A Home of Unexpected Contrasts – Brighton Homestead by Robson Rak Architects & Interior Designers
Brighton, VIC, Australia

Photography Felix Forest
Words Bronwyn Marshall

Intertwining the stately features of the original home with a refined new addition, Brighton Homestead by Robson Rak combines unexpected contrasts between old and new effortlessly under one roof.

Sprawling across the generous site in Melbourne’s south, Brighton Homestead is a family home that has been injected with a renewed purpose. Home to a family with four spirited young boys, this stately residence needed to be adapted for it to function as the intended family enclave. A significant reworking of the original features and an extension of the original roofline saw the insertion of a refined contemporary program to then fit comfortably under the one grand roof. Robson Rak founding directors Kathryn Robson and Chris Rak took an approach grounded in respecting the original features. Through a celebration of the grandeur and ornamentation that captures the home’s history, the refined new addition was intended as complementary, not competitive. Kathryn explains, “Taking the proportions of the existing, where the entrance was enormous, we used it to inform the size of the spaces moving forward.”

Sprawling across the generous site in Melbourne’s south, Brighton Homestead is a family home that has been injected with a renewed purpose

Respecting the original features, through a celebration of the grandeur and ornamentation that captures the home’s history, the refined new addition was intended as complementary, not competitive.

Teetering between ideas of openness and seclusion, a deliberately robust approach was adopted. Through the attention to materiality and the creation of a dedicated children’s zone, the identity of Brighton Homestead as a true family home was imperative. Unlike many other projects where the focus is on the adults, this project carved its own mould by emphasising the children. Chris says, “It’s big on the kids! There are spaces in the roof that they can crawl up into and use. We have in-ground trampolines, and the dedicated children’s room which they can just bash if they want.”

He continues, “We had a great builder and we’ve never had a brief that was heavy on creating such an amazing zone for the children. During construction there were opportunities to add cubby holes and the client grabbed every opportunity as they really wanted to create this wonderland for the kids to grow up in, and we’ve never had that brief before.” Sprawling over three levels, an underground basement garage was extended to allow for indoor cricket matches, with every opportunity taken to inject a sense of play alongside the more formal aspects of the home. The resulting opportunities for play and discovery, together with engineered solutions (for the net in the children’s area, for example), bring this childhood paradise to life.

The resulting opportunities for play and discovery, together with engineered solutions (for the net in the children’s area, for example), bring this paradise to life.

In describing their approach, Kathryn says, “The immediate neighbouring properties are very contemporary modern structures, and we just really wanted to turn our back on our neighbours and focus inward, and to create our own little oasis. In the area, there are so many styles, and we didn’t want to add another style to the mix.” Embracing its location, she adds, “Brighton is a great and interesting place – a real neighbourhood local suburb – it’s a community where people genuinely live and connect,” and so the intent was for the Homestead to reflect those values.

“Taking the proportions of the existing, where the entrance was enormous, we used it to inform the size of the spaces moving forward.”

An extensive reworking of the original features and an extension of the original roofline saw the insertion of a refined contemporary program to then fit comfortably under the one grand roof.

In amongst the restoration of the original home’s grand proportions, the previous 1970s extension was demolished, providing plentiful opportunity for the workings of the home to be re-programmed from a base point. Kathryn says, “We really did rebuild a lot of the home, so there was opportunity to re-plan and achieve cross ventilation. When we first came in, there wasn’t any connection, air and light circulation were pretty much non-existent.” She continues, “We added walls of glass in the living space, and to avoid having too much light (which we were concerned about), we introduced a large eave to control heat and solar gain, which resulted in an abundance of light, air, and cross ventilation internally.”

In amongst the restoration of the original home’s grand proportions, the previous 1970s extension was demolished, providing plentiful opportunity for the workings of the home to be re-programmed from a base point.

In describing their approach, there was a departure from the expected, and also from their natural and usual methodology.

Robson Rak emphasised a move away from the expected, and also from the studio’s natural and usual methodology. Kathryn says, “It’s a bit of a departure from what we normally do, where we would blend the old and new, and it was quite refreshing. The architecture of the new building is indistinguishable from the old. We changed the detailing, like fine steel framed doors in the new, but it all sits under the same traditional roof line, which we extended outward. We wanted to avoid the ‘box in the back’ – and we haven’t replicated a Victorian addition.” She adds, “We have just extended the roofline out and tucked the modern inward and under this structure. Our emphasis would be on blending the old and the new. And in this case, we’ve still made a new, but under the same roof.”

Through Robson Rak’s refined lens, the resulting approach to form, materiality and detailing is both unexpected and complementary to the original.

Respecting the original architectural intent and using it as a foundation for the projected future for the home and its occupants, Robson Rak employs contrasting approaches to bring the old and the new together naturally. Through Robson Rak’s refined lens, the resulting approach to form, materiality and detailing is both unexpected and complementary to the original.

Tlp Brighton Homestead Robson Rak 02
Published 14 February, 2020
Photography  Felix Forest
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