HOUZZ: Local cafe culture inspires St Kilda reno
A renovated California bungalow exhibits the warm, welcoming and sociable feel of a local cafe.
Living locally and connecting with community is an increasingly important part of the modern lifestyle. And it is this sentiment that influenced the design of this extended and renovated California bungalow in Melbourne’s St Kilda. Inspired by the neighbourhood’s cafe culture, the homeowners wanted their house to exhibit the warm, welcoming and sociable feel of a local cafe. To do this, they worked with MAKE Architecture to create a home – aptly named ‘Local House’ – that allowed them to connect with friends, family and their larger community with ease.
The owners also wanted a home in which they could live as a family (the couple have a teenage son), and yet feel that there was enough space to be independent of each other. The result is a three-bedroom house with two living rooms, which combines the original California bungalow with an addition; plus a flexible studio space that sits across the backyard. Local House took out a 2015 National Architecture Award for a residential alteration and addition, demonstrating “the value of inventive design to a willing and receptive client”.
Houzz at a Glance
Who lives here: A couple with their teenage son, and their dog Ollie
Location: St Kilda, Melbourne
Year completed: 2014
Size: 216 square metres; 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 2 living spaces; plus a 68 square-metre studio that includes a bathroom and garage
Architect: MAKE Architecture
- 2015 National AIA Awards: National Award in Residential Architecture – Houses (Alterations and Additions)
- 2015 Victorian AIA Awards: Architecture Award in Residential Architecture – Houses (Alterations and Additions)
- 2015 Australian Interior Design Awards: Commendation in Residential Design
- 2015 Houses Awards: Commendations in House Alteration and Addition over 200sqm; House in Heritage Context; Outdoor
- 2015 Intergrain Timber Vision Awards: Commendation in Residential Exterior
California bungalows swept Australia between World War I and World War II, offering city dwellers a more informal and modern lifestyle with a house that looked to the outdoors. This characteristic of the California bungalow certainly hasn’t been lost at Local House and, in fact, has only been enhanced.
MAKE Architecture kept the existing single-storey California bungalow, replacing the lean-to at the back of the house with a contemporary addition. They stripped away the infill and compromised internal work to “reveal the character and materiality of the original house,” says MAKE director and architect Melissa Bright.
This can be seen in the “red brick and weatherboard gable at the end of the existing dwelling,” she says, which gives “a sense of external durability.” It also visually and physically demarcates the transition between new and old interior spaces.
The internal layout of the existing house was realigned to its original, logical layout, while the extension was designed to accommodate a new kitchen and a flexible living/dining space on the ground level, and a main bedroom with an ensuite upstairs. The addition has been shifted off-centre in order to get the most out of the sun to the north and west.
The materials in Local House are both tough and beautiful. The house is “designed to be robust and durable; to take the knocks of family life,” says Bright. However, “while it’s not precious or delicate, it didn’t mean that ideas of beauty and delight weren’t important in the design thinking.”
Off-form concrete embodies this robust elegance and is used wherever family and friends are expected to come together – on seating, benches, surfaces, the hearth and fireplace. “Because these forms are integrated into the structure and fittings of the home, they had to be poured and cured before the steel and timber framing could commence,” says Bright, “essentially creating finished joinery items at the very beginning of the project.”
Like original California bungalows, the kitchen/dining space still opens to the backyard. Sporting expansive bi-fold glass doors in timber frames, it has been designed to “feel more like being in a garden pavilion than the interior of a house” says Bright. The shadows from the trees bring a dappled and decorative lighting effect across concrete surfaces, boosting the pavilion feel and taking advantage of the setting among the trees. A yellow pendant over the table and yellow joinery underneath the bench add a joyful pop of colour in a slick and stylish black and grey space.
The kitchen visually recedes into the side of the house with black ceiling and joinery. Design features often found in trendy cafes, such as a stainless steel kitchen bench and a blackboard wall, boost the cafe feel. The metallic black splashback is tiled like a brick wall, complementing the red brick wall of the existing bungalow.
The sociability and welcoming atmosphere certainly comes to the fore in the home’s kitchen/dining area where forms and surfaces morph into one another, stepping and snaking through the space. The kitchen bench and seating are all integrated and softened with timber lining.
While built-in concrete bench furniture means a limited need to source chairs, these white wire dining chairs are a light and bright choice that provide a delicate contrast to the robust concrete forms.
The integrated seats, ledges and steps encourage people to sit and enjoy their surroundings. Nooks, booths and benches in the sun are all designed to encourage communal chatter and relaxation. Plus, a double-sided fireplace brings warmth to the inside and outside of the home.
The living area in the original house is crisp, white and comfortable, and has views to the garden. It’s a tranquil and relaxing space with an inviting grey sofa, tan leather Butterfly chair and black wire table, all of which sit lightly on the timber floor. The bagged brick wall provides texture and reflects light; meanwhile, the hearth brings a concrete element into the space.
A set of floating stairs from the living area to upstairs bedroom is almost like an optical illusion. One side rises from the timber floor while the other hangs in dark grey; a bookshelf edges the stairs and serves as room divider.
When viewed front-on, the transparent stairs keep the space light and open, allowing views through to the dining space and backyard. “The timber flooring in the existing house is sympathetic to the period of the Californian bungalow,” says Bright.
“The rear of the house has been designed as another ‘front’,” says the designer. It features a decorative timber screen – one of the most aesthetically distinctive aspects of the house. The screen floats over the rear of the house and fills in the end of the upper extruded gable roof form, containing the main bedroom within.
“The decorative timber screen mediates the western sun, and the angled pieces are used to limit views to the neighbours,” says Bright. This ensures compliance with local planning regulations for overlooking, “while still providing distant views over the rooftops beyond.”
Behind the timber screen, the master bedroom is bathed with dappled light that changes throughout the day. A white lining board ceiling wraps around the space, while an internal glass wall provides a view to the new living space below. A panel of louvred windows allows passive cooling and cross ventilation.
Functional shelving along the upstairs passageway is perfect for shoes.
The bathroom looks fresh in yellow. “The bright yellow wall gives a sense of lightness and delight,” says Bright. This is enhanced by having the shower cubicle soaked with natural light. It is “small but playful,” says Bright of the bathroom and custom-made overhead skylight.
A flexible studio space and garage at the end of the backyard provides an adaptable space that can be used as a teenage retreat, home office, granny flat or guest room.
The studio has been designed to connect the home to the rear laneway. It has a separate entry, an operable window, a desk and a small porch to create a frontage that looks more like a shop than a garage.
“Treating the laneway as an important public space,” says Bright, means this “project might be a small activator of positive change.” And in fact, already, a neighbour is “now proposing to build a renovation that also addresses the lane.”