Vibrant and Inspiring – Kepler by WOWOWA
Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Photography Martina Gemmola
Architecture WOWOWA
Words Rose Onans

From a studio known for dedication to the bold and the unexpected on the one hand and the kitsch and familiar on the other, Kepler is a project that draws on the tones of the eucalypts in the garden outside and uses these verdant hues to inform a vibrant and inspiring home that is imbued with a true sense of character.

Over time, our homes have evolved to become literal built manifestations of our personal values, priorities, and aesthetics, as well as a broader representation of our cultural and social expectations. They are the place we retreat to, where we unwind, where we are our most protected and, therefore, our most vulnerable. Exploring these universal but often hidden tenets through architecture, WOWOWA brings out character and expresses personality through colour, form and materiality. In this vein, Kepler is a testament to living boldly and embracing connections to context through colour and light – an optimistic and personality-filled home.

Over time, our homes have evolved to become literal built manifestations of our personal values, priorities, and aesthetics, as well as a broader representation of our cultural and social expectations.

Kepler draws on the tones of the eucalypts outside to create a vibrant yet naturally-inspired interior.

Located in Melbourne’s north, Kepler sits on Woi Wurrung country in Brunswick East. As an eclectic multi-cultural locale, it is a richly diverse neighbourhood blessed with a thriving arts and hospitality scene. Nestled within this milieu, Kepler is a family home that sits on its small site, providing a lively backdrop to the lives of its occupants. Employing materials such as cream brick and terrazzo that reflect the architectural vernacular of the area, the project gestures to its context while infusing a sense of contemporary eclecticism and charm into the interiors.

The unexpected pairings within the palette see subtle blues combine with greens and apricots – a combination that draws reference from the eucalypts in the garden. While the cream bricks, which are continued between the exterior and the internal spaces, provide a natural backdrop, crisp white walls and sharp lines create a clean and contemporary aesthetic. Just as the brick provides a subtle textural element, a perforated steel stair incorporates texture and a robust materiality while also injecting colour into the children’s play area that sits beneath. This tonal play between the stair, joinery and textiles even continues to the wall and window frame, creating an effect whose intensity is becalmed by the soothing tones of the green and blue that seem to draw the tones of the foliage outside the window inside.

They are the place we retreat to, where we unwind, where we are our most protected and, therefore, our most vulnerable.

The children’s play area sits adjacent the kitchen, which is the social and functional heart of the home.

These muted greens carry through into the kitchen, which is then colour blocked in contrasting surfaces, materials and textures. The kitchen is the heart of the home; the focal point from which the family’s home life extends. “Central to the design of the kitchen was to make it feel spacious, generous and bright – not necessarily an easy task when working with a tight four-metre wide site, attached on both sides,” explains Monique Woodward, WOWOWA director. With the central stair and lightwell acting to draw light into the middle of the house and into the kitchen, the need to ensure access to natural light drove the layout of the kitchen with access to light, views and vantage points considered from both the sink area as well as the cooking area. The connection between the children’s play area and the kitchen was also important. “The kids could be playing under the stairs while the clients are in the kitchen, and they can maintain connection and engagement across the spaces,” Monique says.

Working with the home’s modest footprint, a key design move was to create a visual break using the two-tone joinery to exaggerate the high ceilings and create a sense of dynamism that holds the kitchen in the centre of the house. With the light blue to the lower cabinets exaggerating the sunken nature of the main space while being light and refreshing, the tall green cabinets over benchtop height and the vertical groove helps draw the eye up and emphasise the ceiling height, making the narrow space feel voluminous and generous. “Also key was the central island ‘nugget’ – made in timber, and feeling like an inserted piece of multi-functional furniture that becomes the physical and metaphorical heart of the house,” Monique says. With storage on the kitchen sides, enough space to house two wine fridges tucked beneath, facing the concealed bar and record player opposite, and breakfast bar seating, this island creates a hub from which all activity emanates.

Exploring these universal but often hidden tenets through architecture, WOWOWA brings out character and expresses personality through colour, form and materiality.

Integrated Fisher & Paykel appliances offered WOWOWA valuable design freedom.

Within the L-shaped kitchen space, the placement of the appliances helped to define the larger open space by grouping functionality. The clients had previously used Fisher &Paykel appliances and were keen use these again in their new kitchen and laundry, in particular the black glass finish of the oven and cooktop. “We then added to this and selected the rest of the appliances to suit the design,” explains Monique. “There were also some key pieces from the Fisher & Paykel range that we were keen to incorporate, including the fantastic space saving integrated French door fridge and the integrated Dish Drawers, which we use often in our projects as they enable the most flexibility for us in terms of design.”

Things as seemingly small as ventilation gaps and fridge depth were a key consideration, she explains, as this would have a flow-on impact as to how much space the cabinetry would take up and, therefore, how much usable space would be left. “Fisher &Paykel are consistently designing appliances which minimise these and enable the most flush and concealed applications.” This allowed the position of these appliances to be carefully considered and strategic to the overall functionality of the home. The sink and Dish Drawers face the open stair and the sunken play space underneath, so the clients can interact with their two boys while washing up, and the fridge alongside this means the children can easily get a snack while dinner is being made. Meanwhile, the two wine fridges tucked under the island, face the concealed record player and bar at the end of the kitchen as it pokes into the living space, “taking the kitchen into the realm of entertaining space when needed,” Monique says.

Despite its small footprint, Kepler is a generous and welcoming home for its young family.

Flexible, vibrant and filled with personality, Kepler is as interesting as it is welcoming. Its bursts of colour are matched with a playful whimsy and pave the way for the home and its family to carve their own interesting, layered narrative.

Published 29 November, 2020
Photography  Martina Gemmola
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