzo, co-director of Inarc Architects, who worked closely with the practice’s co-director, interior designer Christopher Hansson. “We knew this brick would add texture to the house, as well as providing its unique character,” adds Hansson.

Photo: Peter Clarke

The owners, empty nesters scaling down from a large house with a swimming pool and tennis court in a nearby suburb, were initially contemplating updating their family home after their children left. “We presented them with a number of schemes and then heard no more,” says Hansson, who found them at the end of the phone a couple of months later. They had purchased a 550-square-metre site in Armadale, with a fairly unremarkable 1930s brick detached villa. “Although such dimensions are generous by inner city standards, the couple came with a considerable brief to build a new two-storey house (with basement car parking); a five-car garage that would accommodate vehicles for their extended family and friends, two living areas, a study and three bedrooms, including the main bedroom. “We find that scaling down doesn’t mean less amenity. We often find that people expect more on a considerably reduced block of land,” says Hansson.

Photo: Peter Clarke

The garden left behind, for example, was anticipated for the new property.

Photo: Peter Clarke

One of the opening remarks from Inarc Architects’ clients was ‘wanting to be challenged’. Just because they were older and heading into their retirement years, they weren’t prepared to ‘play it safe’. So rather than a brick box, Inarc Architects conceived a three-level home with an animated zinc-clad façade. The first floor is wrapped in a light grey zinc, while the ground level features a darker bronze-coloured zinc, each with a ‘standing seam profile’ to add depth and texture to the home’s façade. The steel ‘hoods’ that frame the home’s western windows to the street, also activate the façade. “We wanted to diffuse the western light as well as create privacy from neighbours,” says Rizzo. As discrete is the timber-battened Japanese-style screen that acts as both security and to eliminate insects. “We’ve further reduced the afternoon glare by providing external venetian blinds,” he adds.

As the site is relatively modest, the architects decided on a courtyard-style house, with the kitchen and dining area at one end, and the formal living area at the other, leading to a courtyard. At the rear of the property is the main bedroom, ensuite and a dressing area, complete with a retreat adjacent to the courtyard that can be used for watching television or movies. The owner has his ‘golf-swing’ room in the basement, where any golf course in the world can be projected onto a screen and a simulated game can occur at the switch of a button.

Photo: Peter Clarke

One of the more unusual aspects of the Armadale house, apart from the living areas and main bedroom level being located at ground level (as this would be congenial well into the owners’ twilight years), is the location of the kitchen. Situated at the front of the house, slightly elevated above the garden, the kitchen is connected to the streetscape, with the owners being able to see neighbours strolling past. “We’ve used a similar arrangement with a house we designed in Ballarat. Having the kitchen at the front, rather than at the rear, makes you feel more connected to the neighbourhood,” says Rizzo.

Photo: Peter Clarke

However, the owners also wanted to be able to ‘close’ the kitchen when entertaining their friends and family. A sliding door/wall allows the kitchen, with its sculptural marble island bench, to be screened from the dining area if required. Before the owners moved in, they had also earmarked particular feature walls to accommodate certain works of art. However, when the Danish brick walls were complete, they found it difficult to place art against them. “They’re so tactile,” says Rizzo, who was still able to include a number of plaster walls for the couple’s paintings.

Key to the design is a slither of a void between the staircase and the main passage. Featuring a pendant light, designed by Issey Miyake, this narrow space is illuminated by a skylight above. “It’s an extensive program, something that’s often seen in a large family home. Here, we’ve slightly reduced the scale, but at the expense of compromising each space. There’s still a sense of openness and fluidity,” adds Hansson.

Inarc Architects can be contacted on 03 8626 0700


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