“This house (a Californian bungalow) was literally overshadowed,” says architect Rob Kennon, referring to the neighbour’s roof deck and high brick walls.
Rather than try and go higher or angle a few walls with a new orthogonal extension, Kennon and his team referred to a doughnut-shaped extension, also constructed in concrete like the original late 1920s bungalow. “I was inspired by Roy Ground’s Hill Street house in Toorak (the prototype of the National Gallery of Victoria). But my design was really a response to create privacy from neighbours,” says Kennon.
Rob Kennon Architects retained the original rooms below the steeply pitched roof, with two of these rooms used by the two children. Each one benefits from doors to the deep front verandah. “We say this verandah is an extension to the children’s bedrooms, and a place where they could hang out with friends,” says Kennon, who also reworked the attic space to create a place where one of the children’s drum sets could be played without disturbing others.
Unlike the original layout which led one from the front door and through to the rear of the house (to a rudimentary extension that included a kitchen and living areas), there are now three navigation options: One is through the original front door, or another is via a side entrance through the garden designed by Eckersley Garden Architecture (E-GA). But most of the time, the family take a few additional steps and follow the path that slices through the new addition to arrive at the rear courtyard space.
Framed by curved glass walls, all retractable to allow a constant flow of air, the rear extension focuses on the sky, natural light and the manicured lawn within the ‘doughnut’ – shaped garden. And rather than a series of corridors that take up valuable space, here the delineation between rooms is considerably looser and each space benefits from direct access to the courtyard garden. The main bedroom, walk-in dressing area and study all lead to the garden, as does the open-plan kitchen, dining and partially separated living area.
The kitchen is also less traditional in approach, conceived as a galley-style design with a triangular Cararra marble island bench. “This bench wasn’t really conceived for preparing meals. It’s more of a place where you perch, have a drink or simply switch on one’s laptop,” says Kennon, who concealed the kitchen appliances and pantry behind a wall of joinery. “It’s about enjoying the northern sunlight as much as the pleasure of catching up for meals.” Concrete floors in the kitchen and living areas also act as a heat bank by absorbing the winter sun, while the concrete roof over the new extension, complete with a roof garden, ensures the house remains cool during the summer months. Where it wasn’t possible to harness direct light, such as in the ensuite to the main bedroom, strategically placed skylights have been employed.
This unique house was treated more as segments rather than walls enclosing rooms that place restrictions on how one uses the spaces. And rather than treat the garden independently, here, the garden and house blur. Kennon and the owners were also happy to ditch the garage or onsite parking to ensure the garden, rather than the car, dominated the streetscape. And in keeping with the low fences of neighbouring properties, this house also features a low front fence, allowing a strengthened connection with the community. The result is not only a fine home for a family, but an award-winning home that shows that there are other ways to live, well beyond a glass box that’s simply attached.