This modest abode, located in North Fitzroy, has two street frontages, one to a fairly busy thoroughfare to the rear, the other to a quiet tree-lined street. Renovated by Nest Architects, it’s not called ‘2 in 1 House’ for its two-way access. “Our clients were always wanting to do two things in virtually every room,” says architect Emilio Fuscaldo, director of Nest Architects. “In each room there’s two functions and the built-in joinery has two uses,” he adds.

The owners, a couple with two young children, purchased this 117-square-metre-site with a fairly rundown weatherboard on it comprising three components: an early 20th century wing, a 1970s addition and, out the back, a 1980s lean-to. “There was a ‘bit of everything’, but the parts weren’t right,” says Fuscaldo, who recalls one had to walk through the living room to access the two bedrooms, making the living room feel more like a corridor. “It was difficult placing furniture,” he says. The structure of the original house also suffered, with the timber façade and its wrought iron verandah pitched at an angle to the foundations. “When we removed the floorboards, it resembled a dry creek bed,” he says.

Even before addressing the floor plan and the family’s needs, Nest Architects was mindful of addressing the two street frontages, particularly the one fronting the main thoroughfare. Motorists simply saw a high fence, often with graffiti splashed across it. Rather than simply seeing a high fence, Fuscaldo added two translucent raked roofs over the new wing, allowing people to see there was someone home. “There’s something quite reassuring to see a place with lights on, particularly when neighbours are strolling past at night,” says Fuscaldo.

Clearly the North Fitzroy house needed to be completely reworked if the family was going to remain for the long term. The front rooms were completely transformed with built-in joinery creating a ‘veil’ to the street immediately past the front door. What was a corridor is now a library and living area. There are still two bedrooms, a main and a secondary bedroom.


However, the children’s bedroom, currently used as one, can be separated with a timber-partitioned wall when the children are older and require greater privacy. “You can see why it’s called ‘2 in 1 House’. Every room can be used in different ways,” he adds.

Although the footprint of the house hasn’t been greatly enlarged, Nest Architects included a three-part wet area to the east of the main living area. As there wasn’t sufficient room for ensuites to bedrooms and a separate guest powder room, two- and-a-half bathrooms as is often the case, Fuscaldo provide three segments that can be all accessed at the one time: the powder room, the laundry and a bathroom. That means at 8am, when all four members are getting ready for the day, there’s no queuing. The laundry, for example, can be used to groom oneself if the bathroom is occupied.

The study (forming part of the extended footprint, along with the wet areas), not only functions as a study, but also as another bedroom, either for guests or for one of the children if they decide they need a room of their own in teenage years. One of the most significant changes made to the North Fitzroy house was removing the 1980s addition and replacing this with two new ‘outcrops’, one being the study, the other, the kitchen and dining area.

Both areas are constructed in recycled brick with translucent raked ‘hoods’ that peak at approximately four metres in height. “These wings take on a more robust feel. The study in particular provides a refuge for those wanting more privacy,” says Fuscaldo.

The kitchen finishes, as with others in the house, are simple and robust. It features black-stained timber veneer joinery and oak trims to articulate drawers and cupboards. And rather than using heavy materials for the kitchen’s island bench, Fuscaldo used stainless steel.  Polished concrete floors appear in the new wing, while timber features in the original part of the house, much of which was replaced. “I wanted the kitchen joinery to appear as loose furniture, given the size of the kitchen, and its triangular shape,” says Fuscaldo. Exposed brick walls in the kitchen, together with built-in banquette-style seating, also reduce wasted space. Again, the ‘2 in 1’ appears, with the freestanding dining table, being easily transported into the living room should the occasion require it.

Architects are often dubious about taking on small projects such as this one, given the wish lists of clients for a small renovation can be the same, as for something considerably larger. There were also two street frontages, making local planners more conscious of any changes to the streetscape and the need for flexibility in a house encompassing only 117 square metres on a site of 217 square metres. The budget was also modest, with expectations remaining high. “There still also had to be enough room for the children to play,” adds Fusculdo, who enjoys the problem solving required for these more challenging briefs.

Before, the family had to think carefully about where to place furniture and access to the back garden was through a singular door. Now, there’s generous sliding doors that strengthen the connection to the garden, and, importantly, increase the northern light. “It’s still a modest house, but you’ll find there are two ways to use each space,” says Fuscaldo.

Text by Stephen Crafti.

 

Nest Architects can be contacted on 9329 2390.

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