by Neometro

Frame House – A Minimalist Aesthetic

Architecture - by Stephen Crafti

The owners of this house in Malvern, Melbourne, left behind a highly decorative Edwardian home. Although it offered period embellishments, the couple, with two children, preferred a more pared back aesthetic. And when they came across a generous site (approximately 1,400 square metres) in a leafy street, the opportunity to match their aesthetic with architecture became a possibility. “Our clients visited Sue’s house (Sue Carr, Principal of Carr Design Group). Her place was an important part of our initial conversations,” says architect Chris McCue, Director of Architecture at Carr Design Group.

The large site came with a 1940s two-storey home that bordered the front fence. Relatively shallow in depth (six metres), and poorly positioned on the property, sacrificing this abode for a new customised house provided the strongest option. And although there was a swimming pool and tennis court on the site (both of which were positives), the pool was buried in the back garden and the concrete slab of the tennis court was badly cracked.

Photo: Gorta Yuuki

Photo: Gorta Yuuki

Like Carr’s own house, featuring clean lines and a minimalist palette of materials, the Malvern house is a simple rectangular concrete form framed by a double-height black steel awning. Past the high brick rendered front fence, one is immediately inside another world, with dramatic sight lines leading to the rear of the property. “We saw this design like a pavilion in a parkland setting,” says McCue, who worked closely with landscape designers Verdigris. The home’s façade, clad in an anthracite zinc, also intensifies the garden setting. “It’s like entering a landscape by Capability Brown (an 18th century British designer),” adds McCue.

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Photo: Gorta Yuuki

A more recent inspiration for the Frame House, as it’s referred to, is the eminent Australian architect Guilford Bell, known for his precise symmetry and order. “Bell did come into our minds, particularly in the ordering of spaces and the precise three-metre modules that informed the dimensions of each space,” says McCue.

Photo: Gorta Yuuki

Photo: Gorta Yuuki

While the previous house was relatively shallow and pushed to the front of the site, this new house, predominantly constructed in concrete, extends across the eastern portion of the block. The Frame House was designed over three levels (three metres of dirt was removed) to create the basement car parking, wine storage and media room, together with general storage. At the front of the house, at ground level is the formal sitting area together with a generous bedroom suite for the owner’s parents who lived in rural Victoria. And orientated to the north are the generous open plan kitchen and living areas, framed in floor-to-ceiling glass windows and doors to embrace the surrounds. A concealed core of this level, including a scullery and workstation, appear invisible behind flush doors. “Our clients were keen to keep as much as possible out of view, leaving a simple minimal palette of materials and forms to come to the fore,” says McCue.

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Photo: Gorta Yuuki

The fireplace, which also doubles as the credenza for the television set is simply detailed in black zinc. Likewise, the kitchen, with its Cararra marble island bench, appears recessive when combined with the white two-pack painted joinery. As with Guilford Bell’s signature of symmetry, two glass doors, either side of the fireplace lead to an alfresco dining area.

The bedrooms, including the main bedroom on the first floor, are accessed via a dramatic black steel ribbon-like staircase. Exquisitely detailed, it’s just one of the many details in this house that remind one that ‘less is considerably more’.

And as with the owners’ former home, there’s still a north-south-facing tennis court and a swimming pool. But unlike before, where these two features were poorly situated, they now form an integral part of the design. This latest house epitomises the strong rational approach taken by Carr Design Group. And although the design may appear quite simple, it clearly shows a high degree of sophistication for which the group is known.

Carr Design Group – 03 9665 2300


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