by Neometro

Baffle House

Architecture - by Stephen Crafti

This double-fronted brick house in St Kilda, Melbourne, came with a 1990s addition, a cement-rendered ‘box’. For the owner, an avid collector of unusual plants, the home’s orientation, together with its poor connection to the garden, hastened a renovation. “The house needed to be opened up to the north, rather than its previous focus, predominantly towards the east,” says architect Clare Cousins, director of Clare Cousins Architects.

Photo: Lisbeth Grosmann

Originally built in the early twentieth century, the Edwardian house was reworked. Some walls were removed without sacrificing what was previously a three-bedroom house. What is now the main bedroom was slightly reduced in size and an adjacent room was reworked to form a generous walk-in wardrobe and ensuite bathroom. What was formerly the kitchen is now a dining area, with generous glazing to the east to allow for an unimpeded view of the garden, designed by Eckersley Garden Architecture. “The garden initially felt quite restricted and there wasn’t sufficient space for our clients’ two large dogs,” says Cousins.

Photo: Lisbeth Grosmann

Cousins removed the ‘90s addition and added an entirely new pavilion, this time orientated to the north. Its skillion-shaped roof, rising from 2.7 to 4.2 metres brings the northern light into the core of the open plan kitchen and informal living areas. However, rather than simply floor-to-ceiling glazing to frame the garden, Cousins cleverly framed the northern elevation with a steel portal, or baffle, not dissimilar to that found on an exposed bulb, with its ‘blinkered grid’ across the light source. Approximately 400 millimetres in depth, this ingenious screen not only diffuses the northern light, but also adds a new dimension to the renovation. “I see this portal like a piece of kinetic sculpture. The light, and equally important, shadows, animate the interior during the course of the day,” says Cousins, who was also conscious not overshadowing neighbouring homes.

Photo: Lisbeth Grosmann

To ensure the screen remains the ‘hero piece’ for the design, Cousins designed a fairly neutral and understated interior for the new addition. Limed oak joinery and tiled benches in the kitchen complement the polished concrete floors. Painted recycled bricks and limed oak joinery in the lounge create a neutral backdrop for a few highlight features, such as the rolled steel flue that ‘hovers’ above the kitchen bench. Cousins also included some subtle detailing, with a limed portal leading through to a pantry and laundry (one side of the limed portal opens to additional kitchen storage).

Photo: Lisbeth Grosmann

While the soaring steel portal creates the ‘applause’ in this renovation, it’s the clever reworking of spaces in the original home that equally requires acknowledgement. Previously, the formal living area looked in on itself. Cousins has created a number of new insertions, both to the north and to the adjacent dining room, to allow sight lines to be drawn to the periphery of the 400-square-metre property. Bathrooms were also reworked to create a more contemporary edge. And on the edge of the garden, the Santa Fe-style cabana, with its rendered pink brick walls, was simply updated with a new coat of charcoal black paint. This allows the exotic plants to become a feature. “We saw this project as one of problem solving, bringing in additional light, while embracing the garden, something the owner is passionate about,” says Cousins, who appreciated the faith placed in herself and her team in reworking what was previously, a fairly dark period home.

Photo: Lisbeth Grosmann

The home still appears similar to others in the leafy bayside suburb. However, while the period detail is still intact, there’s a strong contemporary layer that has touched almost every room. “Our client didn’t need any more floor space. What was lacking was the quality of the spaces and being able to enjoy the garden from every room,” adds Cousins.

Clare Cousins Architects can be contacted on 03 9329 2888.

Photo: Lisbeth Grosmann



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