Architects EAT have created a family home from a former Caulfield Racecourse stable. Retaining the original brickwork, the home is named after its former resident, the horse Kazoo.
This Edwardian-style house in Caulfield East, Melbourne, occupies a prominent corner site overlooking the Caulfield racetrack. Once home to ‘Kazoo’, a prize-winning horse who was awarded ribbons in the 1920s, the house, as well as Kazoo’s stable, were waiting for a new life. Architects EAT designed the owners’ beach house, fully clad in timber. For their city home, they were after something more urbane. “Our brief was to create a diametrically opposite experience from the beach house. But with two young children, they also wanted the house to be robust and low-maintenance,” says architect Albert Mo, director of Architects EAT.
Fortunately, the double-brick period home was in relatively good condition on the architects’ first inspection. The front portion of the house, with its generous bay window, simply required cosmetic touches: built-in cupboards for the bedrooms and painting the walls and ceilings. However, the rudimentary 1950s additions, made from fibro-cement, were too far gone for redemption. “There was also no connection to the outdoors,” says Mo, who included generous sliding doors and concrete treads to the courtyard garden.
With a relatively open brief, apart from providing a separate bedroom suite for the parents, Architects EAT’s initial concepts centred on the work of constructivist artists, predominantly from Russia and working in the early 20th century. “We love the unique shapes, in particular the way they are drawn together in the one painting,” says Mo. So while the period home is relatively rectilinear, with bedrooms and a living area accessed from a central corridor, the additions, including a spiral steel staircase and steel gridded wing play with shape as well as light.
From the outset of this renovation, Architects EAT was drawn to the exterior spaces rather than starting from the interior. The northern courtyard garden, for example, features a series of forms that set up a dialogue with each other. There are built-in concrete benches that allow the children to peer through one of the stable’s original brick walls. There’s also a new rendered brick wall that forms both a fireplace and a place for wood storage, as well as a pizza oven. The architects also included a sandpit below the spiral staircase that leads to the parents’ terrace. “Often architects focus on the interior spaces and work outwards. But from the start, we wanted to focus on the architecture,” says Mo, who refers to the northern courtyard as ‘activity central’.
With the emphasis placed on the outdoors, the interior spaces appear recessive. The new wing is simply clad in forged steel to diffuse northern light and create privacy. Inside, the palette is as simple, with polished concrete floors and timber veneer joinery. “A lot of the materials were ‘off the shelf’ rather than customised,” says Mo, pointing out the steel grid soffits.
However, to say the interiors are simple would not be entirely true. The main bedroom, for example, located on the first floor, features a generous walk-in dressing area) complete with freestanding joinery. A customised unit, with a glass top, allows for jewellery and smaller items to be displayed. The ensuite bathroom has also been finely detailed. A photomontage of Kazoo (on the scale of 1:1), taken on the racing track in the 1920s, wraps around the toilet cubicle. “There’s a slight industrial aesthetic in the design. It tended to suit the original stable as well as allowing the original home to ‘breathe’,” says Mo.
While the children enjoy spending time in ‘activity central’, the parents have the pleasure of looking out over the racecourse from the large terrace outside their bedroom. And while the verdant turf provides a wonderful vista, so do the home’s original brick chimneys in the foreground. “It’s simple, robust and not pretentious,” says Mo. “It’s also a complete shift from the owners’ beach house,” he adds.
By Stephen Crafti
Photography courtesy of Architects EAT