A Designer’s Family Home – Malvern II House by SR&O
Melbourne, VIC, Australia
The Malvern home of interior designer Sarah Reid, founder of studio SR&O, effortlessly manages all the requirements of a family with three young children while also exemplifying its inhabitants’ love of contemporary art and design.
After initially purchasing the Federation-era bungalow for its convenient location, the family lived in the home for three years before embarking on the renovation. Sarah enlisted the help of architect Zoë Geyer, a friend and former colleague, for the architectural design of the addition, a double-storey volume clad in dark timber that rests behind the original home. “I’d worked with Zoe before and love her work,” Sarah says. “My husband, Nick, and I had a fairly strong vision and the thing we loved about Zoe’s work is her really clean lines and sharp aesthetic.”
In the time living in the home prior to the renovation, Sarah explains, they came to gain a thorough understanding of the house and the site, as well as a rather unexpected appreciation for some of the house’s original features. “Living there helped us to get a really good sense for things like the orientation, how the spaces worked, and we came to love some parts we didn’t think we’d like, such as the verandah – we originally thought it was such a waste of space in the backyard but, after living there with young kids, we discovered it was actually really useful as an undercover outdoor area.” Taking inspiration from this observation, the ground level of the new addition finishes in line with where the verandah once stood, and the upper level extends forward to create a sheltered verandah-like space and shade the living space from the western sun.
Sarah enlisted the help of architect Zoë Geyer, a friend and former colleague, for the architectural design of the addition, a double-storey volume clad in dark timber that rests behind the original home.
When it came to designing the interiors, a relatively tight site combined with awareness that the home would need to adapt as the children grew up put the emphasis on “making functional decisions and paring everything back so we could layer it over time,” Sarah explains. As a result, the palette focuses on neutral tones and subtle materiality – “I’m a lover of monochrome! This has allowed us to play up artwork and furniture, with unique but pared-back finishes as a backdrop.” The plan, meanwhile, is highly efficient, but through simple yet effective moves such as the arrangement of sightlines, a sense of discovery is maintained. The powder room, for example, is tucked away beneath the stairs but when the door is open one is surprised by a glimpse of a custom neon sign, which hangs above the basin. “It’s about creating those elements of discovery,” Sarah explains. “In the powder room, I played up the under-stair experience with the raked ceiling and got the little neon sign made just so when you look down through the door there’s an unexpected visual ‘pop’.”
The children’s bedrooms and playroom are located upstairs, with all the other spaces situated on the ground level. “For us, that was the perfect solution because, when the girls are eventually all in bed, we feel like the downstairs is our domain,” says Sarah. The entry, master suite, study and laundry are set to the front of the home in the original portion of the house. Then, stepping into the new addition, one enters the open-plan kitchen, living and dining room, which is configured to create a sense of zones. The substantial dining table is set into its own nook in easy reach of the built-in bar, and the living space is defined by the position of the fireplace, shelving and window seat, as well as by the arrangement of loose furniture. The marble island, meanwhile, offers a subtle, sculptural line of separation that demarcates the kitchen zone.
The Malvern home effortlessly manages all the requirements of a family with three young children while also exemplifying its inhabitants’ love of contemporary art and design.
The kitchen is the key functional and social heart of the home, Sarah says. “We love cooking and entertaining and the kitchen is a real hub for our family – everyone congregates in the kitchen.” The space, therefore, needed to be beautiful and welcoming, so open shelving provides space for the display of art, books, and objects collected on travels, while even the pantry has its own artwork. Storage was prioritised to ensure the benches are kept clear and Fisher & Paykel appliances were selected that could offer a high degree of performance without visually overwhelming the space. The one exception is the gas cooktop, whose weightier appearance Sarah was happy to emphasise as it provides a subtle focal point. Otherwise, the integrated rangehood is unobtrusive, and the built-in oven is aesthetically minimal while, at 900mm wide, providing ample capacity for everyday cooking.
The kitchen is the key functional and social heart of the home.
Cooking is extended beyond this main zone into both the pantry on one side and out onto the deck on the other. As well as offering additional storage, the pantry is an overflow workspace, with a second oven situated out of sight in the pantry. “I’m not a fan of microwaves, per se, so I chose a Fisher & Paykel steam oven for the pantry as it provides the functionality of a microwave in heating my toddler’s food, as well as extra cooking capability if we’re entertaining,” Sarah explains. On the opposite side of the kitchen, a door opens directly to the outdoor cooking space equipped with a Fisher & Paykel DCS grill, which offers further options when entertaining.
“We love cooking and entertaining and the kitchen is a real hub for our family – everyone congregates in the kitchen.”
Perhaps the most significant examples of the unity of aesthetics and functionality in the kitchen are the two Fisher & Paykel Columns, which provide not only refrigeration but also precise temperature-controlled pantry space. The Columns are renowned for their seamless integration, which meant that two could be placed side-by-side without becoming a dominant feature in the kitchen. Yet while they are virtually invisible when closed, Sarah remarks that “I never thought I’d be so impressed with the interior of a fridge. The beautiful top lighting and materials – they’re so beautiful it inspires you to keep everything a little more orderly!” Functionally, “they’re completely silent, which is great, and the pantry mode has been fantastic, we can control the temperature to store things like bread, it’s given us total flexibility.”
“They’re completely silent, which is great, and the pantry mode has been fantastic, we can control the temperature to store things like bread, it’s given us total flexibility.”
The Columns are not the only hidden appliances. The bar, situated opposite the dining table, has a CoolDrawer integrated within the joinery. By concealing it in this way, the emphasis is on the materiality of the dark marble and timber and on the top-lit shelves of glassware, which provide a moment of drama in contrast with the overall refined and pared-back interiors. “The Fisher & Paykel CoolDrawer in the bar works so well when we’re entertaining,” Sarah says. “We’ve never had a proper bar before, so it’s been quite exciting. You can set it to lots of different modes, which is great as we don’t have a full wine fridge – again, it’s just about that flexibility.”
The pragmatism and conveniences that support the smooth day-to-day functioning of a busy young family are one marker of a well-designed home – another is the way in which it encourages and expresses the things in life that bring its inhabitants joy. The Malvern II House exemplifies how both can be united and, when combined, can create something as functional as it is beautiful.