5th August, 2020.
Named after the plantation-grown timber sourced from the United States and used to clad this house, the Tulipwood House in Melbourne’s bayside suburb of Melbourne is found in a cul-de-sac, a short stroll from the beach.
Replacing a 1930s brick house that sat awkwardly on its triangular-shaped site (fanning out from the street), the Tulipwood House is at the other end of the spectrum, sinuous and fluid. “We wanted to engage with the site, as much as reduce the overlooking from neighbouring properties,” says architect Kate Fitzpatrick, co-director of Auhaus, who worked closely with co-director, architect Ben Stibbard, and landscape architect Tim Nicholas from TNLA.
In contrast to the stocky 1930s house, the new black-stained timber home was conceived as two interlocked curvaceous forms one being single storey and the other one spread over two levels. Between the two is a curvaceous painted steel staircase set within an atrium and flooded with natural light via skylights. Unlike many houses, where walls delineate rooms, here there are few internal structures, with areas such as the living room loosely delineated by a chunky pale grey column that accommodates a fireplace. “We felt it was more important to create sight lines to the garden, with the various curves in the home creating ‘pockets’,” says Fitzpatrick, pointing out the separate library nook on the ground floor.
Relatively modest in size (approximately 280 square metres), given the 500-square-metre block could have taken a larger home, the Tulipwood House was still able to provide four bedrooms upstairs (including the main bedroom, ensuite and dressing area), together with a guest bedroom at ground level. “Our clients, a couple with three young children, were more interested in the spaces feeling generous,” says Fitzpatrick, who was also mindful of including robust finishes appropriate for a young family.
So floors are polished concrete, complementing the concrete plinth that elevates the staircase. Likewise, the kitchen features midnight blue joinery and a marble splashback and benchtops. “We wanted the kitchen to recede slightly from the main living areas,” says Fitzpatrick, who also used subtle colour in other areas of the house: deep burgundy joinery and navy tiles for areas such as the ensuite bathroom to the main bedroom. Burgundy was also applied to the separate study at ground level. “It’s quite a dark and moody house from the outside, so we’ve include white walls, with accents of pale grey through the interior,” she adds.
Unlike the previous home that suffered from being overlooked (given the many neighbours sharing boundaries), the Tulipwood House sets up delightful garden pockets for the family, some intimate and private. Having full-length glazing to the rear garden from all rooms adjacent to the kitchen, including the dining area, also provides a green ‘veil’ that shrouds the home. And with generous sliding glass doors from the living areas, the interior and exterior spaces work as one. “This house isn’t precious. The children aren’t restricted from bringing their bicycles inside,” says Fitzpatrick.
Having the fluid shaped house also allowed Auhaus to create sinuous corridors leading to the bedrooms on the first floor. “This allows for privacy even when bedroom doors are left open,” says Fitzpatrick, who used the circular staircase and landing to separate the main bedroom from the three children’s bedrooms.
The Tulipwood House’s exterior timber cladding is heavily dried out with almost zero moisture, providing both a sense of lightness and longevity. As with the timber, the design of the house is abstract and timeless, allowing the family to enjoy this home for many decades to come. “There is that sense of intrigue, but the design simply responded to the triangular site. A sharp rectilinear house simply wouldn’t have felt right,” adds Fitzpatrick.
Design & Architecture | Auhaus Architecture
Styling | Bek Sheppard
Words | Stephen Crafti
Images | Derek Swalwell