by Neometro

A Level of Trust

Architecture - by Stephen Crafti

Few architects get the opportunity to receive a completely open design brief from clients. However, in the case of architect Billy Kavellaris, director of KUD Architecture, a ‘free reign’ was only guided by a programmatic brief, such as the number of bedrooms, from his clients, a couple with three children. “I’ve known this client for 35 years. There was trust from the outset,” says Kavellaris, who was commissioned to design a new single-storey house, in Ivanhoe, Melbourne.

Located on a sloping site, with a 1.7-metre fall to the street, the Ivanhoe house appears monumental in the eclectic streetscape (this house replaced a run-down California bungalow). The striking entrance, framed by Spanish white brick walls and an angled tinted glass window, beckons visitors up the broad concrete steps. “From the street, there’s a certain weightiness to the house. But as soon as you enter, it becomes considerably lighter and more transparent,” says Kavellaris, who designed this house around a north-facing courtyard. “The house runs east-west so we focused the design towards the north, where there’s also a high degree of privacy,” he adds.

Photo: Billy Kavellaris

The Ivanhoe house isn’t easy to define. It doesn’t follow the usual layout with bedrooms in one zone, and kitchen/living areas in another. The steel wall sculpture, designed by Kavellaris, located in the entrance, loosely mirrors the floor plan, with a series of squares framing the public areas. Larger volumes, including ceiling heights of 3.5 metres, define the public areas, such as the gallery, together with the kitchen and living areas. Walls are also plaster, painted white. In contrast, the bedrooms, four in total, including the main bedroom, are wrapped in spotted gum, as are the ceilings. “There is a certain ‘tension’ between public and private areas, between the solids and the voids,” says Kavellaris. However, there’s also a sense of ‘blurring’ with planter boxes inserted into some of the defining bedroom walls.

Photo: Billy Kavellaris

Equally blurred is the division between the indoor and outdoor spaces. The porcelain-tiled floors, for example, extend from the kitchen to the courtyard. The white bricks also appear in both the kitchen and in the courtyard. And for alfresco dining, there’s an outdoor kitchen that wraps around the courtyard. One of the walls of the swimming pool is glass-sided, allowing those sitting in the dining or living room to see those swimming in the pool. “We wanted to make the indoor and outdoor spaces appear as seamless as possible,” says Kavellaris, pointing out the timber ceiling that extends beyond the kitchen into the courtyard.

Photo: Billy Kavellaris

While the children’s bedrooms are contained timber-clad boxes, the main bedroom, finished in brick, appears at the top of the site, adjacent to the swimming pool. With its own separate entrance via the formal living room, this bedroom suite includes a dressing area and ensuite, together with a study nook. There’s also a nifty cabana or change room at the top of the stairs, that can be used by those wanting a quick shower after being in the pool.

Photo: Billy Kavellaris

Although the courtyard was one of the driving features in this design, Kavellaris was mindful of the many post-war (1945) courtyard-style homes built in Ivanhoe at that time. “There’s something about courtyard houses that seems appropriate today, ideal for contemporary living,” says Kavellaris, who found the most challenging aspect to be dealing with the areas in the home that overlap. “It’s the grey or ‘interstitial’ areas’ that need to be handled in a certain manner,” he adds. The demarcation between the dining and living area is a case in point. The wall separating the two areas includes a fireplace and a cavity for wood storage. “I wanted to ensure there were sight lines between living areas, but also a degree of separation.”

Photo: Billy Kavellaris

For Kavellaris, the pleasure of this home not only came with having an open brief, but also in creating artwork, such as the steel wall sculpture, as well as the furniture, such as the dining table. He used marble for the tabletop to complement the kitchen’s island bench. “It’s rare to be given such an open brief, but that also comes with a degree of difficulty, and importantly, a level of complete trust, from the outset,” he adds.

Photo: Billy Kavellaris

KUD Architecture can be contacted on 03 9429 4733


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