by Neometro

Architect’s Nest

Architecture - by Stephen Crafti

Architect Emilio Fuscaldo, director of Nest Architects, and his partner, writer Anna Krien, were getting to the point, like many Australians, of renting, rather than buying a house. Just prior to having children, now with two sons Rocco and Valentino, the couple was renting an apartment in Brunswick, Melbourne. “We never thought we’d get into the housing market, given the prices. The dream was slipping away,” says Fuscaldo.


Photo courtesy of Nest Architects

It was fortuitous of Anna to see an advertisement for a small block of land, approximately 160-square-metres in area. Subdivided from an Edwardian house, the ‘green’ square, complete with a green narrow passage down one side of the allotment (only 800 millimetres), ticked all the boxes. Relatively close to the city (seven kilometres) and a vacant site to build on, the couple could see the potential. And unlike all the neighbouring homes in this street, this site is orientated to the north and has dual access from a rear laneway. The 11-metre wide site also meant privacy, as well as allowing for generous northern light to enter the home.

Photo courtesy of Nest Architecture

Photo courtesy of Nest Architects

As Krien was essentially Fuscaldo’s client, the brief was for a light-filled home that felt warm and comfortable. “Anna mentioned the words a ‘1960s beach house”, says Fuscaldo, a typology that was informal and unpretentious, not unlike the couple themselves. ‘The problem with many period homes is they can be quite cold and foreboding,” he adds.

Photo courtesy of Nest Architecture

Photo courtesy of Nest Architects

After some initial schemes, Fuscaldo produced a simple plan comprising a brick single-storey house with burnished concrete floors. Encompassing 80 square metres, the size of many apartments, the Coburg house features an open plan kitchen, living and dining area orientated to the north. The two bedrooms, separated by a shared bathroom are located to the south. And as outdoor space was at a premium, a rooftop garden was included in the design. Accessed by ladders secured with steel poles, this garden was designed to produced vegetables rather than for recreation. “At the moment there’s pumpkins, but next year we’re thinking of covering the entire roof with tomato plants,” says Fuscaldo. “The idea of a roof garden was initiated by council restrictions, limited building heights at the rear to single-storey,” he adds.

The home’s interior is pared back. Concrete floors and exposed brick walls complement the large timber-and-glass sliding doors. One of the few built-in joinery units is the plywood bookshelf, separating the living area from the main bedroom. The bookshelf’s central glass panel allows northern light to filter into the bedroom. To further increase northern light, the walls of the bedrooms push out to the boundaries.


Photo courtesy of Nest Architecture

Photo courtesy of Nest Architects

However, apart from the built-in shelf in the living area, the joinery is loose and freestanding. The kitchen’s pantry, for example, is a timber unit with open shelves, once used as a cobbler’s rack. And instead of an island bench, there’s a small moveable table. “Built-in joinery can ‘shrink’ a place. With loose furniture, there are always sight lines beyond. We can also move furniture around,” says Fuscaldo.

The Coburg house is modest in scale. There’s only one living area, rather than two as often now featured in contemporary homes. And unlike most houses, this house has no street presence. “We find most people use the laneway when they come to visit. Those with prams would also find it challenging with the narrow side path,” says Fuscaldo.


Photo courtesy of Nest Architects

This house has been tailored to suit the needs of a family with two young children. With a relatively tight budget, the house is described by Fuscaldo as being his ‘own patch of dirt’. “We don’t feel that we’ve compromised. It suits our needs and you get used to living in a small house,” says Fuscaldo. “There’s always the roof when you need a little space on your own,” he adds.


Nest Architects can be contacted on 03 9329 2390


Words by Stephen Crafti


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