Stephen Crafti goes Inside the home of architect Peter Miglis, a fully transformed former brick cottage in North Fitzroy that is a true representation of what he considers the cornerstone of great architecture.
Architect Peter Miglis, Principal of Woods Bagot Architects, lists three things that form great architecture; “light, space, and air”. While all three features are a given of any space, it takes a talented architect to maximize these qualities in a home. “There’s a sensory quality that you should immediately feel when you enter a house,” says Miglis, who has created this feeling in his own home, in North Fitzroy, Melbourne.
Natural light permeates through a courtyard, lounge and dining areas (click to enlarge)
Miglis, his wife Marietta Felice and their young son Jordanno, were enjoying some of these qualities in their warehouse style apartment nearby. However, requiring more space, as well as a garden, the search began for a house on a reasonable site (problematic given most inner-city terraces occupy a small footprint). The couple found a derelict brick cottage, in the same ownership for decades. The house was extremely basic. However, the land size (a double block occupying 400 square metres) meant that Miglis could design a sizeable addition and have more than enough room for a garden. “I grew up in South Australia and was accustomed to having space around a house,” says Miglis. “I had a vision from the outset that this house would be a sanctuary, a retreat at the end of the day”.
The brick cottage, occupying half the site, appears virtually intact from the street. Complete with tuck-pointed façade and verandah, the cottage is complimented by a crisp contemporary addition. “The cottage was completely gutted. “I’ve really only retained the façade and party brick wall,” says Miglis.
Miglis’ contemporary extension side by side with the original cottage facade
Past the heritage façade, the house opens to pristine white spaces, dissected with an internal courtyard. On one side of the courtyard is a study, and on the other side are the open plan kitchen, dining and living areas. Rather than insert walls to delineate spaces, Miglis cleverly played with volumes. The lounge area, for example, features a seven metre high void. In comparison, the dining area and kitchen have conventional ceiling heights. However, it’s the outdoor ‘rooms’, including the internal courtyard and back garden, that draw one’s eye to the edges of the site. “I wanted every room to open to a garden. The pleasure that comes from smelling herbs, flowers, or fruit trees (a lemon and olive tree appear in the central courtyard) is immeasurable,” says Miglis, who regularly keeps the large sliding glass doors open.
An internal courtyard creates light, space and air – the cornerstones of good architecture for designer and owner, Peter Miglis
Linking the interior spaces to the outdoors are strengthened by a few simple devices. On one side of the house, extending from the study to the living areas is a low hearth, barely 300mm above the concrete floor. This 20 metre long ledge can be used for seating or for displaying objects and artifacts. And rather than stop the kitchen bench at the back doors, Miglis extended the bench outside to included barbeque facilities. To ensure sight lines weren’t impeded, Miglis created a simple interior using a limited palette of materials. The kitchen, for example, features a Cararra marble island bench and the joinery is MDF with a white polyurethane finish. Stainless steel benches complete the composition.
A kitchen bench breaks through the inside of the house to extend into an outdoor workspace
Miglis describes his design as appearing relatively ‘simple’. “It actually takes considerable effort to make things appear simple. The window frame jams were set within the masonry. The tracks for the sliding doors were also recessed to be flush with the concrete floors,” says Miglis. However, for this house, fine-tuning the design was pleasurable, with Miglis not having to ‘defend’ design decisions, as it was his own home. ‘Often when you’re designing a house for a client, a concept is watered down. With this house, I could stay true to the initial vision”.
The clarity of Miglis’ vision is also carried through on the first floor. Two bedrooms, including the main bedroom with ensuite are light-filled, with the latter having views of the garden. A sewing room, located in the middle of the plan, also benefits from the void over the lounge. “Coming from a warehouse, you appreciate volume. The ‘DNA’ from our previous home can certainly be felt here,” says Miglis, who continues to appreciate the generous spaces in the home. “I often say to friends that I enjoy the ‘joy’ in this house, it’s light and shade and the continual aromas it provides”.
A panorama of the courtyard, dining and lounge area of the home of Peter Miglis (click to enlarge)
North Fitzroy House by Peter Miglis
Principle, Woods Bagot
Peter can be contacted on 0439 707 048.
(click to enlarge)
By Stephen Crafti
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