Maximising Minimalism – Fitzroy North House by Rob Kennon Architects
Fitzroy North, VIC, Australia
Rob Kennon Architects optimises an existing single-fronted Victorian terrace through a refined heritage renovation with a hint of playful surprise.
Based in Fitzroy, Rob Kennon Architects can easily relate to the local vernacular and culture of the neighbouring suburb. With its charming and communal atmosphere, Fitzroy North is a haven of restaurants, cafes and leafy tree-lined streets in close proximity to all amenities the city of Melbourne has to offer.
The footprint of the site is modest and presented some constraints that ultimately helped to craft its final outcome. “We have to be smarter when designing spaces in a compact environment,” says architect Rob Kennon. “We need to share light and program and as a general rule, a project gets richer when you have constraints.” As with most terrace homes, the long and narrow block shares walls to each side, which hindered access to natural light. An opportunity to expand upward was luckily made possible by a neighbour’s recently approved planning permit. While planning restrictions mean that not every single-fronted Victorian terrace can be transformed in this way, the existing height precedent made it possible. The façade is retained with a humble street-facing presence, barely altered by the additional story tucked at the back.
Inside, two smaller bedrooms at the front of the original dwelling were transformed into a comfortable master bedroom, ensuite and stair. The integration of a central courtyard between the kitchen, dining and living areas imbues the floorplan with ambient light. On the upper level, young sisters can wave across the void from their rooms on either side. The central lightwell serves as a thoughtful connection point between the different corners of the home. What was once a dark and underutilised environment now boasts brightness and functionality on the same narrow plot of land. This result proves the critical importance of considered spatial planning in the trajectory of reduced scale urban housing.
Streamline joinery houses the day-to-day items, allowing occupied spaces to be sleek and uncluttered. Surfaces are undisturbed by hardware, with cabinets and doorways concealed to recess into their setting when not in use, then unfolding like perfectly formed origami when expressed. If enough storage was not already provided within the home, Rob Kennon Architects cleverly allocated the void above the master bedroom as additional space for bulkier items, proving no measure of square metre went unconsidered. The material palette reinforces this pared back, considered approach. “The materials, like most of our work, are natural and neutral,” Rob says. “We like the shifting tones and textures of these palettes; a perfect long-term backdrop for daily life.”
Understated finishes, including limed plywood, American oak and burnished concrete used in large scales, create a continuity throughout the interior. These chosen materials all express their natural finish in an honest way which displays integrity and restraint in the overall interior aesthetic. Subtle gestures, such as level changes and materiality, communicate delineation of spaces without the confinement of traditional walls. This unexpected use of space creates enjoyment in the ability to live simply. These aspects, that must be directly experienced to properly appreciate, as those that appeal most to Rob. “I think it is the moments which are difficult to be captured in 2D that are my favourite – the unexpected natural light, volume of the spaces and the tree top views over the Edinburgh Gardens from the hidden roof terrace,” he reflects.
Based in Fitzroy, Rob Kennon Architects can easily relate to the local vernacular and culture of the neighbouring suburb.
Through detailed assessment of the required functionality for this residing young family, Rob Kennon Architects’ design transitions the Fitzroy North House to meet modern needs whilst preserving moments to remember its past and, in turn, ensuring the ability to adapt into the future. Fitzroy North House is genuine to its locality in both stature and style, while providing the opportunity for inner-city living without compromise.