perched house

Like a bird: Perched House

May 12, 2017
  • Article by Online Editor

Perched – like a sparrow. Perched is a light extension at the rear of an inner city semi-detached Edwardian house, a project by Wesley Spencer and Mathilde Polmard of Rara Architecture.

Our client wanted to renovate the existing rear extension, which was structurally sound, and add a bedroom – she had no idea we would reconfigure the entire house. The kitchen was a very important component of the design as her partner is a chef, so this had to take pride of place since entertaining and social gatherings around the island bench is a way of life for them.

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The brief and the site are common in inner-city Melbourne properties. Usually, because of the need to pack in as much space and storage as possible, the space becomes dark and feels cramped. We decided to stick to the essentials and neaten up the layout to reduce dead space while playing with natural light. This increased the drama and the effect – the space is in fact quite small, but nobody would think so upon being inside it.

The existing Edwardian House looking through to the new extension.
The existing Edwardian House looking through to the new extension.

In terms of the staircase, we wanted a single stair run without a landing, while the client wanted a high ceiling to match the existing house. The compromise was to break up the extension into two – the kitchen has 2.4m ceiling, which solved the stair dilemma because we concealed the landing.

Looking down the staircase with the landing.
Looking down the staircase with the landing.

perched house

Upstairs, we have a bedroom directly off the landing, then continue up a few more steps to reach the bathroom and rear perched bedroom. Sweeping the ceiling up with a curve just made sense after that.

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Elevations showing the curving roofline of the extension.
Elevations showing the curving roofline of the extension.

Making use of the existing extension was one of the biggest challenges. As we peeled back the layers, we gradually discovered more, and more needed rebuilding. Thankfully, the client was very patient.

perched house

The home includes a number of sustainability features, such as a 6.0 stars energy rating, 2.5kW – 10 x 250-watt solar panels on the roof, which provide renewable electricity for the house. There is also gas ducted reverse cycle heating and cooling system by Modcon, low maintenance Colourbond cladding, insulation R2.0 for new ground and first floor, R2.7 to all new external walls, R5.0 bulk insulation to existing and new roofs, and double glazed window, skylights and doors.

perched house

Natural light filters throughout the home, which reduces the need for artificial lighting.

Stair detail
Stair detail

Photography by Natalie Jeffcott.

If you enjoyed this project, see last week’s DesignWall – the Glass Link house by Robbie Walker.

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