- Article by Online Editor
- Photography by ben hosking
- Architect Wolveridge Architects
Designed for a young family of five, the Blairgowrie House is centrally located in Blairgowrie, a small seaside town along Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula where the land narrows as it wraps around the edge of Port Phillip Bay. Surrounded by Moonah trees, the site was formerly home to a modest beach house, which has been extensively remodelled with a new extension to the front delivering an expansive and contemporary home.
The design team behind the residence is Melbourne-based Wolveridge Architects – a studio that has a portfolio laden with inviting coastal and countryside residences. The realisation of the project, however, is the result of a self-build mission for the owner-builder, Tim Prebble, who has meticulously executed Wolveridge Architects’ design to produce a flexible and robust home for his family.
Sitting on a tricky sloping site, most of which has been painstakingly levelled out and landscaped by the owners, the house’s main living areas occupy the first floor – opening up the long house to an abundance of natural light and expansive views over Port Phillip Bay. The ground level is left for the garage and storage area, while the master bedroom and bathroom, which remain in the older part of the house, are found on the significantly smaller second level at the back of the property. The building’s material palette – dark stained timber cladding and anodised window frames – has been drawn from the existing house, creating a cohesive whole.
The starting point for the concept, explains the studio’s director, Jerry Wolveridge, was the sheltered, north-facing courtyard, which creates a temperate outdoor area for the house that can be utilised throughout the year. Situated at the centre of the home, the courtyard greets visitors as they climb the stairs from the entrance up to the first floor. Generous in size, the space is sheltered from the sun by a roof of timber battens and from the wind by the rest of the house – which buffers the space from cool southeasterly and southwesterly winds.
“[The courtyard] gives you a sense of protection while being outside and provides great views of the Moonah trees around the property, while masking views of the surrounding dwellings,” says Wolveridge. Along the edge of the stair, a similar screen of timber battens filters and softens light entering the house through the skylight and creates a gentle sequence of flowing spaces that feel distinct, and yet are not entirely separate from one another. “We wanted to create these generous spaces, such as the larger corridor, which might be used as a play area, that also feel connected – so you can see what’s going on in different areas of the house. It’s important for a young family,” he adds.
The main living areas have been configured around the courtyard, connected by a series of louvres that encourage cross-ventilation through the house. To the front lie the three children’s bedrooms and two bathrooms, while behind the courtyard the house opens up to become an open-plan living, kitchen and dining area. Beyond this, the new extension cedes to the existing house, which sits slightly higher on the sloped site. The lower level of the old house has been transformed into a den-like sunken children’s playroom and an adjacent laundry, with stairs up to the master bedroom and bathroom.
From the exterior, the residence has been given a playful public identity through a series of small, deeply set windows that allow light in without overwhelming the house with the intense heat of the summer sun. Resembling building blocks, the assortment of cubes and rectangles that protrude from the facade creates an irregular geometric pattern that shifts throughout the day. In sunlight, the aluminium frames of these windows cast shadows over the building’s timber skin, while at night the house becomes animated by the glowing, lantern-like openings.
This playful interpretation of picture windows has been wonderfully replicated on the interior, where the motif is again expressed three-dimensionally – inside, in the form of cabinetry. Along the west-facing walls in all three of the children’s bedrooms, these windows are interspersed with shelves, cubbyholes and nooks – a plywood landscape in which to play and hide.
“We’ve never really attempted anything like this before in our studio,” says Wolveridge. “It started as a device to draw natural light in, while restricting the direct western sun. And then, because these were going to be children’s rooms, we developed the playful idea of using picture windows and, as an extension of that, using those windows to help us design an interesting cabinetry system with built-in play and storage areas.”
A palette of warm, honey timber tones runs throughout the extension, including 100-year-old Tasmanian oak timber flooring, which was previously used as a ballroom floor in a Camberwell dance hall that had been purchased by the owners. “We have an affinity with recycled materials and we were amazed to see they had this stored away,” Wolveridge says. Paired with the white kitchen joinery, these revitalised pale timbers give the home a Scandinavian aesthetic in keeping with the Muuto light fittings, furniture and door handles, and also offers a wonderful contrast to the rich, dark-stained timber exterior of the house.
Of the project, Wolveridge says there was a real partnership between the studio and its clients. Though the concept for the house was conceived by Wolveridge Architects, the clients – a builder and a design retailer – have developed those ideas throughout the duration of the build, and there is a clear synergy between the design intent and the owners’ aesthetics. “Their own design and construction background has really contributed to the resolution of our design concept, to which they have remained true,” says the architect. The end result is a flexible, open and generous residence that responds both to its site and to the needs of its growing family.